A new wrinkle in the new collective bargaining agreement allows teams to exercise two compliance/amnesty buyouts over the course of the next two off-seasons. If a team buys out two players simultaneously this off-season, it cannot buy out anyone in 2014 (and vice versa). Teams cannot exercise these buyouts until this summer. Also, teams cannot use these buyouts on LTIR-status players (i.e., Chris Pronger and Marc Savard).
This new rule gives teams the option to hit the restart button on a bad contract or two, whereas players could get out from under bad situations to pursue a better one (i.e., Wade Redden).
Who should or could get bought out by their respective clubs? We take a look at all 30 teams.
Sheldon Souray ($3.67 million cap hit in 2013-14)
Souray had a nice comeback season in Dallas. He only becomes a buyout candidate if he disappoints this season and GM Bob Murray needs cap space/money to re-sign Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in the summer.
Chris Kelly ($3.0 million cap hit in 2013-14)
Kelly, 32, signed a four-year deal this past off-season to stay in Boston. He’s a good fit there, but the Bruins usually find themselves up against the salary cap. So if they need more wiggle room, Kelly (or Rich Peverley for that matter) could become expendable.
Ville Leino ($4.5 million cap hit in 2013-14)
Sabres owner Terry Pegula spent way too freely in the 2011 off-season, highlighted by his six-year, $27 million commitment to Leino. The Finnish forward saw a 28-point decline in production last season and would be a popular buyout candidate if he doesn’t turn things around in 2013.
Matt Stajan ($3.5 million cap hit in 2013-14)
There are a handful of players on Calgary’s roster who will be vulnerable to a buyout this summer, including Alex Tanguay and Jiri Hudler. But the most likely candidate is Stajan, who has been a major disappointment each of the last two seasons.
Tuomo Ruutu ($4.75 million cap hit in 2013-14)
Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford has spent money wisely in recent years, making it hard to find a buyout candidate here. However, their candidate (likely for 2014) is Ruutu, who is expected to miss this season with hip surgery. Ruutu had a down season in 2011-12 (34 points in 72 games), and a similar showing in 2013-14 would make his new contract look bad.
Niklas Hjalmarsson ($3.5 million cap hit in 2013-14)
Stan Bowman is another GM who has done some smart work in recent years. Hjalmarsson, who has underwhelmed since Chicago’s Cup run, could be a buyout candidate if they need cap space this off-season.
P.A. Parenteau ($4 million cap hit in 2013-14)
A team compiled with lots of youth, the Colorado isn’t saddled with any bad contracts. However, if Parenteau flames out with the Avalanche like Leino did in Buffalo last season, we could see him being a buyout candidate in 2014.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Fedor Tyutin ($4.5 million cap hit in 2013-14)
Columbus probably won’t need to buy out any players because they won’t be approaching the salary cap ceiling anytime soon. That said, Tyutin is under contract through 2018 and the Jackets have numerous young defensemen coming up through the pipeline.
Kari Lehtonen ($5.9 million cap hit in 2013-14)
Since GM Joe Nieuwendyk has either been quiet or calculated on the free-agent front in recent summers, the Stars also don’t have any glaring buyout candidates. If Lehtonen totally bombs over the next two seasons, maybe he would vulnerable to a buyout – but the chances of that happening seem slim.
Detroit Red Wings
Johan Franzen ($3.954 million cap hit in 2013-14)
Here’s yet another team without any obvious candidates to be bought out. Perhaps Franzen’s inconsistent play carrying over through 2013-14 would make him at risk of a buyout – especially since his contract extends through 2020 – but again, don’t expect it to happen.
Shawn Horcoff ($5.5 million cap hit in 2013-14)
If the Oilers could exercise the buyout now, I’m sure they’d use it on Nikolai Khabibulin. If the leadership baton has officially been passed to Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins by the end of next season, then I can see a scenario where Horcoff is bought out in 2014.
Scottie Upshall ($3.5 million cap hit in 2013-14)
Perhaps the oft-injured Upshall becomes expendable in a year or two, but I don’t see any realistic buyout candidates on the Panthers’ roster. An important question for small-market teams like Florida: Would you be willing to pay a player to play for a different team?
Los Angeles Kings
Justin Williams ($3.65 million cap hit in 2013-14)
If the Kings need additional cap space in 2014 to re-sign Dustin Brown (whose contract expires that off-season), a then 32-year-old Williams could be at risk of a buyout.
Dany Heatley ($7.5 million cap hit in 2013-14)
Heatley is only signed through 2014, which makes him a realistic (yet unlikely) buyout candidate if he doesn’t mesh on the top line alongside Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu. The Wild may also need the cap space if they wish to make another splash in free agency.
Scott Gomez ($7.35 million cap hit in 2013-14)
Gomez has long had one of the NHL’s worst contracts. He has earned about $1.7 million per goal scored in the last two seasons combined. Ridding themselves of Gomez’s back-breaking cap hit would be a boon to new GM Marc Bergevin.
Paul Gaustad ($3.25 million cap hit in 2013-14)
There may be some questionable contracts in Nashville, but none that scream “buyout.” The only player I can envision possibly getting bought out is Gaustad, but only if he vastly underachieves by GM David Poile’s and head coach Barry Trotz’s expectations.
New Jersey Devils
Anton Volchenkov ($4.25 million cap hit in 2013-14)
Volchenkov is the only realistic buyout option on New Jersey’s roster. Volchenkov’s contract, which runs up in 2016, could look bad soon if he continues to be nothing more than an above-average stay-at-home defenceman.
New York Islanders
Rick DiPietro ($4.5 million cap hit in 2013-14)
You have to assume the Islanders would make the most of this opportunity to get out from under DiPietro’s albatross contract, right? Right? Due to one injury after another, DiPietro has played in just 47 games over the last four seasons.
New York Rangers
Wade Redden ($6.5 million cap hit in 2013-14)
Redden is as much a guarantee to be bought out as anyone else on this list. After two subpar seasons with the Rangers, Redden (and his contract) has been buried in the AHL since the start of the 2010-11 season.
Milan Michalek ($4.3 million cap hit in 2013-14)
The salary cap shouldn’t be an issue for Ottawa in the next couple years, and the team doesn’t have any bad contracts on the books, so there aren’t any viable buyout candidates here. The only buyout scenario I can see happening is if Michalek sputters mightily after his 35-goal campaign in 2011-12.
Ilya Bryzgalov ($5.6 million cap hit in 2013-14)
Bryzgalov will be one of the NHL’s hottest debated buyout candidates. Outside of a stellar month of March, 2011-12 was a huge disappointment for Bryzgalov. How he plays this season may dictate in which direction the Flyers go. Bryzgalov’s contract runs through 2020.
Zbynek Michalek ($4 million cap hit in 2013-14)
With so many young defensemen coming up in the system, the Coyotes could eventually elect to part ways with some of their veteran d-men. That said, Michalek’s first stint in Phoenix was so good it’s hard to imagine he won’t thrive again under Dave Tippett.
Paul Martin ($5 million cap hit in 2013-14)
Two factors here: Martin has been a disappointment since signing with the Penguins in 2010, and GM Ray Shero could use some extra cap space to re-sign Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang following the 2013-14 season.
San Jose Sharks
Martin Havlat ($5 million cap hit in 2013-14)
Unless Havlat once again fails to meet expectations here in 2012-13, I don’t see a buyout taking place in San Jose. However, Ryane Clowe and Logan Couture will each be due raises in the next couple years.
St. Louis Blues
Nothing to see here. The Blues have a great nucleus of youth and a dangerous amount of cap space for next year. Kudos to GM Doug Armstrong and company for putting the Blues in such an advantageous position.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Eric Brewer ($3.875 million cap hit in 2013-14)
There is a lot of money tied up in the Tampa Bay defense corps. If the Lightning cannot buy out Mattias Ohlund (whose career may be in jeopardy), an aging Brewer could become a realistic candidate in the next year or two. Vincent Lecavalier is ruled out simply because of the two-year window to exercise the buyout, plus he’s a fan favourite.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Mike Komisarek ($4.5 million cap hit in 2013-14)
Komisarek is the popular buyout choice amongst Leafs fans. His plus/minus in three seasons in Toronto is minus-30. After 2012-13 he only has one year left on his deal, so perhaps new GM Dave Nonis opts to keep Komisarek.
Keith Ballard ($4.2 million cap hit in 2013-14)
Chances are GM Mike Gillis is eventually able to trade Roberto Luongo, so there goes one buyout option. But another one, the best buyout candidate, is Ballard. This would be the easiest way to create cap space for others’ expiring contracts. Plus, Ballard flat-out has not panned out in Vancouver like the club had hoped.
Joel Ward ($3 million cap hit in 2013-14)
I don’t see any candidates for this summer, but Ward could be a buyout option in 2014. His $3 million salary is healthy money for a fringe third-line winger. He’s also 32 years old and has reached his ceiling.
Nothing to see here, either. If the buyout window included this season, then maybe Nik Antropov would be a candidate. All the money being spent beyond 2012-13 is smart money.