A favorite from the start, Dallas Eakins has finally been named head coach of the Anaheim Ducks.
The 52-year-old Eakins replaces Randy Carlyle, who was fired in February, though technically he takes over from general manager Bob Murray, who assumed the head coaching duties after Carlyle was canned.
“Dallas is an outstanding head coach who has worked well with our players since joining the organization four years ago,” said Murray in a statement. “He is a tremendous leader and strategist, and deserves this opportunity.”
Reportedly also in the mix for the position were New York Islanders assistant Lane Lambert, Dallas Stars assistants Rick Bowness and Todd Nelson, and University of Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin.
Murray took his time in finding a replacement for Carlyle. The Ducks were the last team to fill their coaching need and the GM eventually decided to keep it in-house, hiring Eakins after he spent the past four seasons coaching the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in San Diego.
Eakins’ chance in Anaheim comes nearly five years he was fired by the Edmonton Oilers after a season and a half behind the bench. The Oilers were 36-63-14 during his 113 games in charge and the disastrous results of that 2014-15 NHL season helped the franchise win the draft lottery and select Connor McDavid No. 1 overall.
While coaching the AHL Gulls, Eakins guided the team to three playoff appearances in four seasons, including a trip to the Western Conference Final in 2019. This season’s job was an impressive one when you consider the amount of injuries the Ducks had to deal with and how often Eakins’ roster was affected by NHL call-ups.
It’s clear by the results with the Gulls and the player development that’s happened that Eakins has been nothing but a positive influence on the franchise’s youth.
“If I was stressed out or something was going on or I was having a hard time, I wouldn’t hesitate to go talk to him about it,” said Terry in March via the OC Register. “He’s just very approachable. He just served as a mentor. I owe a lot of the success I’ve had this season to him.”
With their situation being what it is, Eakins is the right choice to shepherd the roster forward as Murray attempts to further a youth movement.
A team’s “out” to a bad contract, often one that said team signed and one they regretted at some point after the ink hit the signature spot on the contract sheet.
It’s an out with a catch. You can shed cap space, but only some. While mistakes can be forgiven, they’re not forgotten for some time. The length varies from case to case. It’s like getting a divorce but still living with your ex-spouse. You’re free, but not really. It’s not ideal.
The fact is, some relationships end up in that spot, and in hockey, when a usually-high-paid player becomes unwanted — a surplus to requirements — or he’s a square peg that can’t be fit into the round holes of a team’s salary cap, it’s one way to trim off some fat.
The buyout window opens today and will remain open until June 30.
Teams are permitted to buyout a players contract to obtain a reduced salary cap hit over a period of twice the remaining length of the contract. The buyout amount is a function of the players age at the time of the buyout, and are as follows:
One-third of the remaining contract value, if the player is younger than 26 at the time of the buyout
Two-thirds of the remaining contract value, if the player is 26 or older at the time of the buyout
The team still takes a cap hit, and the cap hit by year is calculated as follows:
Multiply the remaining salary (excluding signing bonuses) by the buyout amount (as determined by age) to obtain the total buyout cost
Spread the total buyout cost evenly over twice the remaining contract years
Determine the savings by subtracting the annual buyout cost from Step 2. by the players salary (excluding signing bonuses)
Determine the remaining cap hit by subtracting the savings from Step 3. by the players Annual Average Salary (AAV) (including signing bonuses)
With that out of the way, let’s look at five candidates (in no particular order) who may be bought out over the next two weeks.
The once powerful Kings have been reduced to kingdom more befitting of Jurassic Park. They have their share of stars from yesteryear on that team, and a couple making premium coin for regular, unleaded performance.
Phaneuf is a shade of the player he used to be. It’s understandable, given he’s 34 and on the back nine of his career. He’s got two years remaining on a deal that the Kings will be on the hook for $12 million.
Trading Phaneuf isn’t likely. He had six points in 67 games last year and the Kings, who were dreadful, healthy-scratched Phaneuf down the stretch.
Using CapFriendly’s handy-dandy buyout calculator, we see Phaneuf’s buyout would save the Kings just over $2.8 million, including a ~$4 million savings next year and a more modest $1.583 the following year.
Phaneuf’s cap hit over four years would be a total of $8.375 million, with the Ottawa Senators retaining 25 percent or $2.791 million per the transaction the two teams made in 2018.
Scott Darling, Carolina Hurricanes
A lesson in a team throwing way to much money at a backup goaltender with decent numbers.
Darling has fallen out of favor in Carolina after signing a four-year, $16.6 million deal during the 2017 offseason.
Darling’s play was a disaster in the first year of the deal and Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney took over around December of this past season.
Darling was placed on waivers and was unsurprisingly not claimed and seems a shoe-in for an immediate buyout. The Hurricanes will save $2.366 million, taking a total cap hit of just under $6 million over the next four years.
Those savings can go to toward trying to re-up both Mrazek and McEhlinney, a duo that helped the Hurricanes to the Eastern Conference Final.
The Jets bet on Kulikov’s lingering back injuries being behind the Russian defenseman when they signed him two years ago in the offseason. The bet was wrong.
Kulikov’s back has a durability rating that would be frowned upon by Consumer Reports.
But his back isn’t the biggest issue Winnipeg has. General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has a money issue. You see, he needs to spend a lot this offseason on guys named Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, and he has more than one contract he’d like to dispose of. But while a guy like Mathieu Perreault would find suitors in the trade market, Kulikov won’t.
So while Kulikov has one year left on a deal that hits the cap for $4.333 million, a buyout would save Cheveldayoff close to $3 million in desperately needed cap space for the coming season.
Drafting well in the first round has caught up with the Jets.
Like Phaneuf not far down the I-5, Perry has seen his production nose-dive at 34 years old. There’s a lot of mileage on Perry’s skates, and regular oil changes aren’t cutting it anymore.
Perry has two years left on a deal that hits their bottom line for $8.625 million over the next two seasons.
The Ducks would have $6 million this year alone by buying out Perry, who is essentially trade proof with a full no-movement clause.
Perry’s cap hit would jump up to 6.625 mill the following year with a signing bonus of $3 million still owed, but then would only hurt for $2 million over the two added buyout years. In the end, the Ducks would save $4 million and open up a roster spot for a younger player.
I know what you’re thinking: “Hey, this guy just hoisted the Stanley Cup and played a hell of a role on the fourth line to help the Blues to their first title in franchise history.”
Indeed, Steen did all of those things. But interim coach Craig Berube put Steen on the fourth line, a role he relished in but one that can be replaced for much, much cheaper.
Steen, 35, has seen his production plummet over the past several seasons — far away from the realm of money he’s making with a $5.75 million cap hit. That’s too much for a fourth line player.
The Blues have some signings to make themselves, including a big-money extension for rookie sensation Jordan Binnington and other pieces to the puzzle such as Patrick Maroon.
Buying out Steen would come with a cap savings of $3 million, including a $6 million savings over the next two seasons. The Blues have $18 million and change to play with and a host of RFAs that need to get paid.
The above five came in no particular order. This list could extend for a while.
Some other notable names that could see their contracts bought out are:
• Cassidy and Berube deserve more credit for getting their teams to Cup final. (Montreal Gazette)
• I don’t really care about hockey. But St. Louis, my city, needed this Stanley Cup run. (Washington Post)
And if you’re interested in watching some videos this morning, we got you covered:
Game Highlights: Link
Pietrangelo Interview: Link O’Reilly wins Conn Smythe: Link O’Reilly Interview: Link Binnington Interview: Link Blues hoist Cup: Link Berube Interview: Link Maroon Interview: Link Bouwmeester Interview: Link Tarasenko Interview with family: Link Parayko celebrates with Laila, interview: Link
One way or another it appears as if Corey Perry‘s time with the Anaheim Ducks is coming to a close over the next few weeks. Over the weekend the Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun and Eric Stephens both reported extensively on the team’s willingness to move on from their long-time star winger and former league MVP in an effort to get younger.
It should be pretty obvious as to why the Ducks are looking to move on and make a change. The franchise as currently constructed has hit its ceiling with its current core, while Perry carries a substantial salary cap hit (more than $8.6 million per season over the next two seasons) for what has been steadily declining production over the past three seasons.
LeBrun reported that if the Ducks fail to find a taker in a trade they would consider buying him out during the league’s buyout window later this month. According to the buyout calculator over at Capfriendly, a buyout of Perry’s remaining contract would leave the Ducks on the hook for a $2 million salary cap hit in 2019-20, 2021-22 and 2022-23, with a $6 million cap hit in 2020-21. That would be a pretty drastic step to take with a franchise icon, but the Ducks aren’t currently getting $8.6 million worth of production out of Perry and it seems unlikely that he is ever going to return to that level.
He was limited to just 31 games this past season where he scored six goals and four assists. That came after a 2017-18 season where he managed 17 goals and 49 total points in 71 games, which came after a 19-goal, 53 point season the year before. For three years now his production has been cratering across the board, whether it’s his traditional box score numbers (goals, assists, points) or his underlying numbers that look at his possession and shot numbers. It is not just that he’s lost some of his fastball when it comes to his shot and ability to beat goalies, but he is also not able to generate anywhere near as many shots as he did when he was a consistent 35-40 goal scorer and one of the league’s elite power forwards.
To get a sense for just how far — and how quickly — his game has fallen off, just consider that since the start of the 2016-17 season he has the following league-wide ranks among forwards that have played at least 100 games (rankings are out of 405 forwards):
Goals per game: 147th
Points per game: 122nd
Shots per game: 87th
Even-strength goals: 188th
Corsi Percentage: 273rd
Compare that to where he was in the three years prior to that:
Goals per game: 4th
Points per game: 16th
Shots per game: 28th
Even-strength goals: 1st (tied with Alex Ovechkin)
Corsi Percentage: 126th
That is significant.
So, yeah, it is understandable as to why the Ducks would be looking to move on.
The Ducks have a significant chunk of money tied up in an aging core (including Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Ryan Kesler, whose career seems to be in serious jeopardy) that saw its run of six consecutive playoff appearances end this past season. Even though the franchise is just two years removed from a trip to the Western Conference Finals the team has rapidly declined over the past two seasons and looks to be several steps below the rest of the Stanley Cup contenders in the Western Conference. They looked overwhelmed in their 2017-18 Round 1 sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, and despite getting an All-Star worthy performance from starting goalie John Gibson this past season the team was never really even close to being competitive. The potential for major changes existed even before the start of the season, and given how badly things went once the season began it is clear the time has come to turn the page.
For as great as Perry has been for the team during career, he is at this moment a natural starting point for those changes given the total package he provides (age, contract, production).
The problem is the Ducks probably do not have many good options when it comes to moving on.
Keeping him is not really ideal because they would still paying superstar money for a player that, when healthy, is probably giving them second-line (at best) production. For a team that is looking to get younger and does not always spend to the salary cap that is a tough contract to justify, especially when it is likely that the production is only going to keep declining over the next two years.
Even with that being said, buying him out should be an absolute last resort because even though there are some cap savings that come with that, they are still going to be on the hook for a significant portion of money over the next four years while getting nothing in return for it. And it is not like Perry is a zero value player. Somebody else could use him as he can still play and produce a little bit. It just not at an $8.6 million dollar level. That salary cap number is probably double what he would get on the open market right now as a free agent.
That leaves the trade market, which probably will not be easy or result in a satisfying return for Ducks fans (or Perry’s current Ducks teammates).
Given the size of his salary the next two years and the decline he is experiencing it might have the look of an unmovable contract, but there is really no such thing in the NHL. Every contract can be moved, you just have to find the right team that is willing to work with you. If the Ducks do find a trade partner the framework of a deal is probably going to look like another trade involving a similarly aging player where they either have to retain a significant portion of salary, and/or take on another team’s bad contract in return.
It is the same situation the Edmonton Oilers find themselves in with Milan Lucic and the same situation the Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves in with Patrick Marleau. It is the same situation the Los Angeles Kings found themselves in with Marian Gaborik a couple of years ago and the Ottawa Senators with Dion Phaneuf (who were eventually swapped for one another, while the Kings will ultimately find themselves in the same situation now that they have Phaneuf).
The problem with that option is it still leaves them in a situation where they are probably overpaying a declining player under the cap, which then forces them to ask the question: Why even make the trade? In that case it would depend on what else they can get in return. Perry would still probably be better and more valuable than whatever player the Ducks take on in return, which should result in additional assets thrown their way (a younger player, a decent draft pick, etc.).
The other option in a trade: Retain a significant chunk of salary over the next two years. They are still paying something under the cap for a player that isn’t playing for them, but if the Ducks are willing to eat some of that money it should — should being the key word — result in a better return. Perry may not have much value to another team at $8.6 million per season, but he might have some value at, hypothetically speaking, $5 or 6 million. It is cheaper long-term than a buyout, and it gives them something tangible in return to add to the organization.
None of this is an ideal way for the Ducks to part ways with a player that helped the team win a Stanley Cup, won an MVP award, and is one of the franchise’s all-time greats. It is simply the reality of playing in a salary cap league and spending significant money on players well beyond their 30th birthdays.
On its face, that seems like an ill-advised trade. Why would the already-old-as-dirt, expensive Kings seek out a near-40-year-old who carries a bloated $6.25 million cap hit?
Yet, in the cap era, it’s a deal that could make a ton of sense for both sides, if the right deal could be hashed out.
The Kings should go even bolder
While LeBrun discusses the Kings wanting to get rid of a different, cheaper problem contract to make the Marleau trade work (sub required), the real goal should be for both teams to acknowledge their situations. The Maple Leafs needs cap space; the Kings need to build up their farm system with picks and prospects.
Instead of trying to move, say, Dustin Brown or Ilya Kovalchuk, the Kings should instead find as creative ways as possible to bulk up on futures, while accepting the (admittedly grim) reality that they’ll suffer through 2019-20, if not 2020-21 and beyond.
In fact, if I were Kings GM Rob Blake, I’d pitch sending over Alec Martinez for Marleau, with the goal of really making it costly for the Maple Leafs. Imagine how appealing it would be for the Maple Leafs to move out Marleau’s contract and improve their defense, and imagine how much more of a ransom the Kings could demand if they’re absorbing all the immediate “losses” in such a trade? Could Los Angeles land yet another Maple Leafs first-rounder, say in 2020 or even 2021? Could such a deal be sweetened with, say, the rights to Andreas Johansson?
That trade might not work, but it’s a blueprint
The Los Angeles Times’ Helene Elliott believes that a deal probably won’t actually work out, and that’s understandable. There are a lot of ins and outs to a would-be trade that could send Marleau to L.A., particularly since Marleau would need to waive his no-trade clause to complete a trade.
But, really, this is just one example.
Rebuilding teams should apply similar logic to any number of other situations, while contenders can be forgiven for thinking more short-term.
Of course, a rebuilding team would also need to embrace the rebuilding reality, and not every team is past the denial stage.
Potential rebuilding teams
The Kings are in a decent position to absorb a tough year or two, what with being not that far removed from two Stanley Cup wins. The Ottawa Senators have already prepared fans for a rebuild, although they also need to avoid making things too brutal after an agonizing year. The Detroit Red Wings could be less resistant to rebuilding under Steve Yzerman than Ken Holland. Other teams should probably at least consider a short pulling off of the Band-Aid, too, with the Anaheim Ducks coming to mind.
What are some of the problem contracts that could be moved? Glad you (may have) asked.
Also, quick note: these mentions are based on my perception of the relative value of players, not necessarily how their teams view them.
Marleau-likes (challenging contracts ending after 2019-20)
Again, Marleau is about to turn 40, and his cap hit is $6.25M. His actual salary is just $4.25M, with Cap Friendly listing his salary bonus at $3M. Maybe the Maple Leafs could make his contract even more enticing to move if they eat the salary bonus, then trade him? If it’s not the Kings, someone should try hard to get Marleau, assuming he’d waive for at least a few situations.
Ryan Callahan: 34, $5.8M cap hit, $4.7M salary. Callahan to the Red Wings almost feels too obvious, as Yzerman can do his old team the Lightning a cap-related favor, get one of his beloved former Rangers, and land some much-needed pieces. Naturally, other rebuilders should seek this deal out, too, as the Bolts are in just as tough a spot with Brayden Point as the Maple Leafs are in trying to sign Mitch Marner.
Nathan Horton: 35, $5.3M cap hit, $3.6M salary. The Maple Leafs have been placing Horton on LTIR since acquiring his contract, but with his reduced actual salary, maybe a team would take that minor headache off of Toronto’s hands?
David Clarkson: 36, $5.25M cap hit, $3.25M salary. Basically Vegas’ version of the Horton situation.
Zach Bogosian: 29, $5.14M cap hit, $6M salary. Buffalo’s said the right things about liking Bogosian over the years, but with big spending coming up if they want to re-signJeff Skinner, not to mention get better … wouldn’t they be better served spending that money on someone who might move the needle?
Andrew MacDonald: 33, $5M cap hit, $5.75M salary. Like Bogosian, MacDonald’s salary actually exceeds his cap hit. Maybe you’d get a better return from Philly if you ate one year of his deal? Both the Flyers and Sabres have some added urgency to be better in 2019-20, after all.
Seeking contracts that expire after 2020-21 is a tougher sell, but maybe the rewards would be worth the risk of extended suffering?
Corey Perry: 36, $8.625M cap hit. $8M salary in 2019-20; $7M salary ($4M base; $3M salary bonus) in 2020-21. If you’re offering to take on Perry’s contract, you’d probably want a significant package in return. If the Ducks are in rebuild denial, then they’d get a fresher start if they managed to bribe someone to take Perry. Ryan Getzlaf‘s deal also expires after 2020-21 with similar parameters, though it’s less appealing to move him.
Kevin Shattenkirk: 32, $6.65 cap hit, cheaper salary in 2020-21. Marc Staal, 34, $5.7M cap hit, cheaper salary in 2020-21. The Rangers’ future is blurry now, as they could go from rebuild to trying to contender if they get Panarin. If they’re really gearing toward contending, maybe they’d want to get rid of some expensive, aging defensemen?
David Backes: 35, $6M cap hit, $4M salary each of the next two seasons. The bottom line is that Backes has been a pretty frequent healthy scratch, and the Bruins should funnel his cap hit toward trying to keep both Charlie McAvoy (RFA this offseason) and Torey Krug (UFA after 2020-21).
Alexander Steen: 37, $5.75M cap hit, cheaper in 2020-21. Paying this much for a guy who’s become a fourth-liner just isn’t tenable for a contender. He’s been great for the Blues over the years, yet if you want to stay in the mix, you sometimes need to have those tough conversations.
As you can see, plenty of contenders have contracts they should try to get rid of, and rebuilding teams should capitalize on these situations.
Interestingly, there are fascinating ideas if rebuilders would take on even more than a year or two of baggage. Would it be worth it to ask for a lot for, say, James Neal, particularly if they think Neal might be at least a little better than his disastrous 2018-19 season indicated? Might someone extract a robust package while accepting Milan Lucic‘s positively odious contract?
It’s easier to sell the one or two-year commitments, which is why this post focuses on those more feasible scenarios. Nonetheless, it would be fun for the armchair GMs among us to see executives get truly creative.
Should your team seek these trades out? What level of risk is too much to stomach? Do tell in the comments.