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.