As CBA negotiations continue, word came down today that the NHL has agreed to two amnesty buy-outs (that is, two buy-outs without cap implications) per team in the summer of 2013 to help clubs get under the new cap.
That option may or may not be important for the Flames come the off-season. The team currently has about $48 million already committed with only a handful of notable (but likely rather cheap) RFA’s to retain in TJ Brodie, Chris Butler and Mikael Backlund. If we pencil in $3.5M for all three guys plus another $1.4M for Sven Baertschi (who is more or less a lock to be on the club full time in 2013-14), then the we’re at about $54M.
The projected cap for next season is around $60M given the way CBA talks have settled out so far. If that holds, Calgary will have about $6M to re-sign or replace Roman Cervenka, Blake Comeau and, the big one, Jarome Iginla.
So based on the team’s decision making in the off-season (and how the CBA settles out, of course), $6M in cap space may either be more than enough or not quite enough, depending. If the rebuild is further delayed Feaster opts to retain Iginla at $5M+ (and Iginla opts to re-sign here), the club is probably going to need a bit more wiggle room to be comfortable.
So what are their options?
Let’s get this out of the way up front – Matt Stajan will be bought out this summer whatever the cap needs of the organization. The Flames will be relieved to see him go and Stajan will be glad for another chance elsewhere. His final year, real cash commitment is only $2.5 million, but his buy-out will purchase the Flames another $3.5M in cap space.
Heck, by adding Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka while re-signing Blair Jones and Mikael Backlund, Feaster essentially built the roster this off-season as if Stajan didn’t exist anyways. It’s clear the player isn’t in the Flames plans so there’s no question the club will choose to cut ties with the ex-Leaf and the remnants of the failed Dion Phaneuf trade.
It’s entirely possible erasing Stajan’s contract will provide more than enough cap space if the Flames choose ot rebuild or run in place this upcoming summer.
If the team wants to make pricier additions, however, or are looking to maybe get out from under another *ahem* regrettable errors, here are some of their other options:
#1.) Dennis Wideman
Wideman is only one of three Flames players signed past this season who makes more than $5M. As we discussed at length in the summer, he’s also a bad bet to provide value for those dollars over the course of his five year long deal. The inclusion of a NMC only ups the risk.
Of course, this is extremely unlikely to happen for a number of reasons. First of all, Feaster only recently signed Wideman, so to buy him out after a half (or less) season of work would not only look Darryl Sutter trade-and-sign Jokinen level crazy, but it would also be extremely expensive given how much money is left owing on the contract.
The only way this happens is Wideman somehow Anton Babchuks his way out of Hartley’s good books and the team is left with a $5.25 boat anchor on the third pairing by the end of the season.
#2.) Miikka Kiprusoff
Former FN contributor Robert Cleave noted this possibility on twitter this morning. Kipper has just a single year worth $1.5M in real dollars left on his contract after this season, but his cap hit is $5.33M. Meaning, the buy-out is cheap, but the return in terms of cap space is large.
Of course, the team would have to be willing to bear the potential PR nightmare of buying out one of the most popular players in Flames history. They would also have to have their post-Kipper netminding issues finally sorted out. "Who will take over after Kipper?" has been an open question since Roman Turek left town, so even with Ramo having an all-star season in the KHL it seems a big question mark.
This possibility becomes a lot more plausible if Kipper approaches the team in the summer and expresses an interest in returning to Finland. That way, the player could "retire", but still get what’s left owing on his deal.
#3.) Jiri Hudler
Like Wideman, Hudler was just signed by the organization and his $4M/year deal goes for another three years after this one, so the chances of him being amnesty’d by the club are tiny.
That said, of any Feaster signing of this past off-season, I think Hudler has the biggest chance to fall on his face in Calgary. As mentioned, Hudler was highly sheltered in Detroit, played with skilled linemates and is coming off a career high 19.5 shooting percentage. Those are all the ingredients for a spate of Ville Leino-like buyers remorse in the near future.
Again, this one is doubtful unless there’s a season the player rapidly falls from grace.
#4) Jay Bouwmeester
Bouwmeester is currently the Flames most expensive player signed in 2013-14 at $6.6M per year. His deal would also only have one more year left on it at that point, so his buy-out wouldn’t be a $12-20M hit like Hudler or Wideman.
There’s no question Bouwmeester is overpaid given his lackluster offensive contributions during his time in Calgary. If there’s an appetite to simply get rid of a contract that is considered poor value, the team may choose to cut him loose.
Of course, Bouwmeester remains the Flames’ best shut-down and match-up option on the back-end and there really isn’t anyone else who can fill his shoes in the organization. That means a JayBo buy-out is much more likely if Feaster decides to blow things up. Of course in that case, Im certain Feaster would rather move Bouwmeester at the deadline or at the draft rather than set fire to a pile of Murray Edward’s money.
And while JayBo becomes even more overpaid in an environment where the cap is $60M, Fear the Fin pointed out today that there could be a market for him at the deadline because of the amnesty clause option in the summer. To wit: a contender with cash could choose to acquire Boumweester as a playoff rental and then buy him out in the off-season if they find his price tag unsavory.
Bouwmeester is a useful, but expensive, player. He should still have some value on he trade market, particularly in light of the amnesty option, so if the team decides to move him, it will likely be in a deal and probably not as a buy-out.
Clearly the most likely outcome is Matt Stajan gets bought-out and nothing else. There are some other risky/questionable contracts on the books, but none of them are as easy or obvious to delete via amnesty as Stajan for a variety of reasons. In addition, the Flames don’t have any burning need to clear cap space as things stand, so there’s limited impetus to immediately clear out any of the other big tickets.