As a new season fast approaches, it’s always nice to look back and reminisce on years and players gone by. Unfortunately for most NHL teams, those feelings of nostalgia are usually cut short by the realization that some of those past players are still on the team’s payroll. Retained salary is a fact of life in the National Hockey League, as buyouts have become commonplace and retaining a portion of an outgoing player’s cap hit is often a deal-breaker in many trades. Retained salary can last long past the playing days of a former player (see Vincent Lecavalier) or can simply be for just one year. One way or another nearly every NHL team has at least one guy who’s still being paid without having to perform. We’ve already examined the Metropolitan and the Pacific; below is a list of all the retained salary in the Atlantic Division in 2016-17:
- Dennis Seidenberg ($1.167MM cap hit in 2016-17, 2018-19, 2019-20; $2.167MM in 2017-18): While his buyout this summer came as a shock to Seidenberg, it did not surprise many Bruins fans, who have watched the big German blue liner’s play slip over the past few seasons. Injuries and age began to take their toll on Seidenberg in 2012-13, and it was all downhill from there. The dominant defenseman who scored 32 points in 2010-11 and made for an unstoppable postseason duo with Zdeno Chara was nowhere to be found, as he missed over 100 total games over the past four seasons and failed to score 20 points in any of those seasons. Once his defensive game started to go as well in 2015-16, the team knew it was his time to go. With two years left at $4MM per year, the Bruins bought out Seidenberg and will have to replace his production while dealing with his cap hit over the course of the next four years.
- Christian Ehrhoff (no cap hit): In 2013 and 2014, teams were awarded “compliance buyouts” on contracts signed prior to the 2012-13 season, as a way to escape long, burdensome deals from prior to the new CBA. The compliance buyouts would still be used to make payments to players, but it would not count against the salary cap. No team benefited more from these buyouts than the Sabres, who used their first of two in 2014 to rid themselves of a ten-year deal with Ehrhoff. One of the top defenseman on the market in 2011, Buffalo believed that they had a bona fide top pair defenseman in the German puck-mover, and gave him a decade-long deal worth $40MM. When he wasn’t living up to their expectations after the first few years, struggling in his own end and dealing with nagging injuries, the Sabres jumped at the chance to cut ties with Ehrhoff with seven years still remaining. The result was a 14-year, $12MM buyout settlement that pays Ehrhoff about $857K each year, but doesn’t affect Buffalo’s salary cap. Ehrhoff would sign for $4MM per year again in 2014-15, but on a one-year deal with the Penguins, and split the 2015-16 season between the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks at a price tag of $1.5MM. While he is currently a free agent, Ehrhoff hasn’t had trouble finding work and making money, but he also hasn’t returned to his Vancouver Canucks form that the Sabres were paying him for and it is doubtful that they regret the buyout.
- Ville Leino (no cap hit): The Sabres used a second compliance buyout in 2014 on the vastly overpaid Leino. Buffalo bought high on Leino in 2011, the same year they splurged on Ehrhoff, and gave him a six-year, $27MM deal. Leino was capitalizing on an outstanding contract year, in which he scored 53 points and excelled in all areas of the game for the Philadelphia Flyers. Buffalo was a completely different story though; Leino failed to match his 53 points in three seasons combined with the Sabres. Injuries limited him to just eight games in 2012-13, but even when he was healthy during the other two seasons, he was far from a $4.5MM player. While Ehrhoff would have at least been serviceable had the Sabres held on to him, Leino was no good to a team that was entering a rebuild and they jumped at the chance to buy him out without cap repercussions. Leino was owed $7.3MM over the course of six years in the deal, four years of which are left, but the $1.2MM yearly payout hardly phases Buffalo since it does not effect their cap space nor their active roster.
- Cody Hodgson ($542K cap hit in 2016-17, -$458K in 2018-19, $792K from 2019-20 to 2022-23): The Hodgson buyout still stings for Sabres fans. The tenth overall pick by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2008 NHL Draft, big things were expected of the young center for years. When it seemed as though he wasn’t going to pan out in Vancouver, they flipped him to Buffalo for another young disappointment, Zack Kassian. In his first two full seasons with the Sabres, Hodgson began developing into the star that he was always supposed to be. At least that’s how it seemed. After a 34-point lockout-shortened campaign in 2012-13, Hodgson re-signed in Buffalo for six years and $25.5MM. He rewarded the Sabres for their commitment with 20 goals and 24 assists the following year. His gift in 2014-15: a shocking 13 points in 78 games. Buffalo was swift to cut loose the once-promising forward, content to deal with eight years of buyout payments rather than watch their mistake on the ice for four more years. Many were critical of how easily the Sabres bought out a 24-year-old with obvious offensive ability, but the move was confirmed when Hodgson scored only eight points in 39 appearances with the Nashville Predators last season. Hodgson is currently a free agent, and while he still holds some potential at only 26, he will likely have to settle for a PTO and/or minor league contract if he wants to work his way back into the NHL. Meanwhile, he’ll be collecting close to $800K per year from Buffalo until 2023, and the Sabres will have a reminder on their salary cap each season that they should not overpay for streaky, young players.
Detroit Red Wings
- Jakub Kindl ($360K cap hit in 2016-17): The Red Wings and Florida Panthers struck a rarely-seen deal at the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline, as playoff-bound division rivals made a trade with each other. Kindl was dealt to Florida, and a 2017 6th-round pick was sent back. It was more or less a salary dump for the Red Wings, who had been trying to move the depth defenseman for some time. The Wings held on to 15% of Kindl’s $2.4MM yearly cap hit for last season and the final season of his deal in this upcoming year. Kindl has never been much of a point producer, nor is he a defensive juggernaut, which may explain why he’s never been given the chance to become a full-time player. If he earns that role in Florida, and the Panthers cause the Red Wings to miss or exit the playoffs, Kindl will be getting the last laugh as his former team partially pays for him to do so.
- Stephen Weiss ($1.067MM cap hit in 2016-17 and 2017-18, $2.567MM in 2018-19, $1.667MM from 2018-19 to 2020-21): In another tale of Florida and Detroit, the Red Wings made the classic mistake in the summer of 2013 of overpaying for a player with red flags in a weak free agent market. Weiss had been a very good, if not great player for the Panthers in the late 2000’s, scoring between around 40 and 60 points in six straight seasons from 2006 to 2012. However, a lingering wrist injury limited Weiss to just 17 games in his 2012-13 contract year. The Panthers decided to move on without him, and the Red Wings decided to take a chance on an elite scorer coming back from an injury that could affect his scoring ability. They signed Weiss to a five-year, $24.5MM deal and hoped for the best. Unfortunately for Detroit, the risk did not pay off. Weiss played in just 26 games in his first year with the team and had just four points. The wrist injury was clearly keeping him from playing at his best. In 2014-15, he had just nine goals and 25 points in 52 games, and that was as close to full strength as he was going to get. The Red Wings recognized the sunk cost and bought out Weiss last off-season. The six-year buyout settlement cost the team $10MM, and will cut a decent chunk out of their cap space each year until 2020-21. Weiss has since retired, with his time in Detroit as just a sad reminder of a great career in Florida that was derailed by injury.
- Brad Boyes ($833K cap hit in 2016-17): The buyout of Brad Boyes is somewhat inexplicable. The always-helpful veteran winger first signed with the Panthers in 2013-14 on just a one-year, $1MM deal. That year he had 36 points, including 21 goals, and was a great value to Florida. Impressed with his play, the Panthers re-upped Boyes with a two-year, $5.25MM extension, a raise from $1MM per year to $2.625MM. In 2014-15, Boyes bested his previous season’s mark with 38 points. Although his goals dropped to 14, his two-way game improved and he took on a leadership role on the team. For some reason, the Panthers were no longer enamored with the veteran and bought out the final year of his contract. They took a cap hit of nearly $1MM last year, and face a similar charge this season. Boyes meanwhile turned a PTO with the Toronto Sabres into an inexpenive one-year deal and a decent season of 24 points, and looks primed to do the same for next year with another lucky team. Why didn’t the Panther just hold on to him for a veteran boost at a relatively cheap price?
- P-A Parenteau ($1.33MM cap hit in 2016-17): Coming off of an excellent 67-point season with the New York Islanders in 2011-2012, Parenteau caused quite a stir in free agency and ended up signing a four-year, $16MM pact with the Colorado Avalanche. Although his numbers were not disappointing (nearly a point-per-game in the shortened 2012-13 season and 33 points in 55 games in 2013-14), Parenteau was not the offensive star that Colorado expected and the Avs were not the contender that Parenteau hoped they would be. In need of a change of scenery, he was swapped with Daniel Briere in a trade with the Canadiens in the 2013 off-season. In his only season with the Habs, Parenteau did finally underperform relative to his contract, scoring only 22 points in an injury-plagued 56-game campaign. That was his ticket out of Montreal, as they chose not to pay $4MM for the final year of his contract, opting instead for $2.67MM over two years. The Canadiens will finish paying off the buyout this season. Parenteau has handled himself nicely; he returned to form with 41 points for the rival Toronto Maple Leafs last season on a one-year deal and heads back to the Islanders, where he played the best hockey of his career, for the 2016-17 season at just $1.25MM.
- NONE. Well done by the front office in the Canadian capital, as the Sens can afford to take on big contracts like that of Dion Phaneuf and hand out big extensions to the likes of Bobby Ryan when they don’t have to worry about any cap space tied up in players playing (or not playing) elsewhere.
Tampa Bay Lightning
- Vincent Lecavalier (no cap hit): Lecavalier was a legend in Tampa. A four-time All-Star, Maurice Richard winner, and of course, a Stanley Cup champion, there was no greater icon in Tampa Bay sports at that time than the Lightning star. With one year left on a four-year, $27.5MM deal with the team, Lecavalier entered into an eleven-year, $85MM extension in 2008. The Lightning hoped that the new deal would keep their captain in Tampa for the remainder of his career, producing at an elite level for a bargain price of $7.727MM per year. However, the final year of deal one in 2008 saw the beginning of the downside of Lecavalier’s career. After seasons of 108 and 92 points in 2006-07 and 2007-08, his point total fell to 67. In year one of the new deal in 2009, it stayed about the same at 70 points. That level of production was still nothing to panic about. But when years two, three, and four ended in 54, 49, and 32 points respectively, Tampa Bay was beyond panicked. Given the chance to avoid seeing their champion continue struggle with scoring and health and essentially fall apart in front of their eyes at a premium cost to the team, the Lighting used their compliance buyout in 2013 to send their fallen hero packing. The price? A 14-year buyout plan that totals almost $33MM. Luckily for the perennial contenders in Tampa, it has no effect on the salary cap. They paid Lecavalier substantial amounts of money each year to watch him play for the Philadelphia Flyers and most recently the Los Angeles Kings, and will continue to pay him well into his retirement (until 2027 to be exact), but it will not hurt the team. Now that Lecavalier’s playing days are done, he will likely return to his legendary status in Tampa as they continue to celebrate the outstanding organization that he helped to build in the 2000’s.
- Matt Carle ($1.83MM cap hit from 2016-17 to 2019-20): There was a resounding echo throughout the hockey world in the summer of 2012 that the Lightning had overpaid for Matt Carle. A good puck-moving defenseman coming off three straight 35+ point seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, there was no doubt that Carle was going to get paid. However, many acknowledged his defensive deficiencies and doubted that he could continue to produce at the same offensive level. They were right on both counts. Tampa Bay signed Carle to a six-year, $33MM deal and four years in, he had not matched his Philly numbers and had continued to struggle in his own end. The past two seasons, he was used sparingly by the Lightning and was often seen as a liability. After getting just nine points in 64 games from Carle in 2015-16, the Bolts finally pulled the plug with a buyout. With two years left on his contract at $5.5MM, Tampa Bay will now be saddled with an nearly $2MM cap hit in each of the next four seasons. However, they did need the cap space and roster space, so the buyout was not all bad. Carle will try his hand at a comeback (at just $700K) with the Nashville Predators in 2o16-17.
Toronto Maple Leafs
- Phil Kessel ($1.2MM cap hit from 2016-17 t0 2021-22): Everyone knows about the Phil Kessel trade. No, not the first one, the second one. The Toronto Maple Leafs send their best player to the star-studded Pittsburgh Penguins, who go on to win the Stanley Cup. The side story: not only did Toronto give the Pens a valuable piece to the Stanley Cup puzzle, but they also helped to fund his contributions as well. When Kessel, who hasn’t scored under 50 points in a season since his sophomore year with the Boston Bruins, was traded to Pittsburgh for a multiple picks, prospects, and players, the Leafs held on to 15% of his massive contract. Since Kessel gets paid $8MM per year, which calculates out to a $1.2MM cap hit each year until his contract ends in six years. Somewhat steep for the team that traded away the star player. Nevertheless, give the Maple Leafs some credit for this year’s Stanley Cup. They may not be able to win their own, but they can help support others’.
- Tim Gleason ($1.33MM cap hit in 2016-17 and 2017-18): Gleason’s was a name that few knew much about outside of Raleigh, North Carolina for a long time. A mainstay on the Hurricanes’ blue line, Gleason wasn’t much of a point-producer, but could play the position with the best of them. Having already played six years in Carolina, he signed on for four more and $16MM during the 2011-12 season. However, as Gleason’s scoring slipped into the single digits and his defensive game began to weaken, the Hurricane’s attachment also began to dissipate and he was traded to the Maple Leafs for John-Michael Liles midway through the 2013-14 season. The wheels fell off for Gleason in Toronto, as he scored only one goal and was a -14 in 39 games with the Maple Leafs and ended up as their extra defenseman. Not wanting to pay $4MM for two more years for a seventh man, the Leafs bought out Gleason’s contract after just half a season with the team. The buyout settlement stretched four years and covers $5.33MM. Gleason unsurprisingly returned to Carolina for the 2014-15 season, but at least for Toronto’s sake, he played just as poorly and has since retired.
- Mikhail Grabovski (no cap hit): After back-to-back 50+ point seasons for the Maple Leafs in 2010-11 and 2011-12, Toronto rewarded Grabovski with a five-year, $27.5MM contract. Then, during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, he only had 16 points and hysteria set in for the Leafs’ front office. Faced with an opportunity to cut Grabovski loose without any ill effects to the team with a compliance buyout or else face the possibility that Grabovski’s best days had come and gone, the team made the difficult choice despite much criticism. It turned out that they made the right call, as just one year later the New York Islanders signed Grabovski for four years and $2oMM and have thus far gotten two seasons of under 60 games and under 30 points at $5MM a pop. The Maple Leafs are happy they are not in that situation. If Grabovski does not turn it around this coming season, he could be collecting his $1.792MM from Toronto and a second buyout check from the Islanders in 2017.