The NHL buyout window is now open but so far only two players have been added to the pending free agent market, Jared Cowen and R.J. Umberger, formerly of Toronto and Philadelphia respectively. As we get closer to the June 30th deadline, several more will join them. Here are a trio of players that are prime candidates to receive a buyout:
Chris Higgins (Vancouver): Higgins had a disastrous year with the Canucks. He followed up a 36 point campaign in 2014-15 with just three goals and an assist in 33 games last year before clearing waivers and being demoted to the American Hockey League. He fared a bit better down there, collecting 13 points in 22 contests but that still comes nowhere close to justifying a $2.5MM contract. Vancouver would only receive $950,000 in cap savings if they were to bury his contract in the minors again next season but would save over $1.6MM this season if they buy him out. Of course, they’d be saddled with a small cap charge in 2017-18 as well.
Buyout Cap Charges: $833,333 in both 2016-17 and 2017-18.
Eric Nystrom (Nashville): Predators GM David Poile has already acknowledged that a buyout is possible for the 33 year old winger if they can’t find a trade for him in the coming days. Nystrom has scored just seven goals in each of the last two seasons (after scoring 15 in his first year with Nashville) and is entering the final year of a four year deal signed back in 2013. If he is bought out, he could still potentially catch on in a fourth line/depth role with another team but it would be at a considerable pay cut from the $3MM in salary (and $2.5MM cap hit) he’s owed for 2016-17.
Buyout Cap Charges: $500,000 in 2016-17 and $1MM in 2017-18. This is due to the back loading of salary in his contract.
Thomas Vanek (Minnesota): Vanek had a down year by his standards last season, picking up 41 points in 74 games with the Wild, equalling the lowest output of his career (he previously had 41 points in 2012-13 but played just 38 games that year). He’s owed $7.5MM in salary with a $6.5MM cap charge for 2016-17, a sum that could be deemed too pricey, especially if GM Chuck Fletcher has eyes on making an impact signing in free agency. Minnesota is fairly tight to the cap and has several important restricted free agents which makes Vanek a candidate to fall victim to their cap situation.
Buyout Cap Charges: $1.5MM in 2016-17 and $2.5MM in 2017-18. This is due to the back loading of salary in his contract.