Capped: Looking Ahead to Potential Buyouts
Last summer when Capfriendly went into offseason mode, we took a look at some of the potential buyout options that users of the website were most interested in. Capfriendly has a little window showing players who are bought out most frequently by armchair GMs, and many of the names are the exact ones you would expect fans to be trying to dump. Mainly it seems to be the Canadian fan bases that like looking at removing some anchor contracts from their NHL squads. Seven of the top eight players whose buyout page was most frequently are from one of Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal and Edmonton. We’ll take a look at each of those four teams, and a couple others, with some realistic buyout options.
Kris Russell – Edmonton Oilers
Current Cap Hit: $4,000,000 (Expires in 2021)
Buyout Cost: $1,111,111 (Expires in 2024)
Edmonton owns the top two players on the armchair GM buyout list, but neither is Russell. The two players in question are Milan Lucic and Andrej Sekera. Both are on large contracts, with multiple years left, and there won’t be much argument when you say they are overpaid. However, due to the large cap hit and term, the buyout numbers on either are intimidating.
Edmonton needs to make changes, and it won’t be with the returning GM Peter Chiarelli or head-coach Todd McLellan. As a result, we will likely see more shakeups at the player level (for better or worse). This is where the Kris Russell buyout comes in. Chiarelli needs to save his bacon, and the only way to do that at this point is to admit past mistakes. One of them is the $4 million owed to Russell each of the next few years. If it could be bumped down to the $1.11 million for the buyout cap hit, then the flexibility would be there for another big offseason move to address some actual areas of need.
Alexandre Burrows – Ottawa Senators
Current Cap Hit: $2,500,000 (Expires in 2019)
Buyout Cost: $833,333 (Expires in 2020)
Ottawa has three players that armchair GMs view as needing to be bought out. Marian Gaborik, Bobby Ryan, and Burrows. Gabrorik’s cap hit isn’t awful, and when he is healthy, it seems like Ottawa can stomach his play, so a buyout there likely doesn’t make sense. Ryan’s contract on the other hand, is just so bad that the buyout is atrocious. That one just isn’t going to happen.
Burrows seems to be a fit, for a few reasons. He is 37 years old, and the Senators are in need of a reset, in which he would stick out like a sore thumb. Additionally, buying out Burrows would not be nearly as painful as the other two above. It makes further sense when we consider that this is Ottawa, trying to save every penny possible. Burrows’ contract being a 35+ deal, means buying him out doesn’t actually provide a benefit towards the cap, it only saves the team money over the next two years, and keeps an old guy off the ice. Win-win.
Loui Eriksson – Vancouver Canucks
Current Cap Hit: $6,000,000 (Expires in 2022)
Buyout Cost: $500,000 (Expires in 2026(!))
With the Sedins announcing their retirement, there is a large chunk of the Vancouver payroll being freed up. As a result, we likely don’t see the Canucks buy anyone out. If they could get a freebie though, it would certainly be Loui Eriksson. Eriksson was signed in the summer of 2016 to a six-year deal worth $36 million. Since that summer (two full seasons), he has scored fewer than 50 points. Total. That’s it. If he can’t turn it around this coming year, then that would be strike three, and who knows what the Canucks plan to do with him at that point.
Regardless of what armchair GMs think, a buyout makes no sense here. The Canucks know they aren’t going to be a contender for the next couple of seasons, so they are better off not prolonging the pain of this contract through a buyout by making it an eight-year burden. Suck it up for the next four years, and by that point they should be ready to seriously contend again. The whole point of a buyout, is to create cap space, create a roster space, and save money. None of those three things are desperately needed by the Canucks right now. As much as Vancouverites may wish to see a few more names gone off the roster this offseason, it won’t be done via buyout. Have patience though, the prospects are coming.
Karl Alzner – Montreal Canadiens
Current Cap Hit: $4,625,000 (Expires in 2022)
Buyout Cost: $1,302,083 (Expires in 2026)
Just a year after Alzner was the Habs’ big offseason signing, he is one of the top buyout picks by the fans. Surprisingly, there is actually something too it. Because of the way Alzner’s contract is structured, there would be a small cap credit next season for the Habs, helping bridge their cap situation into the era of “Carey Price’s monster contract.” However, the bad buyout cap hit years come soon after (peaking at $4.4 million), and drag on until 2026. The small cap credit isn’t worth that, and Montreal’s defence isn’t going to be all that much better by subtracting Alzner anyways.
With an Alzner buyout not looking feasible, the Habs may look to other options, namely buying out one of their other dissapointing left-shot defencemen: Jordie Benn and David Schlemko. Both have much smaller contracts, which would be much more palatable as buyout options without causing the long-term pain. With deadline acquisition Mike Rielly looking good in a late season trial run, and youngster Victor Mete earning a bigger role, there is a succession plan already in place for the left side. Why couldn’t that be next season?
Andrew MacDonald – Philadelphia Flyers
Current Cap Hit: $5,000,000 (Expires in 2020)
Buyout Cost: $1,875,000 (Expires in 2022)
Getting past the Canadian squads, in last year’s article on the same topic of buyouts, I brought up MacDonald. At that point, I had this to say:
“If Andrew MacDonald were not already under contract, it would be a surprise to see him get a decent contract this summer in free agency, let alone one above $2 Million. He is currently being paid $5 Million a year by the Philadelphia Flyers to be carried by his rookie defence partner Ivan Provorov. Philadelphia’s cupboard of prospect defencemen is just brimming with talent, so clearing MacDonald out of the way would be doable for them.”
Not much has changed here since last summer, except that Philly’s defence prospects are a year more mature and even more ready for the big leagues. This one would not be a surprise at all, making sense (cents – ha) both on and off the ice.
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That caps off another Thursday, and enjoy the playoffs!
If you want to talk hockey, salary caps, or anything even remotely related, you can find me on twitter any day of the week @alexdmaclean
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