We’re now only a month away from the NHL buyout window opening (the later of June 15 or 48 hours after the Stanley Cup Final), and as we know, the incoming 31st team in Vegas will alter the buyout landscape a bit. This offseason, teams can buy out players who have a no-movement clause that they otherwise would need to protect in the expansion draft.
In other words such players, once bought out, will count toward team exposure requirements. One main incentive to buy them out is to protect other draft-eligible players their respective teams consider more valuable. Of course the regular buyout philosophy still applies as, Golden Knights or no, teams will look to save valuable cap space by unloading contracts for players that offer less than equal return, and prefer to use less cap space up front with extended installments.
Let’s take a look at potential buyout candidates, starting first with the Atlantic Division. We’ll work our way around the NHL map over the next week or two.
* Buyout cap hits from Cap Friendly.
Three years – $3,800,00.
Buyout cap hit: $1,022,222, $1,022,222, $2,022,222, $1,222,222, $1,222,222, $1,222,222
Two years into a five-year, $19M contract with Boston, Beleskey’s production has dipped significantly from his 22-goal final year in Anaheim and his initial 37-point Bruins campaign. Known for his physical, energetic play, we didn’t see that in the past knee-injury-marred, 49-game season in which he totaled just eight points. He also saw ten healthy scratches.
The Bruins must weigh their belief in a recovery versus cap and roster space needs. Having started the season in not the best physical condition, they also need faith that that will change. And the total salary cap relief wouldn’t be all that helpful – at age 28 a Beleskey buyout would erase just 1/3 of his total cap number. He’ll likely be back with Boston. He’s a good candidate to go unprotected, but Vegas won’t claim him.
One year – $2,300,000.
Buyout cap hit: $566,667, $866,667
Hayes’ production has plummeted over the past three years – from 19 goals and 35 points in his last Florida campaign, to 29 points in his first Boston season, and finally last year’s five points in 58 contests. He additionally saw no playoff action, in spite of his seeming recovery from a late year lower-body injury.
With a solid crop of inexpensive, ascending Bruins forward prospects at AHL Providence, and still more finishing their juniors and NCAA careers, the $1.73M in 2017-18 buyout cap relief can be used elsewhere.
Two years – $5,000,000
Buyout cap hit – $2,833,333, $3,833,333, $833,333, $833,333
The 33 year-old has two seasons left on his five-year, $25M contract. He’ll almost assuredly go unprotected in the expansion draft but is unlikely to be selected. If not taken, Buffalo may seriously consider a buyout.
Looking at the numbers, if the Sabres bought out Moulson he would count $2.83M against the cap next season, $3.83M in 2018-19 and $833,333 for each of the following two seasons. That’s quite a bit for someone who skated just 11:36 per game, only 9:28 of that in 5×5 play. He still led the squad in power play goals though, and finished with 14 goals and 32 points in 81 games in very limited minutes
The savings for the next few years wouldn’t be much and the cap hit for the next two years, albeit, minor, would still be there. With Moulson a factor in the anemic Sabres offense, tied for 24th in the NHL in goals scored, a more likely buyout candidate is…
One year – $3,900,000
Buyout cap hit – $1,300,000, $1,300,000
With six points in 66 games and a plodding presence on the Buffalo blue line, Gorges’ offense is non-existent. The price isn’t right for a middle-pairing defenseman on a poor defensive squad and the savings isn’t bad. With one season left on his $3.9M contract, Gorges will reach 34 years-of-age after it expires next season. An extension seems unlikely.
The mood in Buffalo with the new brass is for change and a strong relationship with AHL affiliate Rochester to foster their prospect pipeline. That along with impatience with the status quo seems to spell a Gorges buyout.
Detroit Red Wings
Three years – $4,250,000
Buyout cap hit – $1,638,889, $1,388,889, $1,388,889, $1,388,889, $1,388,889, $1,388,889
The 33 year-old defenseman and Red Wings’ average hits-per-game leader among blue line regulars at 1.7 is coming off a broken wrist that forced him to miss the season’s final two months. He will neither be protected nor Vegas-selected, so why not buy him out? Well, the penalty is somewhat steep and rather lengthy. If Detroit were to buy out the remaining $12.75M cap hit on his contract, it’d cost a total of $8.33M over six seasons, which is roughly a $1.64M average annual cap hit. For a squad that isn’t likely contending for a title next year, and looks to have a slim chance to re-enter the postseason, why extend the payments into a possibly more prosperous future?
On the flip side, he’ll taking up roster space that a younger prospect might occupy, but will the extra $2.6M make that much difference this year? If Detroit has their eye on a young free agent that will grow with their developing squad, maybe. If they plan on using the extra space on a veteran for the short term that will again clog up the prospect pipeline, probably not. It may be best to revisit the idea next offseason when the hit won’t hurt as much and for not as long.
Tampa Bay Lightning
One year – $4,600,000
Buyout cap hit – $2,933,333, $833,333
Jason Garrison has a big place in Lightning history, but is a limited player at this point in his career whose defensive and offensive contributions (one goal, eight assists, in 70 games) continue to slip. Moreover, his slowing down has seemed to impact other Tampa blueliners, as his defensive pairing with Anton Stralman coincided with a 12-point slip in production.
Facing tight salary cap restrictions, and after figuring in likely Tyler Johnson, Ondej Palat, Andrej Sustr and Jonathan Drouin re-signings, as well as a slate of others on minor league deals including young defensemen Slater Koekkoek and Jake Dotchin, an extra $1.67 M in cap space next year can help. With Garrison’s 2018-19 buyout cap hit at just $.83M a buyout might be wise.