If the NHL has another “penalty-free” buyout period in their next CBA, several players with hefty contracts could become buyout candidates.
Several NHL teams currently have players under expensive lengthy contracts which have proven to be either a gross overpayment, or could prove difficult to carry on the books in the future.
Some fans and rumor bloggers have dreamed up trade scenarios for teams to rid themselves of these contracts, which in today’s salary cap world have more basis in wishful thinking than reality.
Buyouts could be an options, but under the current buyout formula (for players 25 and older, two-thirds the remaing value, spread over twice the remaining term), one which would haunt a team for years, as well as remain a drain (albeit a lesser one) upon a payroll.
Burying the contract in the minors can be impossible if the player has a “no-movement” clause in their contract. For those who don’t, demotion would remove the cap hit from the books, but the team still pays their salaries while in the minors. While a team like the NY Rangers doesn’t bat an eye burying a multi-million dollar defenseman in the minors, most teams are keen to have that much money riding the buses with their farm team.
Still, it’s possible the next NHL collective bargaining agreement (CBA) could rectify the situation.
At the outset of the current CBA, there was a one-week period (July 23-29, 2005) where a contract buyout wouldn’t count against salary cap.
It stands to reason some NHL team owners and their general managers could push for a penalty-free buyout period to allow them to clear current bad contracts from their books.
If such a penalty free buyout is implemented next summer, here’s a look at several players who could be candidates (Numbers courtesy CapGeek.com).
Scott Gomez, Montreal Canadiens. Average annual salary: $7.357, 143. Years remaining after 2011-12: two. Buyout calculation can be found here.
Chris Pronger, Philadelphia Flyers: Average annual salary: $4.921, 429. Years remaining after 2011-12: five. Buyout cost under current system: Pronger has a 35-plus contract, meaning he was over 35 in the first season his contract went into effect. The Flyers could buy him out to save actual dollars, but the cap hit remains in effect throughout.
Wade Redden, New York Rangers: Average annual salary: $6.5 million. Years remaining after 2011-12: two. Buyout figures can be found here.
Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils: Average annual salary, $6,666,667. Years remaining after 2011-12: 13. Buyout figures can be found here.
Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks. Average annual salary: $5.333,333. Years remaining after 2011-12: ten. Buyout figures can be found here.
Rick DiPietro, New York Islanders. Average annual salary: $4.5 million. Years remaining after 2011-12: nine. Buyout figures can be found here.
Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning. Average annual salary: $7.727,273. Years remaining after 2011-12: eight. Buyout figures can be found here.
Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks. Average annual salary: $5.275 million. Years remaining after 2011-12: nine. Buyout figures can be found here.
Jeff Carter, Columbus Blue Jackets. Average annual salary: $5,272,727. Years remaining after 2011-12: ten. Buyout figures can be found here.
Some of these buyout candidates would be obvious. Players like Gomez, DiPietro, Redden and Kovalchuk clearly aren’t worth the kind of money they’re receiving, so if the Canadiens, Islanders, Rangers and Devils could rid themselves of those contracts without suffering a buyout penalty, they’ll probably jump for the opportunity.
Others, however, aren’t so clear cut. Pronger remains a valuable part of the Flyers roster, but injuries since last season have begun to take a toll, and could reduce his effectiveness in future. Hossa’s one of the best players on the Blackhawks, but he’s now in the early 30s and in the near future he’ll become a deteriorating asset.
The Lighting, Blue Jackets and Canucks would have to carefully consider how worthwhile it would be to retain Lecavalier, Carter and Luongo on their respective rosters over the long haul with their current contracts.
Of course, this is merely speculation on my part. It’s possible there won’t be any sort of penalty-free buyout period, and if there is, it could come weighed with strict conditions preventing teams from buying out contracts over a certain period. It also remains to be seen how many, if any, of these aforementioned players would be bought out under such a scheme.
Still, it’s something which could be worth keeping an eye on when the next CBA is ratified before next September.