Ranking the Top 10 NHL Contract Buyout Candidates

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2016

Ranking the Top 10 NHL Contract Buyout Candidates

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The NHL contract buyout period begins June 15 or 48 hours after the Stanley Cup is awarded, whichever comes later. It concludes at 5 p.m. ET on June 30. Teams carrying struggling players, such as the Minnesota Wild with winger Thomas Vanek (pictured above), can avail themselves of the buyout period to shed some salary.

    Buyouts are calculated over twice the remaining term of a player's contract. If he's 26 or older, it's at two-thirds the remaining value and one-third for those under 26.

    Players still recovering from injuries incurred during the regular season are exempt from contract buyouts. Those who were 35 or older when they signed their current contracts can still receive buyouts. However, as the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Michael Russo reported on June 22, 2015, the Wild won't receive salary-cap relief. 

    The following slideshow ranks this year's top 10 NHL contract buyout candidates. Player contracts, performance, buyout likelihood and salary-cap hit factored into the compilation. 

    Feel free to voice your opinion on this topic in the comments section below.

Reto Berra, Colorado Avalanche

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Why he's a buyout candidate

    The Colorado Avalanche have a crowded crease. Behind starter Semyon Varlamov, young Calvin Pickard is pushing Reto Berra out of the backup job.

    On Dec. 26, Berra suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him for two months. Upon his return, he was demoted on Feb. 29 to the minors. 

    With Pickard due a raise as a restricted free agent this summer, Berra's tenure in Colorado could be over. If the Avalanche can't trade him or loan him overseas, a buyout is possible. 

    Remaining contract term

    The 29-year-old Berra has a year left on his contract at an annual salary-cap hit of $1.45 million. In actual salary, he's slated to make $1.5 million for 2016-17. 

    Buyout salary-cap hit

    Buying out Berra would result in a $450,000 cap hit for the Avalanche in 2016-17. The following season would be worth $500,000. 

9. Fedor Tyutin, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Why he's a buyout candidate

    The Columbus Blue Jackets have limited salary-cap space. With only $7.4 million available for 2016-17 and young defenseman Seth Jone to re-sign, they must shed some salary in the offseason. Buying out blueliner Fedor Tyutin is one option. 

    On April 19, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reported the Blue Jackets attempted to trade Tyutin at this year's trade deadline. He speculated they could revisit that possibility this summer. 

    If a trade isn't possible, a buyout of Tyutin could be a viable plan. 

    Remaining contract term

    Tyutin, 32, has two years left on his contract at an annual salary-cap hit of $4.5 million. In actual salary, he's due to earn $4.75 million next season and $4 million in 2017-18.

    Buyout salary-cap hit

    Buying out Tyutin will cost over $1.208 million against the Blue Jackets' cap next season. For 2017-18, it's over $1.985 million, followed by over $1.458 million in each of the remaining two seasons. 

8. Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi, Dallas Stars

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Why they're buyout candidates

    Of the 16 teams that entered the 2016 NHL playoffs, the Dallas Stars had the worst goals against per game (2.78). The 3.23 combined postseason GAA of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi is the third-worst among the playoff clubs. 

    That's not the type of goaltending that carries a rising team like the Stars to the Stanley Cup. If an upgrade is possible this summer via trade or free agency, Lehtonen or Niemi could be dealt or bought out. 

    Remaining contract term

    Lehtonen, 32, has two seasons left on his contract at an annual salary-cap hit of $5.9 million. He'll slated to earn $6 million in actual salary next season and $5 million in 2017-18.

    The 32-year-old Niemi also has two seasons remaining on his deal. His annual cap hit and actual salary per season is $4.5 million. 

    Buyout salary-cap hit

    A buyout of either goalie will count for four years against the Stars' cap hit.

    Lehtonen's is worth over $1.733 million in 2016-17, $2.733 million in 2017-18 and over $1.833 million for each of the last two years. Niemi's is $1.5 million per season for four years. 

7. Dennis Wideman, Calgary Flames

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Why he's a buyout candidate

    The Calgary Flames have six restricted free agents to re-sign, including top forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Their new contracts will use up valuable cap space, leaving little room to bolster their lineup.

    On April 14, the Calgary Sun's Eric Francis reported the Flames will attempt to trade defenseman Dennis Wideman in the offseason. The 33-year-old carries a full no-movement clause in his contract.

    If Wideman's unwilling to accept a trade, or if the Flames can't find a trade partner, a buyout could be an option.  

    Remaining contract term

    Wideman has one year remaining on his contract at a salary-cap hit of $5.25 million. In actual salary, he'll earn $6 million next season. 

    Buyout salary-cap hit

    A buyout of Wideman will count as $1.25 million against the Flames' cap for next season. In 2017-18, it's $2 million. 

6. Eric Nystrom, Nashville Predators

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    Ronald C. Modra/NHL/Getty Images

    Why he's a buyout candidate

    On May 19, 2016, The Hockey News' Jared Clinton cited Nashville Predators general manager David Poile saying his club will be parting ways with forwards Eric Nystrom and Paul Gaustad.

    This season was a difficult one for Nystrom. The 33-year-old missed 31 games to upper-body and foot injuries. He also spent most of the remainder of the season and playoffs as a healthy scratch.

    The Predators could try moving Nystrom via trade. Failing that, they could go the buyout route. 

    Remaining contract term

    Nystrom has one season left on his contract at an annual average salary of $2.5 million. In actual salary, he's set to make $3 million for 2016-17. 

    Buyout salary-cap hit

    A contract buyout of Nystrom would count as $500,000 in 2016-17 against the Predators' salary cap. It rises to $1 million for 2017-18.

5. Thomas Vanek, Minnesota Wild

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Why he's a buyout candidate

    The Minnesota Wild signed left wing Thomas Vanek via free agency in 2014 to bolster the Wild's scoring depth. He netted 52 points in 2014-15 and only 41 points in 74 games this season. That's hardly the type of production expected of a winger with his offensive skill.

    The Wild still need offensive punch but only have around $10 million in cap space. They must also re-sign restricted free agents Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker.

    On April 27, Russo reported Vanek knows a contract buyout is possible. He hopes that won't be necessary.

    Remaining contract term

    Vanek has one year remaining on his contract. The annual average salary is $6.5 million, though in actual salary he'll earn $7.5 million. 

    Buyout salary-cap hit

    Buying out Vanek would result in a $1.5 million cap hit for the Wild in 2016-17 and a $2.5 million cap hit for 2017-18. 

4. R.J. Umberger, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Why he's a buyout candidate

    On June 23, 2014, the Philadelphia Flyers shipped left wing Scott Hartnell to the Columbus Blue Jackets for winger R.J. Umberger.  The move made salary-cap sense at the time, shedding Hartnell's expensive $4.75 million annual salary through 2018-19 for Umberger's $4.6 million annually through 2016-17.

    Umberger reached 50 points three times during his career but was a spent force when the Flyers reacquired him. The 34-year-old saw action in only 39 games this season and was a frequent healthy scratch.

    The Flyers have to re-sign restricted free agents Brayden Schenn, Radko Gudas, Nick Cousins and Brandon Manning. They cannot afford to carry an expensive, little-used forward for another season. 

    Remaining contract term

    Umberger has one season left at an annual average salary of $4.6 million. In actual salary, he's set to earn $4.5 million in 2016-17. 

    Buyout salary-cap hit

    A contract buyout for Umberger will count as $1.6 million against the Flyers' salary cap next season. For 2017-18, it drops to $1.5 million. 

3. Alexandre Burrows, Vancouver Canucks

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    Derek Leung/Getty Images

    Why he's a buyout candidate

    A former three-time 50-plus point right wing, Alexandre Burrows' performance has steadily declined for the Vancouver Canucks in recent years. In 2015-16, the 35-year-old tallied only 22 points in 79 games. 

    The Canucks are rebuilding and are in need of scoring depth. Though Burrows only has a year left on his contract, they could move him out to make room for a younger scoring winger.

    With only $12 million in salary-cap space for 2016-17, the Canucks could free up some dollars with a buyout of Burrows.

    Remaining contract term

    Burrows has a year left at an annual salary-cap hit of $4.5 million. He's slated to earn $3 million in actual salary for 2016-17. 

    Buyout salary-cap hit

    If the Canucks buy out Burrows, the salary-cap hit will be $2.5 million for next season. The following season, it drops to $1 million. 

2. Dave Bolland, Florida Panthers

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Why he's a buyout candidate

    Since joining the Florida Panthers via free agency in 2014, nagging lower-body injuries hampered center Dave Bolland

    He saw action in just 53 games in 2014-15. This season, he was limited to only 25 games. 

    On April 26, George Richards of the Miami Herald reported Bolland was meeting with specialists in Toronto. If he receives a clean bill of health, the Panthers are expected to cut ties with him in the offseason. 

    Remaining contract term

    Bolland, 29, has three years remaining on his contract at an annual average salary of $5.5 million. 

    Buyout salary-cap hit

    A buyout of Bolland would count as over $1.833 million annually against the Panthers' salary cap for the next six seasons. 

1. Bryan Bickell, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Ronald C. Modra/NHL/Getty Images

    Why he's a buyout candidate

    Flushed with excitement over winning the Stanley Cup in 2013, Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman signed left wing Bryan Bickell to a four-year, $16 million contract extension.

    Bickell was coming off a nine-goal, 17-point playoff performance. He seemed to be emerging as a power forward. That breakthrough never happened, leaving the Hawks with a very expensive depth winger on their hands.

    Bowman unsuccessfully attempted to trade Bickell last summer. The 30-year-old winger spent most of this season in the minors. With the Hawks carrying limited salary-cap space, a contract buyout seems certain. 

    Remaining contract term

    Bickell has one season remaining on his contract at an annual average salary of $4 million. In actual salary, he's slated to earn $4.5 million in 2016-17. 

    Buyout salary-cap hit

    Buying out Bickell will result in a $1 million cap hit for the Blackhawks in 2016-17. The following season will be $1.5 million. 

    Player info via NHL.com. Salary info via Cap Friendly.