On Friday, the first buyout period for the NHL will open and teams will be able to reduce the cap hit of some unwanted contracts (while paying a chunk of the remaining salary owed.) With the salary cap ceiling flat for next season (and likely several more afterward) this tool may be important to several teams around the league looking to shed payroll. It’s not the magic wand that compliance buyouts were in 2014, but it could still be useful in the right situation.
One player that has drawn some buyout speculation is David Backes of the Anaheim Ducks, who has just one year remaining on his current contract. The Ducks, who are set to cover just $4.5MM of his $6MM cap hit already thanks to the salary that the Boston Bruins retained in trade last year, would receive an additional $1.5MM in cap savings for 2020-21 should they exercise a buyout of the veteran forward. That would be offset by a $750K cap penalty in 2021-22, while the Bruins would also get a small amount of relief next season ($500K, with a $250K cap penalty in 2020-21).
That doesn’t appear to be the plan, however, as Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest reports the Ducks told Backes they intend to keep him for the upcoming season. Backes himself is preparing for the upcoming season already, working with a skating coach twice a week after scoring just a single goal in 22 games.
Though his play has fallen off a cliff, Backes could still represent a valuable veteran presence on a team that is just starting a rebuild. Youth will be dotted all over the Ducks roster next season, and though they appear quite close to the salary cap ceiling, it’s important to remember the flexibility that will be provided by Ryan Kesler’s contract. Kesler is not expected to play hockey again, meaning his $6.875MM cap hit will be moved to long-term injured reserve.
The Ducks also don’t have any real pressing free agents after already completing deals with Sonny Milano, Troy Terry and Jacob Larsson this summer. Unless they want to pursue high-end unrestricted free agents on the market, they aren’t in desperate need of the $1.5MM in cap savings a Backes buyout would provide.