In what’s become an annual tradition, now that the Stanley Cup playoffs are completed, it’s almost buy-out season. The league-wide buy-out window opens later today, 48 hours following the completion of the Final series – though logistically, the earliest anybody would throw a player on unconditional waivers would be early tomorrow morning anyhow.
And in what has become an annual tradition, now that compliance buy-outs are over with, you will notice that very few NHL teams actually buy players out. And I’ll be bold enough to definitively state that I don’t think the Calgary Flames will buy anybody out, despite having a few contracts that seem a bit on the heavy side for what each player brings to the table.
For a bit of a glimpse of why the Flames won’t be buying anybody out, let’s take a quick walk through the options and the contracts likely under consideration.
THE MECHANISMS AVAILABLE
Let us say you’re a general manager named, say, Jay Feaster. You messed up, and you gave a player a deal for too long and for too much money. There are three mechanisms available for you to bail yourself out of this jam.
- The Ordinary Course Buy-Out: If a player is not yet 26 years of age, then he will be paid one-third of his cap hit for twice the years he has remaining. If a player is 26 years old or older, then he gets paid two-thirds of his cap hit for twice the years he has remaining.
- The Retained-Salary Trade: If you don’t want to buy a player out, you can trade them and retain up to half of their salary. I believe you can only have two retained salaries on your payroll at a time, though.
- Burying The Player In the AHL: You can bury a one-way contract in the American Hockey League if all else fails. You only get $925,000 in cap relief as a result, but it’s better than paying them to play against your NHL team. And since you’ll likely need to throw your player on the waiver wire before they can go to the AHL, there’s a (small) chance that another team will take him off your hands.
Let’s examine six problem contracts in the context of these three potential remedies to bad, bad contracts. Everyone mentioned here is over 26, so everyone would get paid two-thirds of their cap hit if bought out.
Current deal: $5.25 million cap hit through the end of the 2016-17 season
- If He’s Bought Out: His cap hit is reduced to $3.5 million, but it also drags on for two more years (through 2018-19). The Flames only recover $1.75 million in cap space, though.
- If They Retain Salary: His cap hit is reduced to $2.625 million and doesn’t drag on more than it does already, giving them $2.625 million cap relief. The Flames would be paying him to play elsewhere, but not quite as much (and not for as long).
- If They Bury Him In the AHL: His cap hit takes a slight dip down to $4.325 million, giving the Flames a teeny, tiny $925,000 relief.
- The Best Move: If they can find someone willing to make a trade, eating half his salary would be the easiest way to clear cap space in a hurry.
- The Likely Move: I doubt they can find someone willing to take on Wideman at full freight, and to be honest, his play last season probably earned him a bit of lee-way heading into this season. But if he disappoints, I could see them exploring a move as the season wears on.
Current deal: $4 million cap hit through the end of the 2015-16 season
- If He’s Bought Out: His cap hit is reduced to $2.667 million, but is extended through 2016-17. The cap savings is just $1.333 million.
- If They Retain Salary: His cap hit is reduced to $2 million, giving the Flames $2 million in cap relief. Sure, he’s playing elsewhere, but that cap savings is solid.
- If They Bury Him In the AHL: His cap hit is reduced just a bit, down to $3.075 million, a reduction of just $925,000.
- The Best Move: Like with Wideman, exploring a trade with retained salary is the best bet here.
- The Likely Move: Honestly, considering how well he played when he was healthy and that he only has a year left on his deal, I’d be shocked if the Flames did anything in regards to Jones. If he leaves the organization, most likely it’s as a free agent next summer.
Current deal: $3.5 million cap hit through the end of the 2016-17 season
- If He’s Bought Out: His cap hit is reduced to $2.333 million, but extended through 2018-19. It does result in a cap savings of $1.167 million, but that cap hit and length is pretty rough.
- If They Retain Salary: His cap hit is reduced to $1.75 million, a savings of $1.75 million, and the hit isn’t spread out anymore than it already is.
- If They Bury Him In the AHL: His cap hit is reduced to $2.575 million, reducing the cap hit by $925,000.
- The Best Move: Again, exploring a trade is probably the best option, albeit an unlikely one.
- The Likely Move: If Smid is fully healthy, I’d expect him to ride out the rest of his deal either as Calgary’s sixth defenseman…or in the press box.
Current deal: $2.917 million cap hit through the end of the 2016-17 season
- If He’s Bought Out: His cap hit is reduced to $1.945 million, but extended over four seasons instead of the remaining two. The cap savings is just $972,000 per season.
- If They Retain Salary: His cap hit is reduced to $1.459 million, a savings of $1.459 million.
- If They Bury Him In the AHL: His cap hit is reduced to $1.992 million, a savings of just $925,000.
- The Best Move: Retaining salary in a trade is the easiest move, though relatively unlikely.
- The Likely Move: They’ll ride his deal out. Aside from his awful possession stats, he’s highly-valued by the team’s coaching staff and management.
Current deal: $3.15 million cap hit through the end of the 2016-17 season
- If They Buy Him Out: His cap hit is reduced to $2.1 million, but extended for twice as long as is remaining on the deal now (four more years). The cap savings is $1.05 million.
- If They Retain Salary: His cap hit is reduced to $1.575 million, a savings of $1.575 million.
- If They Bury Him In the AHL: His cap hit is reduced to $2.225 million, a savings of just $925,000.
- The Best Move: Again, retaining salary would be the best bet.
- The Likely Move: I could see them looking at trade options for Raymond, particularly give his cap hit and that Sam Bennett could potentially make him redundant if they start him on the wing.
Current deal: $1.25 million cap hit through the end of the 2016-17 season
- If They Buy Him Out: His cap hit is reduced to $833,000 for each of the next four seasons, producing a cap savings of $417,000 in the first two seasons.
- If They Retain Salary: His cap hit is reduced to $625,000, a savings of $625,000.
- If They Bury Him In the AHL: His cap hit is reduced to 325,000, a savings of $925,000.
- The Best Move: If the Flames really don’t want Bollig on the NHL roster, he’s cheap enough that they can probably facilitate a trade. However, burying him in the AHL would be a simple and effective move if they were in a pinch. And heck, he might even get picked up off waivers before he gets sent down anyway.
- The Likely Move: Bollig will have tougher competition for a roster spot and a regular line-up spot next season than he did this past season, but it’s not like he’s in any danger of being sent away. If he has a bad camp, then I’d be worried for him.
SUM IT UP
Even when we examine the six worst deals on the Flames – relative to each player’s position on the team and productivity – there is never a situation where buying a player out is the best bet. In terms of finances and logistics, often it’s the worst way to open up cap space.
I strongly, strongly doubt that the Flames make use of any buy-outs when the window opens later today. There are better options available.