The Flames Amnesty Buy-out Options

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?

The Obvious

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. 

Other Options

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.


  • “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.”

    Exactly. So he’s not a buy-out option.

    We’re not talking about Mike Commodore, Sheldon Souray or Wade Redden here, we’re talking about a legitimate #1 defenseman.

    No buy out here.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Kent, you must have been reading my mind before you posted this. I was thinking this would be a great topic all day.

    My two buy out options are easy.
    #1 Matt Stajan – for reasons you already alluded to, that was easy.
    #2 Cory Sarich – 2 years at $2M per year is too rich for a slow, #7 defensemen. As much as, I’d like to get rid of Anton Babchuck, he’s done here in 48 games anyway.

    I expect that with a $60M cap, it might actually be a real Free Market Frenzy this summer, with some excellent opportunities for the Flames to pickup some quality players at reasonable (read compared to free agency of the past). Some big spending teams will have to buyout guys that they don’t want to, simply to get under the cap.

  • RexLibris

    Is it telling that two of the four remaining options are Feaster’s most recent UFA signings?

    And people thought I was crazy for suggesting buying out Wideman. Ha! I’m not crazy! My mother had me tested.

    The really hilarious part of this whole buyout thing is that, based on reports of a salary floor being approximately $8 million below the ceiling, the Islanders will probably still need to keep DiPietro on the books just to help push them to minimum.

    Right now, there would be only two teams below a presumed salary floor of $52 million (Islanders and Phoenix).

    On another note, this has been mentioned over at Canucks Army, but what would prevent a team interested in Roberto Luongo from just waiting for Vancouver to buy him out and then pursuing him as a free agent rather than trading for him?

    This does make things interesting.

    • RexLibris

      I will bet you Dennis Wideman’s contract he doesn’t get bought out. (my lawyer has advised me to point out that I’m not serious). But if I had that kind of money, I’d make that bet.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      “On another note, this has been mentioned over at Canucks Army, but what would prevent a team interested in Roberto Luongo from just waiting for Vancouver to buy him out and then pursuing him as a free agent rather than trading for him?

      This does make things interesting.”

      This is exactly where my thoughts are, and this is only one possible outcome. All the current cap teams will be around $7 – $10M over the Cap, and will need to buy out players they won’t want to loose. Imagine if 10 teams need to shed contracts equalling $7-8M dollars. We could be seeing 10 to 20 players in free agency that the perennial big spenders can’t touch.

      Very interesting.

      • RexLibris

        It would also limit the bidding for the teams in the hunt as there might not be more than one team able to commit over $5 million to a single free agent.

        I think this reset will prevent at least one summer of Brad Richards-ish lunacy.

  • loudogYYC

    This is probably the best thing to come out of the lockout for the Flames so far.

    If 2 is the actual number of buyouts, Stajan is definitely 1 and then Calgary can actually exercise some leverage when it comes to the trade deadline for a change. Trade for someones garbage contract and in exchange get something extra out of it, kinda like Buffalo did when Feaster had to get rid of ‘ol Darryl’s boneheaded Kotalik trade.

    Pittsburgh would probably swap $6.6MM Bouwmeester for $5MM Paul Martin + picks/prospects in a heart beat.

    This short season can really shape up to favor the Flames, let’s hope management realizes the opportunity.

  • RexLibris

    If we do have a season & the Cap remains at 70 mill, we should be able to trade JBO & Iggy this year & get value. Kipper has great value to a contender if we take some salary back & they need a goalie, probably better value than Iggy or JBO. Stajan is the only no-brainer buyout & I wouldnt waste 1 year & 2.0/mill on a buyout for Sarich. We are better off shopping for someones buyout, so basically paying cash for a 1st rounder or top prospect. Cap Space will be huge if $60 mill is the number for the 2013-14 season.

    As for Wideman & Hudler, we still need experienced players in our lineup as we start going youth to give our team some credibility to some decent Free Agents wandering looking for a home.

  • aloudoun

    Is Babchuk out of the picture because of his KHL deal or are the Flames still on the hook? Did he void his deal here or was that somebody else?Somebody clarify please.

  • Derzie

    Why would buyout be on the table for players that haven’t even set foot on the ice yet? Buyouts are for lost causes: don’t fit in the team, no one wants them for even 1/2 of their salary (waivers). Stajan is a lock but most of the rest are ‘wait and see’. The key is that EVERY team is overpaying right now so buyout shouldn’t be used just because someone is overpriced but still useful (eg.g Jay Bo and maybe the new signings).

  • Taco!

    Liked your blog but don’t quite agree about Wideman and Hudler. We haven’t seen them play yet in a Flames uni. Wideman has been a top scorer among defensemen; when I look around the league at what Washington is paying for Mike Green and Tampa paid for Carle (lots of examples of overpaid Dmen), I don’t think Feaster made a bad move. Not a home run, but not bad. Yes Hudler could fall flat on his face, or he could steal a top job on a team that has had trouble scoring since Playfair.

    • Taco!

      More like since Keenan. The Flames had no trouble at all scoring under either Playfair or Keenan. The problem in those days was preventing goals against. The goal scoring problems are strictly a Sutter issue.