Today marks the opening of the buyout window where teams can shed bad contracts (for the most part) and save a little money when it comes to the salary cap. MacDonald’s name was written on the wall on Friday, however, after the Flyers and Washington Capitals swapped Radko Gudas for Matt Niskanen, a defenseman.
MacDonald had a year remaining on his six-year-, $30 million contract he signed prior to the 2014-15 season. The Flyers will save $3.833 million next year, reducing the cap hit from $5 million to just $1.66 million.
“It was a difficult decision,” Flyers GM Cliff Fletcher said. “It was solely cap related…This guys is a constant professional. He did whatever we asked him to do…He’s just a quality person & a guy who played an effective two-way game for our team.”
MacDonald’s play has tanked in recent times and his minutes followed. He had no goals and nine assists last year in 47 games where he averaged around 16 minutes a night, six less than when he was acquired by the Flyers in 2014 from the New York Islanders.
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:
When you’re trying to run a playoff team on a limited budget, there probably aren’t many off-seasons that should be categorized as “easy.” Even so, this has been an especially tough one for Nashville Predators GM David Poile.
The third headache was another self-inflicted wound, as the Predators made a salary-dumping trade that sent concussed center Matthew Lombardi and solid young offensive defenseman Cody Franson to Toronto for Brett Lebda and Robert Slaney. To call that trade one-sided in favor of the Maple Leafs is an understatement.
Assuming that a buyout isn’t an option, Lebda will cost the Predators $1.45 million next season whether he plays in the NHL or AHL because of his one-way contract. The only difference is that his $1.45 million cap hit won’t register if he’s “buried” in the minors, but that really isn’t much of a benefit for a team that probably won’t exceed the $48.3 million cap floor by much next season.
It’s hard not to feel a bit of sympathy for Lebda, who was kicked around for his struggles in Toronto and clearly isn’t wanted by Nashville. With Lebda out of the picture, the Predators will be forced to turn to a very green group of young defenseman in depth roles, as Joe discussed on Saturday.
The Predators might be wise to bring in a veteran unrestricted free agent to at least give the team a bit of a safety net if their young defenseman wobble. Looking at CapGeek’s list, the pickings are pretty slim but perhaps they could convince someone like Paul Mara, Karlis Skrastins or even Scott Hannan to eat up minutes if the price is right.
When the Rangers got the deal done with Ryan Callahan this afternoon for three years and nearly $13 million, they were able to get their forward lines all squared away and under contract. With Callahan also being their last restricted free agent to be signed, it also means that their second buyout period is set to begin at midnight.
With the Rangers being at just over $700,000 under the salary cap, the Rangers might be seeking out a little extra room under the cap. With the Rangers having a few extra forwards under contract and only 12 spots for starters, there are a few guys that could be getting a long look in regard to their salary cap hits. The main guy that could find himself on the chopping block is Wojtek Wolski.
But not only is there no buyout of Wolski coming over the next couple of days, it’s almost a near certainty he will not be traded between now and the start of training.
The trick may come if the Rangers want to start the season with both Tim Erixon ($1.75 million) and Michael Del Zotto ($1.09 million) on their roster. They have approximately $700,000 left in cap space including Erixon as one of the six defensemen on the roster but not including Del Zotto. However, it also includes center Erik Christensen ($925,000) who may find himself squeezed from a roster spot now that the team has signed Brad Richards. The Rangers currently have 14 forwards, including Mats Zuccarello ($1.75 million) and could opt to carry just 13.
It’s a curious plan for the Rangers, but dancing near the cap is nothing new for competing teams. We saw the Devils handle things rather poorly last season while trying to balance how to handle having Ilya Kovalchuk’s deal as well as other bloated contracts on the roster to go with it. The Rangers do have enough flexibility with their contracts that they can get away with some lineup juggling if need be, but if minor injuries pile up and players can’t be placed on long term injured reserve, trouble managing the cap could arise.
The Rangers are better off having that offensive depth and while the addition of Brad Richards will help perk up their offense, they’ll need more goals from all their lines to win. Keeping Wolski as well as Erik Christensen and others who could be cap casualties is key for New York since they don’t have the minor league depth to help support them offensively if things go wrong. Losing Wolski could help the Rangers financially, but he’ll be able to give some help scoring and who knows… Perhaps playing in the final year of his contract will help motivate him to play focused regularly.