When the Predators swung a deal with the Maple Leafs that sent Cody Franson and Matt Lombardi to Toronto in exchange for Brett Lebda and Robert Slaney, the deal was already being hailed as a big winner for Toronto. For Leafs fans, getting rid of Lebda was a big enough win but getting the young Franson in return to play defense and to get Lombardi, who is recovering from a wicked concussion suffered last season and progressing well in doing so, it’s made the deal all the better for them.
For Nashville, Lebda was set to be a depth defenseman for them but now, it appears he’s about to be out of a job. Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported that Lebda will be put on unconditional waivers by the Predators and will likely turn into a buyout candidate for the team. The question here for the Predators is whether they can buy out Lebda at all. Dirk Hoag at On The Forecheck digs into the NHL legalese to see if GM David Poile can help rid themselves of Lebda without breaking the rules of the NHL.
But what confuses me is how the Predators can actually buy him out, given Section 11.18 of the CBA (emphasis mine):
11.18 Ordinary Course Buy-Outs Outside the Regular Period. Clubs shall have the right to exercise Ordinary Course Buy-Outs outside the regular period for Ordinary Course Buy-Outs in accordance with Paragraph 13(c)(ii) of the SPC. Each Club shall be limited to no more than three (3) such buyouts over the term of this Agreement pursuant to Paragraph 13(c)(ii) of the SPC. However, in the event that a Club has only one salary arbitration hearing pursuant to Section 12.3(a) in a given League Year, such Club shall not be entitled to exercise such a buyout outside the regular period for Ordinary Course Buy-Outs. No Club shall exercise an Ordinary Course Buy-out outside the regular period for any Player earning less than $1 million.
The “regular period” referred to is the window from June 15 through June 30 when players (such as J.P. Dumont this year) can be bought out of their contract. Since the Preds only had one salary arbitration hearing that falls under Section 12.3(a) this summer (you may have heard of it recently), it would appear that they’re not allowed a buyout at this point in time.
Well this is a bit of a sticky issue if this is indeed in the plans of the Predators to ensure that Lebda is not on the team next season. With Lebda due $1.45 million next season, his buy out wouldn’t be an expensive one and would only hang on the Predators cap for this year and next at a cheap rate. if the Predators aren’t allowed to buy out Lebda, this is just a really awkward way of telling him that he’s not going to be playing in Nashville anyhow. That said, Buying out Lebda would also ensure that the Predators blue line corps is really, really young.
With Lebda out of the mix and Francis Bouillon still dealing with concussion problems of his own, the Predators will have to go with young star and 2009 first round pick Ryan Ellis as well as a mix of guys like Roman Josi, Teemu Laakso, Mattias Ekholm, and recently signed Tyler Sloan from Washington. Mixing those guys in with veterans like Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Kevin Klein, and Jonathon Blum that would leave two starting spots to fight for with Lebda gone. The Predators are big on home grown players, but even going with a defensive unit like this would seem like a big risk.
Then again, if this is their plan, the best abilities of coach Barry Trotz will be pushed to the limit.