It’s something that often goes unnoticed, but with the cap showing minimal growth the last few years, teams are starting to feel the crunch more than ever. Buyouts have become more common, especially with players with under three remaining years on their contracts. And it’s not just the big name busts that have seen the ax lately – we’ve seen lesser names at lesser money take the fall for their respective teams, then needing to scramble for work elsewhere in the league. Additionally, salary retention in trades has become a more utilized tactic as of late. Teams with “unmovable” contracts have offered to retain part of a poor contract in order to entice a team into giving them some relief.
All this said, some teams have been better with foresight than others. Some teams have shown a track record of being entirely unable of handing out poor contracts over the past five or so seasons. Considering many teams showed some progress in being more frugal this off-season, it seems a wise time to review the dead space every team has accumulated, either due to poor management decisions or poor luck.
New York Rangers – $2.61 MM in 2017-18, issues resolved after 2022-23 – Dan Girardi buyout
Minnesota Wild – $2.5 MM in 2017-17, issues resolved after current year – Thomas Vanek buyout
Tampa Bay Lightning – $1.83 MM in 2017-18, issues resolved after 2019-20 – Matt Carle buyout
Detroit Red Wings – $1.67 MM in 2017-18, issues resolved after 2020-21 – Stephen Weiss buyout
Dallas Stars – $1.5 MM in 2017-18, issues resolved after 2018-19- Antti Niemi buyout
Philadelphia Flyers – $1.5 MM in 2017-18, issues resolved after current year – R.J. Umberger buyout
Winnipeg Jets – $1.46 MM in 2017-18, issues resolved after 2018-19 – Mark Stuart buyout
Florida Panthers – $1.33 MM in 2017-18, issues resolved after 2018-19 – Jussi Jokinen buyout
Las Vegas Golden Knights – $1.1 MM in 2017-18, issues resolved after current year – Alexei Emelin retained
Ottawa Senators – $350,000 in 2017-18, issues resolved after current year – Andrew Hammond buried
Buffalo Sabres – Minimal in 2017-18, increased issues ($791,00) resolved after 2022-23 – Cody Hodgson buyout
Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders, San Jose Sharks, Montreal Canadiens – No dead cap space
After compiling the list, it became clear that utilizing these options isn’t a complete hindrance to competing in the NHL. In fact, most clubs have between $1 MM and $3 MM in dead space. That said, of the teams that have not needed to utilize the buyout or retention options, there has been a great deal of success. And among the five worst offenders, the Leafs, Hurricanes, Blue Jackets, Avalanche, and Coyotes, none has moved past the first-round in multiple years. It’s hard to draw massive conclusions without taking the context of each individual situation into account, but there is something to be said for making every dollar of cap space count. Perhaps this is merely a byproduct of past success rather than an indicator of future success, but considering how amenable many managers have become to the option, it bears consideration.
(All totals courtesy of the fantastic CapFriendly.com)