With the NHL salary cap declining from $70.2 million to $64.3 million for the 2013 season, the new CBA has provided each franchise with two compliance buyouts. This will allow teams to relieve themselves of hinder some contracts. Teams have two years to use their compliance buyout in either this, or next off season, and may use two in the same year or one in each, or none at all. All the CBA and buyout rules can be found in an easy to read format at capgeek.com. What separates a compliance buyout from a normal buyout is the cap hit. Teams will still need to pay out up to 2/3 of the remaining salary owed to the player. However it will not count towards the teams salary cap. Essentially a get out of jail free card.
So let’s take a look at who may be some of the top candidates for a compliance buyout, and what impact it may have on fantasy hockey.
1. 1. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver –Buyout total $27 million over 18 years
The Canucks are in salary cap hell as they are $100,000 over the cap with only 17 players signed for next season. The highly anticipated Luongo trade would provide them with $5,333,333 of cap room. A good start. One has to wonder, if the Canucks could trade Luongo would he not be traded already? GM Mike Gillis has been saying he has had interest from several teams but would only trade Luongo in a hockey deal. This summer there could be a buyer’s market for goaltending with potential goalies looking for a new jersey such as Ryan Miller, Nick Backstrom, Mike Smith, Tim Thomas, Ray Emery, Evgeni Nabokov, Steve Bernier and more. Perhaps a buyout is their only choice. With so many other options on the market this summer would any team take Luongo's term and contract at any price? If not, the answer is a buyout. The fantasy impact could actually be beneficial if you own Luongo. He can resign with any team other than Vancouver. With $27 million in his pocket he could sign for a very low contract, $2 million for example. Luongo is still a premier starting goalie and if his cap hit were closer to $2 million his value would be tremendous in capped leagues. The departure of Luongo benefits Schneider.
2. 2. Rick DiPietro, New York Islanders – Buyout total $24 million over 16 years
The Islanders are still paying Alexi Yashin over $2 million and have two more years until he is paid off. You can add DiPietro to their buyout bottom line as he has been buried in the minors since earlier in this season. His unfortunate health issues have derailed his career and he is no longer an NHL option. The Islanders have more difficulty reaching the cap floor than the ceiling so why would they buyout RDP? Because he is playing in the minors so his contract does not affect the salary cap. The team will have to pay him the money one way or another. He will be bought out and has no fantasy value before, or after.
3. 3. Brad Richards, New York Rangers – Buyout total $24 million over 14 years
The Rangers are no strangers to buying out bad contracts, Chris Drury and Wade Redden the most recent examples. Redden is the first compliance buyout used by the Rangers leaving them with one more. When Brad Richards was a healthy scratch in an elimination home game four against the Bruins, the topic of the day was will he be the other compliance buyout? The Rangers have cap room with 18 players signed at $51.5 million. However, several key players will need new contracts including Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Mats Zuccarello, and Ryan McDonagh and therein lays the problem. Richards has had a terrible season and the question is, at 33 years old was this just an off year or has age caught up to him? If he has lost his game it would be an indigestible contract at $6.666 million over the next seven seasons. The Rangers may elect other cap management options for a solution this summer and save the compliance buyout for next year in hopes that Richards rebounds. The fantasy impact hinges on his ability to comeback. If he does he has value again (especially if he is bought out and resigns elsewhere for less) and if he does not his career is over. Stepan and Brassard would benefit from a Richards buyout.
4. 4. Ilya Bryzgalov, Philadelphia – Buyout total $23 million over 14 years
The goaltending gong show in Philadelphia was supposed to end with Bryzgalov, but it was just getting started. Mr. Universe has worn out his welcome in Philadelphia and maybe even in the NHL. It is highly likely that Ed Snider eats $23 million to say beat it to Bryzgalov, and that the next contract he signs is in the KHL. If bought out and if he resigns a NHL contract he will be a risky pick, even at a cheap cap hit. Is he worth a pick and dedicating a roster spot to? The reward could be significant if he pulls a Bobrovsky. Lets be honest, no one saw that coming! The Flyers cap is currently over $70 for next season and includes 25 players. A Bryzgalov buyout seems inevitable.
5. 5. Ville Leino, Buffalo – Buyout total $10 million over eight years
Leino is one of the worst free agent signings in recent memory. New Owner Terry Pegula took over and gave the green light to spend, and he will have to spend to purge Leino from the roster now. Buffalo may not like Leino's production for his pay, but they in fact do not need to buy him out. They have just under $49.5 million committed to 17 players next year. There is enough cap room to fill out the roster with Leino on the books. It is speculated that Buffalo will trade Ryan Miller this off season as well which could also free up cap room. Buffalo may also bury him in the minors as he no doubt would clear waivers. Fantasy impact if he is bought out could be good. Before his current contract he was sought after because he provided excellent value making the league minimum while in Philadelphia. If he is not bought out, he is more of an anchor than a sail in a capped league.
6. 6. Keith Ballard, Vancouver – Buyout total $5.6 million over four years
As mentioned above under Luongo, Vancouver has cap problems in a big way going forward and the only perceivable solution is using buyouts. Vancouver has almost $30 million of their available cap committed to five defensemen. Even though Ballard's $4.2 million cap hit is the smallest among the top five, it would provide significant relief. And of the group, Ballard has had the most difficulty remaining in the line-up, often finding himself in the press box. Ballard may find another NHL job, and may rebound on a new team. Worst case scenario he is fourth or fifth depth defenseman with an appropriate cap hit. Either way his fantasy value is very limited.
7. 7. Daniel Briere, Philadelphia – Buyout total $3.3 million over 4 years
Briere owns a no trade clause and it was rumored he refused to waive it close to the NHL trade deadline. If the Flyers want to drop Briere’s cap hit of $6.5 million a buyout may be the only way. His buyout is actually less than one million per year because his contract was front end loaded and he will only earn $3 million in the 2013 season and $2 million in the final season in 2014. At 34 years old and a family man now he may not choose to sign for another year since he has already refused to waive his no trade. Fantasy impact: It is very likely the Flyers do buyout Briere. The only question is if he retires or not. If he inks a new deal for $2 to $3 million he could be a steal (especially if your league includes the playoffs). Matt Read would benefit from a Briere buyout.
8. 8. Tomas Kaberle, Montreal – Buyout total $3 million over two years
Kaberle is perhaps the most probable candidate for a compliance buyout. Montreal has already burned one buyout on Scott Gomez and Kaberle will be the second. He is unable to make the team and his ability to play at the NHL level is long gone. Fantasy Impact: Kaberle has zero fantasy value in any league outside of the Czech Republic.
9. 9. Mike Komisarek, Toronto – Buyout total $2.33 million over two years
Banished to the AHL, Komisarek even had difficulty playing for the Marlies. Money is not a problem for the Leafs and if they believe they are better without him, even in the AHL, he will promptly be bought out. Komisarek has no fantasy value.
10. 10. Sergei Kostitsyn, Nashville – Buyout total $2 million over two years
While Nashville does not need a buyout to be cap compliant with $47 million committed to 16 players next year, I believe they are finished with Kostitsyn’s. After Sergei gave up on a play that directly led to a goal against and cost the game, the Pred’s season essentially ended. I believe that the team feels they will be better without him and buyout the remaining year of his deal. His three goals and minus -5 will not be missed. Sergei will join his brother in the KHL, he has no fantasy value.
After making a case for the top ten candidates for compliance buyouts, I think there will be only a select few who are actually bought out. I also gave consideration to other players such as Vincent Lecavalier, David Booth, and Marc-Andre Fleury but they didn’t make the list. The Buyout window begins on June 15th or 48 hours after the final Stanley Cup game and closes June 30th so we wont have to wait long to see who (if any) receive a compliance buyout.