The Ottawa Senators: Pioneers of the no-trade clause

Three of the Ottawa Senators pictured here were given restricted-movement clauses on their most recent contracts, and one of the others is almost sure to receive one in his next. The first no-movement clause ever awarded by the Ottawa Senators, though, was nearly one hundred years ago.

The Ottawa Senators have given out their fair share of restricted-movement clauses since those contractual bonuses became in vogue since the lockout. Obviously, the most memorable instance if the one handed to Diminished Dany Heatley, but other players who had some limited-trade, no-trade, or no-movement clauses have also included Jason Spezza, Mike Fisher, Filip Kuba, Sergei Gonchar, and Chris Phillips. It's been a tool used by a lot of general managers in the NHL in order to offer players a little stability in place of a little bit of money, and it works sometimes, and few general managers have used limited-movement clauses as frequently as Bryan Murray.

Perhaps the large number of restricted movement clauses included in contracts bothers Senators fans because it ties the hands of the general manager, but it should be all that surprising. The Ottawa Senators were, in all likelihood, the first hockey team to offer a player a no-trade clause.

It happened in the summer of 1923, when the Ottawa Hockey Association--colloquially known as the Senators--were negotiating with a young defencemen who, despite being small in stature, was a fast skater, slick stickhandler, and decent point-producer: Frank Clancy, commonly known today by his nickname, King Clancy.

Most league contracts at the time heavily favoured the team at the expense of the player, and they could terminate his contract on a day's notice, or two weeks' notice in the event of an injury, and could sell or trade his rights at any time. Clancy wasn't very keen on that last part.

"[The contract offered to Clancy] was for one season at a salary of $1,400 plus an additional $100, which gave the club an option on his services for the following year. The twenty-year-old was satisfied with the pay but balked at the termination and transfer clauses. He had proven himself a valuable player, he was living at home with his parents, he had a good job in the government, and he certainly wasn't going to entertain the thought of being dropped from the team or of playing in any place but his home town. Clancy signed the contract, but with one amendment. Written in hand in the margin over the signature of T.P. Gorman and the initials 'F.C.' is the notation: 'It is agreed that the Ottawa Hockey Association shall not sell, exchange or otherwise dispose of the said Frank Clancy.' The cheerful young man from a humble Lowertown background had extracted a no-cut, no-trade contract from the savvy and sophisticated owners." 1

It was a long time between no-trade clauses, but the modern-day Senators are using no-trade clauses to lock up important players just as their historical forebears did. This summer, a player whose style sounds quite a bit like Clancy's might find a way to negotiate himself a no-trade clause, too: Erik Karlsson.

1 - Kitchen, Paul. Win, Tie, or Wrangle: The Inside Story of the Old Ottawa Senators, p. 237. Newcastle, ON: Penumbra Press, 2008.

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