NHL buyout candidates: Western Conference

Matt Stajan, Dany Heatley and Shawn Horcoff could be candidates for a trade or a buyout in the summer.

Doug MacLean may not agree with this exercise.

Yes, we get it –NHL owners obviously don’t enjoy paying players not play for their team.

But who likes overpaying players who aren’t living up to their salary? That’s where the debate will come in for various teams.

Compliance buyouts were put into the new collective bargaining agreement for a reason. Clearing out a bad contract could provide a competitive advantage to an owner willing to spend.

Starting this summer, NHL teams are now allowed to exercise two buyouts over the course of the next two off-seasons.

This new rule gives teams the option to hit the restart button on some bad deals and clear up needed salary cap space for the future.

Sportsnet.ca broke down the possible candidates for all 30 clubs back in January when the lockout came to an end, and after a shortened season we take a second look at where each team stands heading into the summer.

We looked at the Eastern Conference on Wednesday, and now we’ll finish up our look around the league with the Western Conference:

Note: All numbers below according to capgeek.com

Anaheim Ducks

Projected 2013-14 cap space: $8.6 million
Who we said in January: Sheldon Souray
Who we’re saying now: Bryan Allen ($3.5 million cap hit until 2014-15)

Coming into the season, this looked like an obvious choice. But to the surprise of many, Souray was able to revitalize his career in Anaheim in 2013. The Ducks won’t mind bringing him back to help boost their offence from the back end. The more logical choice here could be Allen — who didn’t exactly make an impact in his first season with the Ducks with just six points in 41 games. Souray may be four years older, but he has scored four more points and had a significantly higher plus/minus rating.

Calgary Flames

Projected 2013-14 cap space: $19.2 million
Who we said in January: Matt Stajan
Who we’re saying now: Matt Stajan ($3.5 million cap hit until 2013-14)

For a team that’s supposed to be in rebuilding mode, the Calgary Flames sure have a lot of questionable contracts. Coming into the year, Stajan seemed like the surefire choice for a buyout, as the former Leaf has been a disappointment since the Dion Phaneuf trade. We never understand why they paid Stajan quite so much, and with just one year left on that deal, it could be the right time to pull the plug. The other options include Jiri Hudler and Alex Tanguay — but we can’t see the Flames paying them to play for another team. Stajan, on the other hand…

Chicago Blackhawks

Projected 2013-14 cap space: $2.1 million
Who we said in January: Niklas Hjalmarsson
Who we’re saying now: Steve Montador ($2.75 million cap hit until 2014-15)

Hjalmarsson is a rock-solid defenceman for an affordable price. This is not happening. The Blackhawks don’t have a ton of cap room, so they could have trouble re-signing playoff stud Bryan Bickell and backup goalie Ray Emery in the summer. So their one option here is veteran Montador – who was waived earlier in the season and sent down to the AHL. He’s still on the books, and the Blackhawks don’t have any use for that contract.

Colorado Avalanche

Projected 2013-14 cap space: $10.9 million
Who we said in January: P.A. Parenteau
Who we’re saying now: Jan Hedja ($3.25 million cap hit until 2014-15)

This may be a stretch, as Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy likely want to see what they have in their new players before making any drastic moves. Parenteau isn’t going anywhere; he was a reliable scorer in his first year with Colorado. The one questionable contract we spot belongs to Hedja, whose play has declined over the last few seasons. With a possible high pick coming on a defenceman (Seth Jones, cough, cough), buying out Hedja may be a possibility, albeit a remote one.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Projected 2013-14 cap space: $18.5 million
Who we said in January: Fedor Tyutin
Who we’re saying now: No one

The Blue Jackets were one of the most surprising teams in the second half of the season and came within a point of making their second career playoff appearance. I wouldn’t be breaking up this group any time soon. They aren’t in a position to really give away any talent at this point and don’t have any ugly salaries that jump out at you. Stay the course here.

Dallas Stars

Projected 2013-14 cap space: $10.9 million
Who we said in January: Kari Lethonen
Who we’re saying now: Eric Cole ($4.5 million cap hit until 2014-15)

Lethonen? What the hell? Not happening. Joe Nieuwendyk made a lot of bad trades in his tenure as Stars GM, but acquiring two more years of Eric Cole for an expiring Michael Ryder wasn’t much of a going-away present. Cole scored just six goals in 28 games with Dallas and isn’t close to player he used to be. The new coach, whoever that is, may believe he can get something out of the veteran forward, but this is a salary that surely doesn’t fit the production.

Detroit Red Wings

Projected 2013-14 cap space: $11.9 million
Who we said in January: Johan Franzen
Who we’re saying now: Mikael Samuelsson

While Johan Franzen is aging (33-years-old), we don’t think the Detroit Red Wings should consider getting rid of one of their more reliable and consistent forwards. Franzen is locked in until 2019-20 but we just can’t see a savvy manager like Ken Holland pulling the plug on the Mule. A much better option would be the rapidly-declining Mikael Samuelsson — who barely factored in his return to Detroit this year. Really, $3 million for a thirty-six year old Samuelsson? No thank you.

Edmonton Oilers

Projected 2013-14 cap space: $14.9 million
Who we said in January: Shawn Horcoff
Who we’re saying now: Shawn Horcoff ($5 million cap hit until 2014-15)

This is an interesting one. Horcoff isn’t close to the player the Oilers thought they were getting when he signed his contract extension. The 34-year-old centre has just 20 goals in his last 112 regular-season games. Realistically, it may make more sense to wait a year before buying out Horcoff and see if the captain can provide more than leadership to a young team in 2013-14. Even the GM hinted at the move. He could as well be a trade chip for a team looking to get to the cap floor.

Los Angeles Kings

Projected 2013-14 cap space: $11.8 million
Who we said in January: Justin Williams
Who we’re saying now: No one

The Kings have the best assembled roster in the entire NHL. They are not littered with overpriced players, and coach Darryl Sutter’s team is set up for years to come. And in even better news for GM Dean Lombardi, they get Dustin Penner off their salary cap this season. The Kings will be a contender for years to come. Williams isn’t going anywhere either. The guy is a stud.

Minnesota Wild

Projected 2013-14 cap space: $8.2 million
Who we said in January: Dany Heatley
Who we’re saying now: Dany Heatley ($7 million cap hit until 2013-14)

This is an intruding decision for Wild owner Craig Leopold – who likes to spend big in free agency and then complain that the league’s spending is out of control. Heatley hasn’t been the dynamic scorer he was earlier in his career. He is still a decent option on the top line with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu but is hardly a $7 million player anymore. The Wild are loaded with forward prospects, but most likely Heatley will just play out his final year and then the team can part ways.

Nashville Predators

Projected 2013-14 cap space: $11.8 million
Who we said in January: Paul Gaustad
Who we’re saying now: Paul Gaustad ($3.25 million cap hit until 2015-16)

Wonder if Nashville regrets giving up that first-rounder to bring in Gaustad. The 31-year-old has a grand total of two goals and nine points since joining the Preds at the deadline last season. The Preds need to get younger and faster up front, and Gaustad really isn’t providing value – especially at his price. Not sure the Preds will want to admit their own mistake, but this is a salary they could afford to get rid of.

Phoenix Coyotes

Projected 2013-14 cap space: $24 million
Who we said in January: Zbynek Michalek
Who we’re saying now: No one

Let’s make this clear: This isn’t happening. The Coyotes can barely afford to pay their own players. The idea of them paying a player not to play for their club is beyond logic. There’s a reason they have all that cap space.

San Jose Sharks

Projected 2013-14 cap space: $8.6 million
Who we said in January: Martin Havlat
Who we’re saying now: Martin Havlat ($5 million cap hit until 2014-15)

Remember when the Martin Havlat-for-Dany Heatley trade was supposed to help both teams? Yeah, so much for that. Havlat isn’t exactly a $5-million player anymore and has just 15 goals in his 79 games with San Jose. For a guy who isn’t the best three-zone player, it’s hard to justify his salary for that kind of production. But – as we have mentioned in prior examples—the Sharks best route may be to wait a year before officially pulling the plug.

St. Louis Blues

Projected 2013-14 cap space: $24.5 million
Who we said in January: No one
Who we’re saying now: No one

The Blues need to learn how to score, but the one thing they don’t need to do is use the compliance buyout on any of their players. The Blues are loaded with talent, depth, and cap space moving forward and should be focused on adding to their group – rather than getting rid of any of their players. They should be an active team in free agency.

Vancouver Canucks

Projected 2013-14 cap space: $47,222 (yikes!)
Who we said in January: Keith Ballard
Who we’re saying now: Keith Ballard ($4.2 million cap hit until 2014-15)

Mike Gillis is in trouble. This is an ugly situation, and one that will require some crafty management – something Gillis hasn’t exactly shown in his tenure. The Canucks are strapped until they can move Roberto Luongo, and the buyouts are another option to create flexibility. The most notable choices would be Ballard or forward David Booth – both players who haven’t lived up to expectations. The Canucks have a lot of money tied to their defence corps, so Ballard could make a little more sense here. He has not exactly been very productive — one goal and eight points in two seasons.

Note: Detroit, Columbus will move to the East next season while Winnipeg will join the West.

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