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Photo Credit: Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports

Don’t expect the Flames to buy anybody out

On Friday at 3 p.m. MT, the National Hockey League’s annual buyout period begins. The period allows the NHL’s 31 general managers to spend their way out of any mistakes they’ve made, so long as ownership is okay with paying guys not to play.

Don’t expect the Calgary Flames to buy any players out, though.

The obvious candidate to get bought out would be Milan Lucic. Acquired last July from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for James Neal (and a third round pick), Lucic carries a $6 million cap hit (of which $575,000, or 12.5%, is covered by Edmonton). Even with the retained salary, Lucic is a $5.25 million third line player. (Pretty much all of the Flames’ other big ticket players earn roughly what they should based on their roles.)

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That said, there are reasons to keep Lucic. He was actually pretty good last season, really finding chemistry with Dillon Dube (and combinations of Derek Ryan and Sam Bennett) on the third line. His physicality, veteran presence and overall energy would be hard to replace.

Oh, and his contract is almost buy-out proof based on how much of it is paid via signing bonuses.

Let us explain. The remaining three seasons of Lucic’s deal (2020-23) are paid out via $8.5 million in bonuses and $4.5 million in actual salary. Bonuses can’t be bought out, only salary.

A buyout for Lucic would pay him two-thirds of his salary over twice as many years that remain. So that turns $4.5 million into $3 million spread over six seasons ($500,000 apiece).

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Here’s how it would break down:

Season Original Cap Hit Original Salary Buyout Salary New Cap Hit Flames Share Oilers Share
2020-21 $6,000,000 $1,000,000 $500,000 $5,500,000 $4,812,500 $687,500
2021-22 $6,000,000 $2,500,000 $500,000 $4,000,000 $3,500,000 $500,000
2022-23 $6,000,000 $1,000,000 $500,000 $5,500,000 $4,812,500 $687,500
2023-24 $0 $0 $500,000 $500,000 $437,500 $62,500
2024-25 $0 $0 $500,000 $500,000 $437,500 $62,500
2025-26 $0 $0 $500,000 $500,000 $437,500 $62,500
Total $18,000,000 $4,500,000 $3,000,000 $16,500,000 $14,437,500 $2,060,500

The cap hit only is reduced by the amount of salary saved in each year. It’s weird, but it’s a CBA quirk based upon how much of Lucic’s deal is bonuses.

The cash savings would be $1.5 million over the length of the buyout, but also Lucic would also need to be replaced. The league’s minimum compensation is $700,000 for 2020-21 and $750,000 for 2021-22 and 2022-23… which basically wipes out the savings from buying him out in the first place.

In other words: it would be exceedingly expensive to buy out Lucic and they’d more than spend their cap savings replacing him. So until he becomes below replacement level, they should hold onto him. (And again: he was surprisingly good last year and a pretty effective third liner if you ignore his cap hit.)