Trigger Happy: Setting League Transaction Limits

Glen Hoos


Matt Read



Confession: I've got a bit of an itchy trigger finger.



I'm always scheming new ways to improve my chances. Not surprisingly, I'm one of the most frequent traders in my keeper league, and I've already burned through more than half my transaction bid money in the Dobber Pro League, with Christmas still in front of me (though a slew of injuries is partially to blame for that).


That's my team management style. But today I'm taking off my manager's hat and putting on my stylish commissioner's chapeau, and the question of the day is: how does one determine appropriate transaction limits for a fantasy league?


I've played in leagues that run the gamut from no transactions allowed (the team you draft is the team you end the season with), to no limits whatsoever. Some leagues have a trade deadline; others don't. Some allow trades between teams but no pick-ups from the waiver wire; others allow daily add/drops and implement complex waiver priority systems.


Usually, my guiding principle is, WWGD? (What Would Gary Do?) I kid, of course – I'm not a big fan. But I do ask, WDNHLD? What does the NHL do? On the face of it, the answer is obvious: while the NHL does have limits on roster size and the total number of players an organization may have under contract, there's no fixed limit on the number of transactions a team can make per season. So implementing a transaction limit may strike some as artificial and unrealistic.


But as is often the case, it's not as easy as just adopting NHL rules for my fantasy league. The reality is, though there's no legal limit on transactions in the NHL, there are practical limits. You just don't see NHL teams dropping three players from their roster and replacing them with three new ones on a weekly basis, which is a familiar scenario in fantasy leagues that allow a free-for-all. In the NHL, a team's roster at the end of the season is rarely more than 20% different than the one it iced to start the year, and most of those changes come from within the organizational system (call-ups from the minors, etc.) So while a transaction limit may seem like a foreign concept, the net result may be a fantasy league that operates more like the NHL.


It’s always tricky to examine an issue like this in isolation from other rules, because no rule exists in a vacuum. Always consider your rulebook as a whole, and think through how your various rules will play out in conjunction with one another. The suggestions I make here could very well change depending on the circumstances of your league. So, rather than giving you my opinion right now, I'll lay out some factors for you to consider as you mull your approach to transaction limits. Then, at the end, I'll let you in on my general approach to this thorny issue.


Questions to Consider


Philosophy: What kind of league do you want? Do you want it to be like the stock market, with assets (players) being shuffled in and out of your portfolio (roster) like penny stocks? Or do you favor a slow build approach more typical of the NHL, in which teams are built primarily through the draft and during the off-season, with relatively little turnover from October through May? In other words, which thrills you more – the frantic excitement of day trading, or the la