The Top Buyout Candidate for Every NHL Team Yet to Use Its Option
Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
It's not always going to work out for the best.
When a team makes a long-term financial commitment to a player, it's like a marriage. The player brings his skills to the team, and the team brings its financial wherewithal to the player. It doesn't always work out.
NHL teams have the ability to buy out their biggest mistakes.
Compliance buyouts were negotiated between the NHL and NHL Players Association during last year's lockout. Each team is allowed to buy out two players. Eight teams have exercised those rights, including the New York Islanders who indicated they would begin the compliance buyout process on goalie Rick DiPietro.
The other teams that have bought out players include the Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and the Washington Capitals. Here's a look at the top buyout candidates from the 23 remaining teams.
(All salary and cap figures courtesy of CapGeek.com.)
Sheldon Souray, Anaheim Ducks
Defenseman Sheldon Souray would probably be the name that general manager Bob Murray circled if he had to nominate a buyout candidate for the Ducks.
If Anaheim needed salary-cap money, buying out Souray would saved the Ducks $3.66 million in cap space each of the next two seasons.
The Ducks have nearly $7.5 million in cap space available. Souray had a decent year in 2013, with seven goals and 10 assists. Souray was also plus-19 for the Ducks.
Rich Peverley, Boston Bruins
Rich Peverley was a key member of the Boston Bruins in their 2011 Stanley Cup run. However, when they tried to win another title in 2013, Peverley was not the same player.
Peverley is an excellent skater who can impress with his ability to blow by the defenders. However, he simply couldn't score in 2013. Peverley scored six goals in the regular season and added two more in the postseason. He did not have any other playoff points.
Peverley is scheduled to earn $3.25 million in 2013-14 and the following year as well.
Ville Leino, Buffalo Sabres
Ville Leino was raised his profile in 2010 after he had a solid postseason with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Buffalo Sabres thought they were big winners when they reeled Leino in with a six-year, $27 million deal a year later.
Leino was injured much of last season and he has been a major disappointment during his two years in Buffalo. He has to be at the top of general manager Darcy Regier's list of buyout candidates.
Matt Stajan, Calgary Flames
Matt Stajan struggled all season in 2013 with the Calgary Flames. He scored five goals and added 18 assists.
Stajan is scheduled to earn $3.5 million next season and will be a free agent in the summer of 2014. If the Flames needed cap room over the summer, Stajan would be a candidate for the Flames to buyout.
Tuomo Ruutu, Carolina Hurricanes
Tuomo Ruutu's 2013 season was ruined by a hip injury that prevented him from playing until the final 17 games of the season.
Ruutu did not have a fair chance to show what he can do when he's healthy. But for the purposes of compliance buyouts, he appears to be the Hurricanes' leading candidate. Ruutu will be paid an average of $4.75 million over the next three seasons.
Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche
Erik Johnson was the top pick in the 2006 NHL draft, but his career has been a major disappointment. He did not score a goal last year and he had four assists from his position on the blue line.
Johnson is scheduled to be paid $3.75 million over the next three seasons. While the Avs would try to trade Johnson before buying him out, it seems unlikely they would get decent value for him.
James Wisniewski, Columbus Blue Jackets
A year ago, defenseman Fedor Tyutin probably would have been the Blue Jackets' top buyout candidate.
However, Tyutin had a much better year than James Wisniewski. The Blue Jackets have nearly $9 million in cap space and don't have to buy out anyone at this point, but Wisniewski would be their man.
He is scheduled to earn an average of $5.5 million over the next four seasons and it's quite unlikely he will be worth it. Wisniewski capitalized on a 51-point season in 2010-11 to get his huge deal, but he has been ordinary throughout the remainder of his career.
Erik Cole, Dallas Stars
The Dallas Stars have no salary cap issues at the moment, as they are nearly $14 million under the cap. They are not planning to buyout anyone at this point.
However, Erik Cole does not look like he will be a difference maker for the Stars. He came over to the Stars in a midseason trade with the Montreal Canadiens. Cole had six goals and one assist in 28 games with the Stars.
Cole is scheduled to earn $4.5 million in each of the next two seasons. That money could be better spent on other players.
Darren Helm, Detroit Red Wings
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
The Detroit Red Wings have more than $8 million in cap space available. If they are going to buy out any player, they might want to consider Darren Helm once he gets healthy. Helm played just one game last year as a result of a back injury.
Helm is scheduled to earn an average of $2.125 million per year over the next three seasons. He's a decent two-way player, but he is not a star.
Shawn Horcoff, Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers still have a long way to go to become a consistent winning team even though they have a boatload of young talent.
They could use some size on defense and some more maturity. However, if they were going to buy out a player, it would be Shawn Horcoff, who is scheduled to earn $5.5 million each of the next two seasons.
The Oilers don't have to worry about cutting Horcoff since they are nearly $15 million under the cap.
Scottie Upshall, Florida Panthers
The Florida Panthers don't get much bang for their buck with Scottie Upshall. He scored four goals and one assist in 27 games this year.
He regularly is out of the lineup with injuries. He has only played a full 82-game season once in his career. Upshall has two years remaining on a contract that pays him $3.5 million per year.
The Panthers have more than $17 million in cap space, but Upshall's salary could be better spent elsewhere.
Robyn Regehr, Los Angeles Kings
The Kings have plenty of talent on the defensive end and Robyn Regehr gives them a solid, stay-at-home defenseman who can play a strong physical game.
However, if the Kings are looking for a buyout candidate, Regehr might be on the chopping block. He is very limited offensively and general manager Dean Lombardi has a team that is loaded on the back end.
Regehr is probably not going anywhere, but if the Kings bought him out they would save an average of $3 million in salary over the next two seasons. The Kings are $6.6 million under the salary cap.
Jason Pominville, Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild thought they were getting some much-needed offense when they added Jason Pominville from the Buffalo Sabres prior to the trade deadline.
They needed a big-time scorer since Dany Heatley was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Pominville has plenty of speed and an excellent shot, but he did not help much in the team's five-game loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round.
Pominville is scheduled to earn $4.505 million this season. The Wild has just $2.45 million in cap space available.
Paul Gaustad, Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators are in excellent salary-cap shape and don't have to consider a compliance buyout at this point. However, if they wanted to use it on anyone, they ought to consider buying out Paul Gaustad.
Gaustad will be paid $3.25 million each of the next three seasons. Even if he is a defensive-minded player, the Preds aren't getting enough return for their investment. He has scored two goals in the last two seasons, playing 37 games over that span.
Even when he has managed to remain in the lineup, Gaustad has not been anything close to an impact player. He has never scored more than 12 goals in a season.
Anton Volchenkov, New Jersey Devils
Anton Volchenkov is a decent stay-at-home defenseman for the New Jersey Devils. Volchenkov rarely contributes on the offensive end. He scored one goal and four assists last year and was minus-one on the season.
Nevertheless, the financially-strapped Devils pay Volcheknov more than any other defenseman on the team. He will earn $4.25 million each of the next three seasons. That's exorbitant for an ordinary player and he could be a buyout candidate for general manager Lou Lamoriello.
Zack Smith, Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators have more than $22 million in cap space, so they don't have to worry about buying out any players. General manager Bryan Murray has a team of hard working and hustling players who usually play to their physical limit on an every-night basis.
However, if there's one player to buy out, Murray might want to consider buying out Zack Smith. He is scheduled to earn $1.887 million each of the next four seasons. While that's not a lot of money by today's standards, the Senators don't need a four-year commitment to a player who scored four goals in 48 games last year.
Zbynek Michalek, Phoenix Coyotes
The Phoenix Coyotes appear to be staying in the desert for the 2013-14 season.
That said, general manager Don Maloney can start to look at improving his roster so his team can return to the postseason after a one-year absence. The Coyotes have more than $18 million in cap space.
If Maloney is going to use a compliance buyout on any player, it could be Zbynek Michalek. He is a dependable defensive defenseman with limited offensive skills. The Coyotes have a slew of young defensemen in the system, so Maloney might better be served using his $4 million salary on a goal scorer.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins are loading up on salary. They recently came to agreements with defensemen Kris Letang and forward Pascal Dupuis.
However, general manager Ray Shero may need some cap relief shortly if he wants to fill out a complete roster. He ought to buy out goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who is under contract for two more seasons at $5 million per year.
Fleury has had two straight poor playoff performances. How can Shero or head coach Dan Bylsma trust Fleury going forward?
The Penguins can't use Fleury any longer if they want to capitalize on their role as Stanley Cup favorite.
Jay Bouwmeester, St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues picked up Jay Bouwmeester from the Calgary Flames at last year's trade deadline.
That was a decent move to help the team make a playoff run, but the Blues were derailed by the Los Angeles Kings in the first round.
Bouwmeester is a solid player who can carry the puck, play defense and fire a hard slap shot. However, he is not worth the $6.8 million the Blues are scheduled to pay Bouwmeester this season.
Martin Havlat, San Jose Sharks
The Sharks could easily clear some much-needed cap space if they bought out Martin Havlat.
Havlat has two more years remaining on a contract that pays him $5 million per season. Havlat is regularly injured and the Sharks can't depend on him. He scored seven goals in 2011-12 and eight goals last year.
The Sharks have about $2.6 million in cap room and they don't need to be paying the undependable Havlat any longer.
Chris Higgins, Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks have about $7.5 million in cap space available to spend for the 2013-14 season. While it can be argued that they are on their way down after consecutive first-round defeats and that Henrik and Daniel Sedin are largely responsible, they are still the faces of the franchise.
The Canucks don't have a lot of players who are buyout candidates. They waived Keith Ballard on July 2, but did not buy him out.
Chris Higgins is a hard worker and a hustler, but the Canucks could buy him out and gain $2.5 million in cap room.
Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets
The Jets have more than $23 million in cap space available, so they don't have to consider buying any player out.
However, that doesn't mean they are spending all their salary money wisely. If they were going to buy out any player, it should be Dustin Byfuglien.
The former Stanley Cup hero with the Chicago Blackhawks is an imposing player, but consistency is not his strong suit. While he has a booming shot and can dominate a game from time to time, he often goes through the motions.
The Jets don't need to pay him $5.2 million for each of the next three seasons.