The NHL’s buyout period began on Friday, and while no team has taken the bait and cut loose one of their overpaid, under-producing players, there are a few contracts largely believed to be on the verge of termination.
In a buyout, teams decide they no longer want a player on their roster and agree to pay a penalty against the salary cap.
From the incredibly helpful website CapFriendly:
Teams are permitted to buyout a players contract to obtain a reduced salary cap hit over a period of twice the remaining length of the contract. The buyout amount is a function of the players age at the time of the buyout, and are as follows:
- 1/3 of the remaining contract value, if the player is younger than 26 at the time of the buyout
- 2/3 of the remaining contract value, if the player is 26 or older at the time of the buyout
Veterans like Paul Martin of the San Jose Sharks and Marian Gaborik of the Ottawa Senators are a couple of those in danger of the dreaded buyout. Could any Vancouver Canucks suffer the same fate?
Here are a few plausible options.
Cap hit: $6 million
Years left: Four
With the retirement of Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Eriksson owns the largest cap hit on the Canucks. It’s a tough sentence to write and surely an even harder one for Vancouver’s brass to acknowledge.
And as much as Jim Benning and company would love to simply sweep the Swede’s unsightly contract under the rug, that’s probably not going to happen.
The main reason that teams buy out players is because the buyout rate is typically less than what the player would usually make.
While many fans wouldn’t have much of a problem with Eriksson simply being wiped off the Canucks roster, Vancouver would only save $2 million in the transaction.
It’s tough to see a team with tons of cap room admitting that they’d rather save $2 million than employ a player they’ve invested so much in. Plus, Eriksson’s usefulness in the middle-six means a buyout doesn’t really make sense. Yet.
Cap hit: $4.37 million
Years left: Three
The Canucks would stand to benefit more from a Sutter buyout than one involving Eriksson, as the team would save about $3.5 million all told.
But even as Sutter is a third-line centre in the NHL, the Canucks value him much more than that. The only two forwards who averaged more ice time than Sutter on the team last season were first-line fixtures Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser.
Coach Travis Green employs Sutter as his shutdown centre against other teams’ top players. While it’s not exactly fair to say he’s thrived in that role, he did have stretches of effectiveness.
It’s obvious that the Canucks place a heavy burden on Sutter and think of him as one of their more important forwards. A buyout would help them clear some cap space for when Boeser and other young players need new contracts, but it’s not going to happen.
There have been reports that the Canucks have received calls on Sutter from other teams, so it’s possible that he doesn’t stay with the team throughout the rest of his contract (though he does have a no-trade clause that becomes limited after the upcoming season).
But if he does end up departing Vancouver before his deal expires, it’s hard to see it happening through a buyout.
Cap hit: $2.5 million
Years left: One
The Canucks might not have much use for Nilsson next year if Thatcher Demko proves himself ready for the NHL. The club already has Jacob Markstrom in the starter’s role and it would be good to get the young Demko some big league experience.
That being said, the Canucks wouldn’t find much relief in buying out Nilsson.
The goaltender is only owed $2.5 million against the cap, so he’d end up saving the Canucks just under $700,000 in a buyout situation.
The best-case scenario would be the Canucks finding a willing trade partner for Nilsson, who had a stellar World Championships.
(We may or may not have made a bet on local radio that Nilsson will get dealt before or during the NHL draft for a fifth-round pick or better.)
That could be wishful thinking, and Nilsson may just end up on waivers. If another team does not claim him, a buyout could happen but it’d be quite unnecessary.
Cap hit: $3.15 million
Years left: Two
Gagner didn’t have the best year after coming over from Columbus in the offseason. The veteran forward failed to match his previous season’s totals of 50 points, registering only 31 in 74 games with Vancouver.
There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that his time in Columbus was an outlier, as he was given oodles of powerplay time and matched up against opposing teams’ weaker players.
Buying out Gagner would save the Canucks just over $2.2 million, and while that’s not a ton of cash for a team with a lot of cap space, the move would also free up a forward spot in the middle-six for one of the team’s younger forwards to prove themselves.
It’s hard to see the Canucks admitting that the Gagner deal is a regrettable one a year after signing it. The Canucks do need some veteran presence in their lineup, but from this corner, buying out Gagner would save the Canucks money while giving players like Jake Virtanen, Nikolay Goldobin and Jonathan Dahlen a shot at playing meaningful minutes for the team.
Sometimes swallowing one’s pride is the best move. That doesn’t mean the Canucks will actually do it though.
It’s easy to see the team standing pat through the buyout period.
Follow @ncaddell on TwitterMore