Cutting bait: Top buyout candidates for Canada's NHL teams

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Troy Brouwer hasn’t worked out in Calgary. (Getty)
Troy Brouwer hasn’t worked out in Calgary. (Getty)

The NHL’s buyout period begins on Friday, giving teams a way out from underneath some of the burdensome contracts that GMs have been known to generously dole out from time to time.

From June 15-30, clubs can choose to essentially pay a player not to play for them — shelling out the buyout over a period of twice the remaining length of the contract in return for a much-reduced cap hit. The amount paid is also dependant on the candidate’s age, with the payout totalling one-third of the remaining salary for players under the age of 26 and two-thirds the remaining contract for those 26 and older.

These mistakes don’t comes cheap, however, as the club still takes an annual cap-hit which is calculated by the following four steps, per CapFriendly.com:

(1) Multiply the remaining salary (excluding signing bonuses) by the buyout amount (as determined by age) to obtain the total buyout cost.

(2) Spread the total buyout cost evenly over twice the remaining contract years.

(3) Determine the savings by subtracting the annual buyout cost from Step 2 by the players’ salary (excluding signing bonuses).

(4) Determine the remaining cap hit by subtracting the savings from Step 3 by the players’ Annual Average Salary (AAV) (including signing bonuses).

Here’s a look at how each Canadian organization could use their buyout:

Ottawa Senators — Marian Gaborik

The oft-injured 36-year-old who was acquired late last season as part of the Dion Phaneuf trade is the team’s most obvious candidate for a buyout, but the Senators will first have to prove he’s fully recovered from early-April back surgery (injured players must give their consent before being offered a buyout package).

Gaborik, who has three years and $10.8 million left on his deal, would be paid more than $1.2 million annually through 2024, while the Senators will be charged $1.8 million on the cap in each of the next six campaigns rather than nearly $4.9 million over the next three, according to CapFriendly’s buyout calculator.

Calgary Flames — Troy Brouwer

The 32-year-old saw a steady decline in production from 2016-17 to last season, posting only 22 points while averaging just under 14 minutes of ice per night. That is simply not enough offence for a forward owed $4.5 million over each of the next two campaigns.

The Flames have the pieces in place to try and make a run in an underwhelming Pacific Division, and the club is without its first- and second-round picks this year. The time to go for it in Calgary may be now, and saving three million dollars in cap space in each of the next two seasons will go a long way in providing the Flames the flexibility needed to make a splash via trade or free agency.

Montreal Canadiens — Karl Alzner

This would be a long, costly one for the Habs — and might not even really be feasible this soon into Alzner’s egregious 5-year, $23-plus-million deal — but with an immense amount of cap space tied up in Shea Weber and Carey Price for the next eight (!!) years, Marc Bergevin and Co. might just have to take their licks on this one if they want to be in on any major free agents or trade options for the next half-decade or so.

Alzner’s contract is a hefty one, a brutal overpay for an average-at-best blueliner, but the Canadiens can drop the cap hit down to an average of $1.6 million for the next eight seasons from the $4.6 million he’s owed in each of the next four if they choose the buyout route.

Matt Martin is the Leafs’ only realistic buyout candidate. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Matt Martin is the Leafs’ only realistic buyout candidate. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Toronto Maple Leafs — Matt Martin

Though the club has some big contracts to figure out — Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner et al. — over the coming months, the Maple are lucky enough to not really be burdened by any horrendous contracts (Patrick Marleau’s might not look great in the near future, but for now, it’s fine). It won’t open up a lot of space, but because of how sparsely he was used (basically never) by head coach Mike Babcock down the stretch and how little he produced overall, buying out winger Matt Martin is certainly worth considering.

Toronto would only save around $500K per season, but it’s an easy way for both parties to go their separate ways. Martin’s role with the Maple Leafs will surely continue to diminish going into next season and beyond.

Winnipeg Jets — Dmitry Kulikov

The 27-year-old has put up just five goals and 16 points while only mustering 109 games played over the past two seasons combined. For a bottom pairing guy on a stacked Jets blue line — one who doesn’t play on the power play, either — $4.3 million over the each of the next two campaigns is a lot to manoeuvre around, especially with higher-on-the-depth-chart defencemen like Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey due for a payday as two of Winnipeg’s nine pending restricted free agents.

A Kulikov buyout would cost the Jets around $1.6 million each of the next four seasons, but would save the team nearly $3 million in cap space for the next couple.

Edmonton Oilers — Zack Kassian

To be honest, the Oilers probably have enough lethargic, unproductive wingers at their disposal that they can spare at least one, so why not Kassian, who posted just 19 points while only managing 11:40 TOI per night in 74 games?

The 27-year-old is owed $2 million the next two seasons, and the Oilers can save over $1.3 million in cap space in 2018-19 and 2020-21 with a buyout of the gritty forward. It would go a long way in helping to fill the team’s pressing needs on the blue line and in the top six.

Vancouver Canucks — Brandon Sutter

A $4.4-million salary through 2021 is quite a burdensome toll for a guy who should never be playing higher than third-line centre and who’s only posted 40 points once in his career — way back in 2009-10. Sutter is an often-reliable defensive player, but even that facet of his game has steadily declined over the past three or four campaigns.

Though not even close to being in a win-now type scenario, the Canucks could definitely benefit from the nearly two million extra cap space as some key pieces of the future — including Brock Boeser — will be due up in the next couple of years.

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