At this time next week, there could already be a few notable additions to the impending unrestricted free agent class. The NHL’s buyout window is set to open on Saturday, June 15th, after which teams will have 15 days to buy out unwanted contracts before the month ends and free agency begins on July 1st. This year in particular, there seem to be a surplus of teams upset with their current salary cap position and itching to remove a contract from their books that has not yielded the expected results. Yet, at a cost of two-thirds of the remaining salary and double the remaining term (in most cases), as well as the side effects of pay and bonus structure, it may not always be the best route. The following are some of the top names that could be bought out later this month and the cost to do so:
Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
Contract Remaining: Two years, $8.625MM cap hit
Buyout Cost (each year): $2.625MM/$6.625MM/$2MM/$2MM
The most recent name to hit the buyout rumor mill, Perry’s contract is undoubtedly an albatross and it is difficult to see him getting back to the pace and production that initially warranted his high cap hit. A buyout would give the Ducks immediate relief this year and $2MM in years three and four is not bad. However, the 2020-21 cost is not ideal. However, it’s hard to see anyone trading for Perry’s contract with so many unknowns about his game, so this could be the only choice for Anaheim.
Dion Phaneuf, Los Angeles Kings
Contract Remaining: Two years, $7MM cap hit
Buyout Cost (each year): $2.917MM/$5.417MM/$1.417MM/$1.417MM
The Kings want to get younger and faster and want some cap space to improve. Moving Phaneuf accomplishes all of that, and L.A. has good blue line depth to fall back on in the short-term. Like Perry, this buyout hurts in year two, but is otherwise tolerable. The Kings will try to trade Phaneuf and may succeed, otherwise this is a likely buyout scenario.
Scott Darling, Carolina Hurricanes
Contract Remaining: Two years, $4.15MM cap hit
Buyout Cost (each year): $1.233MM/$2.333MM/$1.183MM/$1.183MM
One of the earliest reported buyout rumors was that of Darling, and for good reason. The former star backup has not panned out as a starter for Carolina, a team that made it to the Eastern Conference Final with a tandem of a UFA flier and a veteran waiver claim. The Hurricanes may not have any experienced goalies under contract for next season yet besides Darling, but that won’t stop them from moving on and going back to the free agent market or their talented pipeline for answers, especially with this very palatable buyout and few cap concerns.
Ryan Callahan, Tampa Bay Lightning
Contract Remaining: One year, $5.8MM cap hit
Buyout Cost (each year): $2.667MM/$1.567MM
Callahan won’t be in Tampa one way or another next season. The team is facing a difficult cap crunch and there’s no room for the veteran, who has played little role in recent years. A buyout doesn’t give the Bolts the full savings they’d hope for this upcoming season and a trade likely remains preferable, but Callahan’s stock is not high and a buyout remains the more likely resolution.
Valeri Nichushkin, Dallas Stars
Contract Remaining: One year, $2.95MM cap hit
Buyout Cost (each year): $700K/$450K
Nichushkin’s age makes his buyout fall under the second category of buyout wherein only one-third of the remaining salary is accounted for. As such, his buyout would mean almost nothing for Dallas’ cap calculations. The young winger failed to score a goal last season as a regular player and both sides would seemingly benefit from a split. It’s not certain that the Stars will move on, but should they choose to, a buyout is a painless option.
Brendan Smith, New York Rangers
Contract Remaining: Two years, $4.35MM cap hit
Buyout Cost (each year): $971K/$3.146MM/$1.146MM/$1.146MM
Smith has been a disaster in New York and certainly not the player that the Rangers saw perform well in the postseason as a deadline addition in 2016-17. It’s hard to see a fit for Smith moving forward, even more so than other unfriendly defense contracts like Marc Staal and Kevin Shattenkirk. It’s even more difficult to see him having any trade value, so the team would have to go the buyout route. It’s not a terrible option, but as frequently happens, the year one savings come back to bite with a hefty year two increase.
Karl Alzner, Montreal Canadiens
Contract Remaining: Three years, $4.625MM cap hit
Buyout Cost (each year): $1.069MM/$4.194MM/$2.194MM/$1.069MM/$1.069MM/$1.069MM
Alzner had one point in nine games with Montreal last season, which is enough to say he’s not in the Canadiens’ long-term plans. He could be on their books for a long time to come with a potential six-year buyout structure, but at a relatively low cost most years. Alzner needs a fresh start and it’s fair to assume that Montreal will give him one.
Milan Lucic, Edmonton Oilers
Contract Remaining: Four years, $6MM cap hit
Buyout Cost (each year): $3.625MM/$5.625MM/$4.125MM/$5.625MM/$625K/$625K/$625K/$625K
Loui Eriksson, Vancouver Canucks
Contract Remaining: Three years, $6MM cap hit
Buyout Cost (each year): $5.556MM/$5.556MM/$3.556MM/$556K/$556K/$556K
Lucic and Eriksson have been tied together by rumors all off-season and one more thing they share: poor buyout possibilities. As bad as Lucic’s contract is, based on his drop-off in performance, his buyout is still very expensive for four more years and then extends another four years beyond that. The Oilers would be better off continuing to search for some way to trade him, no matter how slim the chances. As for Eriksson, his front-loaded contract makes a buyout pointless. The Canucks would pay almost the same amount in each of the next two years as if he was still on the team, then would have the cap penalty for another four years after that. Vancouver and Edmonton are likely stuck with these players, unless of course they swap them for each other.