There was an interesting article yesterday on Sportsnet that talked about some compliance buyout possibilities should that be a part of the trickle-down effect from the Covid19 impact on the current NHL season that bleeds into next year. It got me thinking about not only who I would imagine to be the top candidates to be bought out, but what kind of compliance buyouts and other measures we may see that will affect cap situations in the upcoming seasons. If the cap stagnates, or even drops, then to keep teams cap compliant, and to free up more money to burn in free agency, a compliance buyout is the easy solution. We say two with the lockout, so with only losing a portion of a season and a portion of revenues, only one buyout would likely be necessary.
I typically put out an article every spring covering some potential buyouts that summer, and I will do so again in the offseason once we have a better sense of dates and team situations, so I'll focus on specific players more there. When looking at potential buyouts, it's not just a player that a team wants to get off their payroll. If players got bought out as soon as they weren't valuable to their team, the entire business model of the NHL would explode. There are three main things I try to consider when looking at possible buyouts.
Cap Situation: This is the obvious one, but there is a subtlety to it. It's not just about looking at a contract and saying "this guy is way overpaid, we should buy him out" but the team must have some cap related pressure on them to make the move.
Term: Players just don't get bought out (aside from compliance buyouts) with more than two years left on their contracts. The fallout is too large and too long lasting for it to be worthwhile. With three or more years left on a contract, they find another solution, or tough it out to the two-year mark, and then make the buyout.
Replacement: There are two sides to a buyout, there is the subtraction of a player and a contract from the roster, but to balance there is also a player and a contract to take up that spot.
A good and recent example of this is the New York Rangers buying out Kevin Shattenkirk. Kevin's contract was a burden that the Rangers did not want to keep on the books, and knowing that they were in a rebuild, and the cap penalty in years three and four would be minimal, the cap fallout was not harmful