Vincent Lecavalier and Ilya Bryzgalov essentially won the Cash For Life lottery.
Rick DiPietro will join them once he clears waivers Wednesday and the New York Islanders officially use a compliance buyout on his contract.
Sure, all three were essentially set for life when they signed massive deals with NHL teams that were designed to take them until retirement. But they aren’t really much worse off after seeing those contracts terminated under the NHL’s new collective agreement.
Lecavalier and Bryzgalov will now collect paycheques until age 47.
The Isles will be pumping money into DiPietro’s bank account until he is 48.
Plus all three have the chance to move on and sign deals with other teams and, at least in Lecavalier’s case, it doesn’t appear as though the buyout has damaged his future earning potential very much.
Under the terms of the buyout, each player will receive his yearly entitlement paid evenly over the NHL’s typical 13-cheque pay cycle. So on the 1st and 15th of each month during the regular season, Bryzgalov will be paid about $126,000 (before taxes) until 2027 while DiPietro will receive $115,000 until 2029.
Lecavalier’s case is a little bit different because he will also receive bonuses each of the next three years that were part of his original deal with Tampa Bay. Those total $8 million and will be paid out by the Lightning along with the 13 annual installments of $135,000 through 2027.
That is a massive amount of money to give a player to go away.
Interestingly, two of the NHL’s more wealthy teams decided against making that kind of commitment when the New York Rangers decided to retain Brad Richards and the Vancouver Canucks elected to keep Roberto Luongo.
Neither was willing to stomach the cost of cutting ties on long-term contracts.
“I don’t think anyone wants to be buying out players for $25 million,” said Canucks GM Mike Gillis. “It’s not something in our business that we want to do. We looked at all of our alternatives and that just wasn’t a viable alternative.”
Most other buyouts will come much cheaper. Danny Briere (Philadelphia), Tomas Kaberle (Montreal), Steve Montador (Chicago), Rostislav Olesz (Chicago) and Jeff Schultz (Washington) only had a year or two remaining on their deals and won’t be paid through middle age as a result.
The same goes for Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Mike Komisarek, who is expected to be bought out before the league-wide window closes at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday.
At least one NHL executive bemoaned the fact that teams were even given the right to use two compliance buyouts between this summer and next.
“I wish we didn’t have them,” Capitals GM George McPhee said last week. “In a lot of cases teams have done real bad deals or cheated a little bit and shouldn’t be able to get out of them. Because we haven’t done a lot of bad deals here, we haven’t cheated on contracts. We haven’t had the back-diving deals.
“We never did that — (we) didn’t think it was the right way to do business — but other teams did and they’ll get out of it.”
That helps explain the driving force behind the Lecavalier and Bryzgalov buyouts. The spiteful cap recapture penalty negotiated into the CBA was intended to penalize teams who were thought to have circumvented the salary cap by signing players to long-term, back-diving contracts under the previous agreement.
With the new rules, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia would have been assigned dead cap space if either player retired early. Both teams decided to pay them out now and received no other consequences than a big financial hit.
For Lecavalier and Bryzgalov (not to mention DiPietro), the compliance buyout amounted to a bank error in their favour. Cha-ching.