As part of the collective bargaining agreement agreed upon by the NHL and its players' union that ended the 113-day lockout in January, each team received two compliance buyouts that they can choose to use (or not use) over the next two summers.
With the NHL's salary cap dropping to $64.3 million next season -- $5.9 million less than last season's $70.2 million -- teams scrambling to fit under the ceiling can shed costly cap hits by paying a player a portion of his remaining salary -- the exact amount depending on his age -- to essentially take his puck and go home.
The official buyout period begins Wednesday at 11 p.m. ET and lasts through July 4 at 5 p.m. ET. So far this summer, only the Philadelphia Flyers have officially announced their intentions to use theirs, electing to buy out both forward Danny Briere and goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, roughly removing a combined $12.1 million off the books next season.
The Washington Capitals' salary cap situation is not as tenuous as the Flyers', but with about $6.2 million in free space to re-sign restricted free agents Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson and potentially sign unrestricted free agents, including their own Mike Ribeiro and Matt Hendricks, a little wiggle room definitely would not hurt.
If it were up to general manager George McPhee, however, teams would not have the option to rid themselves of the contractual mistakes that they have made.
“I wish we didn’t have them,” McPhee said Monday. “I think in a lot of cases teams have done real bad deals or cheated a little bit and shouldn’t be able to get out of them. Because we haven’t done a lot of bad deals here, we haven’t cheated on contracts. we haven’t had the back-diving deals. We never did that, didn’t think it was the right way to do business, but other teams did and they’ll get out of it, but that’s life.”
While the validity of McPhee's claim that the Capitals "haven't done a lot of bad deals here" can certainly be questioned, they do have a few contracts that they would be better off without.
The most obvious choice is seldom-used defenseman Jeff Schultz, who has one year remaining on a four-year contract that will take up $2.75 million in cap space next season. Schultz requested a trade in March and McPhee said Monday that he is trying to accommodate that request, but buying him out is a plan B if necessary.
Another potential buyout is forward Joel Ward, who has two years and $6 million remaining on his four-year contract. Considering the value of his contract, Ward has underachieved in two seasons with Washington, scoring only 14 goals and earning 38 points through 112 regular-season games.
McPhee was scheduled to meet with ownership regarding the compliance buyouts Monday.
Here are a few specifics regarding compliance buyouts:
- Teams are permitted to use one, both or none of their allotted buyouts either this summer or next summer. A buyout removes a player and his salary cap hit from a team's roster.
- If the bought-out player is under 26, then he will receive one-third of the remaining value of his contract. If he is 26 or over, then he will receive two-thirds.
- The remaining value is paid out over twice the remaining length of the bought-out contract. For example, if a player has three years left on his contract when he is bought out, then he will receive his salary over six years.
- Bought-out players cannot rejoin the team that bought them out during the season that follows. For example, Briere and Bryzgalov cannot play for the Flyers in 2013-14.
- Bought-out players become unrestricted free agents.
- Injured players cannot be bought out.
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