Last year the Devils had a major issue keeping a full roster under the salary cap and while they did the best they could, there wasn’t a lot of flexibility for them. This summer, things have changed. The Devils traded away Brian Rolston in favor of Trent Hunter from the Islanders and with Rolston’s brutal contract off the books, GM Lou Lamoriello isn’t stopping there with helping lower the Devils’ cap hit.
New Jersey is waiving both the newly acquired Hunter and defenseman Colin White with the purpose of buying them out. Hunter is due to make $2 million against the cap this season and next season while White has a $3 million cap hit this season. Should both players clear waivers tomorrow at noon, the Devils will be cashing out their contracts and making them unrestricted free agents.
While buyouts are a last resort for cost cutting, the Devils are set to free up a good chunk of change with these moves as Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice points out.
For White, the buyout would be $2 million with the cap hit spread over two years—or $1 million per year. For Hunter, the buyout price would $2,666,667 with the cap hit spread over four seasons—or $666,667 per season.
In total, the Devils would save $3,333,333 in cap space in the 2011-12 season. They already have approximately $2.5 million in cap space (depending upon which players are on the roster).
With the Devils freeing up that sort of space, they’ll have the sort of room for adjustment that they didn’t have last year when juggling Ilya Kovalchuk’s new contract along with other poorly financed deals on their books. Paying out dead cap space of nearly $2 million this year sure beats having anywhere from $5 million to $7 million in awful contracts with players that may or may not be living up to their amount.
What the Devils will do with that added cap space is up to the mad genius himself, Lamoriello. The likely action here is to work on getting Zach Parise’s long-term extension hammered out. Parise signed a one-year deal last week after being unable to come to an agreement on a long term one and did so to avoid going to arbitration. With the added savings in the long run from getting rid of White, Hunter, and Rolston’s deals, Lamoriello can how move a little easier towards getting Parise locked up for a long time in New Jersey.
With White’s departure from the Devils, that leaves just Martin Brodeur and Patrik Elias from the last Devils Stanley Cup team in 2003. No one else on the roster has won the Cup elsewhere. If the Devils had more of a reason to be hungry to win after they did so poorly last year, having long-standing former Cup winners departing from the team and growing older still should serve as motivation to get the rest of the team going. With the soon-to-be-had salary cap freedom, the Devils can now better make the moves needed to get them back on top of the NHL.