Trent Hunter and Colin White clear waivers; How the inevitable buyouts will affect all sides

The New Jersey Devils made a brilliant move when they sent Brian Rolston’s $5.06 million salary cap hit (and a conditional draft pick) in exchange for injured New York Islanders forward Trent Hunter. At the time, the savings seemed simple: the Devils received +3.06 million in space in 2011-12 and then would take on Hunter’s $2 million in 12-13. Either way, it seemed like a great way to clear up space for Zach Parise.

While the Devils did indeed find a way to get Parise to come back for at least one more year (at $6 million), GM Lou Lamoriello decided to tidy his team’s salary structure up a bit more. As Joe speculated when the Devils placed Hunter and Colin White on waivers, the duo of players did indeed clear waivers and thus seem primed for a buyout in the near future. Lamoriello himself admitted that would be the case on Monday. (We’ll update this post once it becomes official.)

Here’s a quick review of what each buyout will cost the Devils and how much they’ll receive in savings.

White, 33, has one year left on his contract at $3 million. The buyout cap hit for White will be $1 million for each of the next two seasons.

Hunter, 31, has two years at $2 million per season remaining. The buyout cap hit for Hunter will be $666,667 for each of the next four seasons.

Robust cap space for the Devils

So White and Hunter will cost the Devils $1.67 million for the next two seasons and then Hunter’s penalty will be $667K for two more. On the other hand, New Jersey sees significant cap relief this season; they’ll save approximately $3.33 million by essentially paying White and Hunter to go away.

If that buyout takes place, the Devils would have $5.87 million in excess cap space, according to Cap Geek. With the free agent market as slim as it is right now, I imagine that cap flexibility will be more beneficial around the trade deadline than anything else.

What’s next for Hunter, White

As far as the two players being bought out, both White and Hunter told Colin Stephenson of the Newark Star-Ledger that they want to find an NHL job.

White might be the saddest of the two, considering the fact that he’s been with the Devils organization since they drafted him in 1996. White was a useful member of the 2000 and 2003 Stanley Cup winning teams and while he has his flaws and limitations, his crease-clearing ways might convince a team to add him as a depth defenseman. There might be some questions about injuries here and there, but it wouldn’t be shocking if someone decided to give the sizable 33-year-old blueliner a chance.

Trent Hunter might have a tougher go of it, although he’s only 31 years old. Injuries have been the biggest problem for Hunter, who only played in 133 out of 246 regular season games during the last three seasons, scoring 37 points in that span. Those are the numbers of a player who barely belongs at the NHL level, but Hunter does have 25 and 20 goal seasons to his name, so maybe he can convince a team to give him one last chance. (Or at least a training camp tryout?)

With those buyout amounts already going their way, Hunter and White could be willing to take bargain deals to stay in the NHL. We’ll see how that it goes, but it could be far more interesting to follow what the devious Devils have planned with their suddenly robust cap space.

Into the fire: Halak, recalled yesterday, starts for Isles in Pittsburgh

Getty
Leave a comment

A little scene setting for you.

New York heads into tonight’s massive game in Pittsburgh sitting two points back of Boston for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference. The Isles have two games in hand on the B’s — who are idle tonight — so a win could move them into a playoff spot.

As such, the Isles will start a goalie that hasn’t played in the NHL in 85 days.

Against the league’s highest-scoring offense.

The goalie in question is Jaroslav Halak, who’s spent the last three months playing for the Isles’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. Recalled yesterday, Halak will now face big league competition for the first time since Dec. 29, when he allowed four goals on 24 shots in a loss to Minnesota.

(Afterward, then-head coach Jack Capuano ripped Halak, saying he gave up “some soft goals to start” and “wasn’t sharp at all.”)

But Halak’s been really good in Bridgeport.

He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, the Isles really had no other choice than to recall Halak.

The club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in Wednesday’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.

The Isles are in Pittsburgh tonight, then host the Bruins on Saturday — another massive game — then host the Preds on Monday. It’s a compact part of the schedule, and Berube’s struggles have rendered him virtually unplayable, given how meaningful the games are (and, to borrow a timeless cliche, how vital points are at this time of the year.)

So it’s Halak tonight, and possibly more down the stretch.

For Tuukka Rask and the Bruins, a ‘bad goal’ at the worst possible time

Getty
Leave a comment

The growing ranks of Tuukka Rask detractors gained some serious ammunition during last night’s loss to Tampa Bay.

The deciding goal in the 6-3 defeat was a “bad one,” according to Rask and most anyone else who was watching.

It may have been a hard shot by Jonathan Drouin, unleashed at the top of the circle, but it still should’ve been stopped.

After the game, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters that Rask “needed to be better tonight.”

In fact, Rask hasn’t been very good the past few months. Since Jan. 1, his save percentage is just .888. But with nobody trustworthy behind him, he’s had to just play through his struggles.

It’s impossible to say if Rask’s numbers would be better if the Bruins had a more capable backup. He’d be more rested, though. And when he was struggling, the coach would at least have another option to consider. With an .897 save percentage on the season, Anton Khudobin simply hasn’t been reliable enough to garner that consideration.

Don’t expect Rask to get the next game off. Saturday in Brooklyn, the Bruins — losers of four straight in regulation, and suddenly on the verge of falling out of the playoff picture — face the Islanders in arguably the biggest game of both teams’ seasons.

Bolts recall Koekkoek, putting Garrison’s status into doubt

Getty
Leave a comment

The Tampa Bay Lightning, after earning a big win last night in Boston, may not have defenseman Jason Garrison tonight in Detroit.

The Bolts recalled d-man Slater Koekkoek from AHL Syracuse this morning — a move that would seem to put Garrison’s status into doubt against the Red Wings.

Garrison was forced to leave the Bruins game in the second period with a lower-body injury.

Koekkoek has played 29 games for the Lightning this season, recording no goals and four assists.

Melnyk blasts ‘whiner’ Crosby, who won’t face hearing for Methot slash

25 Comments

Sidney Crosby won’t face a disciplinary hearing for his slash on Ottawa d-man Marc Methot, an NHL spokesman confirmed — news that won’t be welcomed by Sens owner Eugene Melnyk.

The incident occurred during Ottawa’s 2-1 win on Thursday night, and forced Methot from the game with a bloodied, lacerated finger. The club later announced that Methot would be “out for weeks” with the injury.

Crosby’s slash came two nights after he speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt. It should be noted that neither the O’Reilly spear or Methot slash resulted in penalty calls, and neither was subjected to supplementary discipline.

One individual that’s guaranteed to be upset with today’s news is Melynk. He appeared on TSN 1200 radio this morning and seemed to suggest the league was looking into the Crosby-Methot incident.

He also had a few choice words for No. 87: