The NHL's long-term injury (LTI) concept is designed to protect clubs willing to spend to or near the salary cap.

It is not about hiding players so teams can upgrade before the annual trade deadline, then possibly use those players in the playoffs after they return to health.

That is one reason the Penguins will not keep center Sidney Crosby on LTI for the rest of the season, even though he has played just eight games this season. Crosby, who counts $8.7 million against the salary cap, remains out indefinitely with lingering neurological symptoms including headaches.

Crosby, as he was early in the season, is on LTI so the Penguins can use his roster spot to recall players from the minors. Many in the organization believe Crosby will be cleared to play before the Stanley Cup playoffs. If the Penguins were to keep Crosby on LTI, make a move against his cap hit and then have Crosby be cleared, the team would be unable to use him until the playoffs.

The Penguins' reputation also could take a hit if opponents or NHL officials believed the team used the money it saved on Crosby's cap hit to bolster its roster down the stretch — essentially buying time for Crosby to get healthy while upgrading the team.

Such a tactic is enticing, if not unethical, because a club would be able to use in the playoffs the injured player and the player or players acquired using the money against his cap hit. The salary cap, set at $64.3 million for this season, is not in effect during the postseason.