2012 NHL Lockout: Which Capitals Would Be At Risk If Amnesty Buyout Added To New CBA?

The 2012 NHL lockout is in the midst of its eighth week as the NHL and NHL Players' Association are set to meet up for the third consecutive day Thursday at an undisclosed location somewhere in Manhattan.

The two sides have plenty to discuss, but a new wrinkle was reportedly added by the league this week in the form of amnesty buyouts. If the NHL were to adopt a policy similar to that of the NBA, each team would be allowed to release one player without his salary couniing against the salary cap, or simply put, pay an overpriced guy what he is owed to go away and free up space to make more fiscally responsible moves.

All 30 teams in the NHL have at least one overpaid player that they would like to get rid of. In the case of the Washington Capitals, they have a few. 

Assuming that an amnesty clause will be inserted into a new collective bargaining agreement, which Caps are the most likely to be at risk of being bought out? Try to guess which ones. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Joel Ward

  • Remaining contract terms: three years, $9 million left on a four-year, $12 million contract; $3 million annual salary cap hit.

Washington signed Ward in July 2011 after he led the Nashville Predators with seven goals and 13 points in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was because of his postseason performance that General Manager George McPhee felt comfortable enough to offer Ward such a hefty contract (16 teams were apparently in on Ward last year, which led McPhee, by his own admission, to overpay Ward by about 15 percent). 

While Ward did score the series-clinching goal in Game 7 of the Capa' Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins, he didn't do much else in the postseason or regular season. Ward scored six goals in 73 games last season and his game-winner was the only goal he scored in 14 postseason games. Washington did not get a return on its investment in Ward, so freeing up $3 million to bring in somebody who will perform up to that standard might be in the Caps' best interest.

Jeff Schultz

  • Remaining contract terms: two years, $6 million remaining on a four-year, $11 million contract; $2.75 million annual salary cap hit.

Remember when Schultz was a plus 50 in 2009-10? Yeah, that was fun. Since then? Not so much.

In the aforementioned season, Schultz had 23 points to go along with that plus-50. In the two seasons since, he has earned a combined 16 points and stands at a plus-8.

Schultz only appeared in 54 regular-season games last season (he was a healthy scratch throughout the entire month of January), and when he finally earned some playing time in the postseason, Caps fans wished that he didn't. Schultz and his "defensive" partner, Dennis Wideman, were arguably the two worst players on the ice for Washington in the playoffs as both finished with a minus-7. It's not hard to argue against Schultz, especially considering the abundance of bottom-pairing defensemen Washington has in him, John Erskine and Jack Hillen. 

Wideman left this summer to sign with the Calgary Flames. Perhaps Schultz should join him elsewhere.

Tom Poti

  • Remaining contract terms: one year, $2.75 million remaining on a two-year, $5.75 million contract; $2.75 million annual salary cap hit.

Poti hasn't played a game for the Caps since Jan. 12, 2011, so it would seem that getting rid of him makes the most sense. Poti's cap hit, however, will not count against the Caps' salary cap if he is placed on injured reserve, so using the amnesty buyout on him with just one year left on his contract would be a waste.

Brooks Laich

  • Remaining contract terms: five years, $22.5 million remaining on a six-year, $27 million contract; $4.5 million annual salary cap hit.

Laich is one of Washington's most versatile players and serves as one of the team's outspoken leaders, but he benefitted from a weak crop of free-agent centers in 2011 (he was the second-best option behind Brad Richards, which is saying something) and received a huge payday beause of it. 

Offensively, Laich's numbers dropped for the second straight season in 2011-12, falling from 25 goals and 59 points in 2009-10 to 16 goals and 41 points last season.  Yet, Laich's intangibles -- particularly his leadership -- might make him worth the price, even though he struggled statistically (especially when Nicklas Backstrom suffered a concussion and missed 40 games).This would Laich-ly likely be a longshot. 

Alex Ovechkin

  • Remaining contract terms: nine years, $88 million remaining on a 13-year, $124 million contract; $9,538,462 annual salary cap hit.

No, it couldn't be. Could it? No, it couldn't, but I know some of you are thinking it. 

When Ovechkin signed his current deal four years ago, he had just finished scoring 65 goals and winning the Hart Trophy. In the last two years combined, Ovechkin has scored 70 goals. Why else are you paying him?

Hell would have to freeze over enough to play a hockey game on the River Styx for the Caps to part ways with the face of their franchise, but if Ovechkin means what he has said about the NHL lockout, maybe he'll make their decision for them.

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

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