Different ways exist when approaching buyout candidates. Just because something looks good on paper does not mean it is. Think of it as sort of a good idea and bad idea scenario. This is not an easy process. Division wise, let’s break down the numbers using the CapFriendly buyout calculator.
Here we’ll look at some practice, not really practice, and not practical buyout candidates for each team in the Metropolitan Division.
Popular Buyout Candidates – Metropolitan Division
Not Really Practical: Victor Rask – Center
Victor Rask falls in the category of being stuck in a rut. At 25, he dropped off to 31 points in 74 games which was troubling. For a player making $4 million, that is not the production level one is accustomed to. Some argue that he was the victim of bad luck but his shooting percentage inched above 10% last season. The problem is his ability to win faceoffs along with age makes this tough on Carolina. If somehow Rask could not be traded, Carolina might target him for buyout.
Not Practical: Scott Darling – Goalie
Darling hurt his team’s playoff chances with a start he never recovered from. However, how much of this was on Carolina’s team defense and penalty kill? This was a penalty kill that dropped from the top of the league to the bottom third. As Carolina “resets”, maybe that helps Darling.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Practical: Brandon Dubinsky – Center / Left Wing
Dubinsky performed at a level much worse than accustomed to. By the end of the season, he was barely playing at an NHL level. His metrics were over -6% compared to team relative. His playing time dropped by over two minutes. Dubinsky makes $5.85 million for the next three seasons! Oh, Artemi Panarin needs to be extended at some point and Zach Werenski is a RFA next year.
Not Practical: David Savard – Defense
This appears okay on the surface but Columbus does not seem phased by last year’s drop in minutes and overall play. It seems like a blip for now and there is not that much concern going forward. Yet.
New Jersey Devils
Practical: Andy Greene — Defense
Greene dropped to some of his lowest totals of his career. As a top pairing defenseman, the 35-year old has looked little like one. Since 2014, that has been the reality. His minutes are gradually dropped but even 21 a night seems too much. With two years left on his deal and a no trade clause, buyout is a viable option. He is the captain but some argue that the captain is Taylor Hall now. New Jersey could then make adjustments via free agency and the trade market. The foot speed and any offensive ability has seemed to fade away.
Not Practical: Travis Zajac — Center
Zajac plays a lot of minutes and as long as John Hynes is coach, he stays in New Jersey. There is little more to say at that point.
New York Islanders
Practical: Cal Clutterbuck — Right Wing
Clutterbuck hits well but, he is replaceable. $3.5 million a year for the next four years for a fourth line player cannot go well. Saving $5 million plus with a buyout (first two years) in the early portion could be helpful for New York. The right wing struggles with metrics (-7% to team relative). Aside from a couple good seasons, Clutterbuck has been underwhelming and part of why the Islanders’ team defense is where it is. A forward cannot take himself out of plays as often as he does. This line plays in the offensive zone less than a third of the time. That is a recipe for disaster.
Also Practical: Casey Cizikas — Center
It just may not happen yet. With new management in the form of Lou Lamoriello, one never knows. Cizikas played poorly last year and the Islanders definitely have to consider the option. Signing John Tavares is the priority and if that means cutting costs and dead weight, then the fourth line may just get a massive makeover.
New York Rangers
Practical: Marc Staal — Defense
He plays a defensive role but all his metrics indicate a drop that will not likely bounce back. That -4% to team relative is a problem. His offensive zone usage with the Rangers was less than 38% last season. The minutes dropped steadily to 18 1/2 and still the defense too often was not there. Opponents were able to blow by the blueliner with ease too often. Three years at $5.7 million AAV means a big savings in the first two years of the buyout ($6.2 million+). The time would be now given his NMC and play.
Not Practical: Brendan Smith — Defense
Smith performed not as poorly as fans made him out. Did he have to be buried? He played less minutes and was grossly misused. There is a place for him whether he is traded or kept by David Quinn and management.
Practical: Jori Lehtera — Center
Lehtera executed poorly again this year. The problem is a fourth line player should not be getting paid $4.7 million. Eight points in 62 games is easily replaceable and with some injuries, he is the most expendable. Every year, the player dropped production wise and from a value standpoint. Does anyone expect this to improve? That answer expects to be no and one year on the contract makes this too easy.
Not As Practical: Andrew MacDonald — Defense
MacDonald qualifies as the standard pariah of the Philadelphia defense for better or for worse. However, a significant injury to Samuel Morin (torn ACL) means a spot could be open for 2018-19. This means MacDonald will be needed for insurance at least. His 2017-18 campaign was an improvement over the year before also.
Practical: Matt Hunwick — Defense
Hunwick enters 2018-19 with two years left on his contract. Six points in 61 games included zero goals on 103 shots. Could Hunwick be traded? Sure. However, if they cannot find a team for Hunwick to go to, then a buyout becomes likely. It is practical in the sense that this would allow Pittsburgh to find a sixth or seventh defensemen that is above his replacement level. Despite near even offensive zone deployment, Hunwick leveled out around -5% to team relative in metrics and was exploited the most among Pittsburgh defensemen.
Not Practical: Carl Hagelin — Left Wing
Hagelin disappeared for long stretches last year but has some value on the trade market. That is why he likely will not get bought out. Some team can take a flier on him as long as Pittsburgh is willing to retain up to 50% of the dollars.
Not As Practical: Brooks Orpik — Defense
Orpik’s age and contract situation impacts this some. However, if Washington wins the Stanley Cup. Then what? Does a team buy out a player just to sign others? At $5.5 million dollars, that would save Washington $3 million for 2018-19. With the cap going up to $80-82 million possibly, a buyout is not automatic. On the other hand, it is still plausible if Washington wants any real flexibility. Stay tuned.
Not Practical: Matt Niskanen — Defense
Niskanen quieted some critics this year by again playing consistent despite less offensive zone utilization (44%). He had nearly 30 points on the year. Despite a significant price tag, buying out Niskanen just will not happen. He is too valuable on the blueline even when the points are not there.