The unrestricted free agent market won’t open until July 1, but some big names could be available sooner. That’s because the window for exercising teams’ remaining compliance buyouts will start Monday and run through June 30, per CSN Washington.
Compliance buyouts are a special option that teams were granted as part of the new CBA to help them cope with the fact that the new agreement was lowering the cap. Each franchise was allowed to buy out the contracts of up to two players over the summers of 2013 and 2014 without suffering any cap penalty.
That led to players like Vincent Lecavalier, Daniel Briere, and Mikhail Grabovski becoming free agents last summer. In total, 18 players were bought out, per Cap Geek.
For some teams, this summer’s compliance buyout window represents their last chance to safely get out of long-term contracts that could hurt them down the road, especially given the recapture penalty that punishes teams when players signed to long-term, heavily front-loaded deals retire with years remaining.
One prime example of that is New York Rangers forward Brad Richards, who is 34 years old and comes with a $6,666,667 annually cap hit through 2019-20. Los Angeles Kings forward Mike Richards might find himself in the same boat as his role has diminished despite the fact that he’ll cost $5.75 million annually against the cap through 2019-20.
Not all the compliance buyouts will be on big names though. It seems likely that Detroit will buy out the contract of Jordin Tootoo while San Jose’s Martin Havlat and Buffalo’s Ville Leino will also probably be wearing new uniforms in 2014-15.
It’s worth noting that while these buyouts don’t count against the cap, those players will still receive two-thirds of what was owed, with the payments spread out over double the remaining length of his contract. For example, the Flyers are also paying bought out goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov roughly $1.6 million annually through 2026-27 in addition to consistently spending to the cap.
So while compliance buyouts are a helpful tool for teams to utilize, they also require that owners make a financial sacrifice.