With the Stanley Cup Final nearing its conclusion, it’s a good time to look at the top buyout candidates from the NHL’s Central Division.
The window for NHL clubs to buyout players opens on July 1 and with the salary cap only going up $1 million to $82.5 million next season, most general managers may give serious consideration to opening up cap space to make improvements by finding a way to get rid of those not living up to their contracts.
Some clubs who will not be close to the cap limit may serve as drop zones for bad contracts or players on long-term injured reserve, but the majority of the clubs have one or two deals they might be looking to jettison.
We continue with a look at the Central Division:
Arizona and Chicago
The Coyotes are about $12 million under the cap floor, and while GM Bill Armstrong could buy out the final year of veteran Andrew Ladd’s seven-year deal, the only tangible benefit would be opening up a professional contract spot, since Ladd’s $3 million signing bonus would clear only $666,666 in cap space next season.
The Blackhawks are on course for a full rebuild and are rumored to be considering a trade of 41-goal scorer Alex DeBrincat or Patrick Kane with one year remaining before hitting free agency, so opening up cap space is not at the top of GM Kyle Davidson’s list of priorities. Once again, a heavy signing bonus would not open up any significant cap space if Chicago decided to buy out the final year of Jonathan Toews contract, and with all the controversy and scandal over the last year, buying out the three-time Cup winner and team captain is not a likely course of action.
Erik Johnson (1 year @ $6 million)
This situation could be rendered moot by the Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup and the 34-year-old team captain retiring after 14 seasons, but that is not likely with $6 million owed on the final year of a seven-year, $42 million deal. GM Joe Sakic has 10 unrestricted free agents this summer, and while some (Nazem Kadri, Darcy Kuemper) are likely headed to market, the $4 million cleared this summer could help Colorado re-sign forwards Andre Burakovsky, Valeri Nichushkin, or blueliner Josh Manson.
Around Full Press Hockey
Radek Faksa (3 years @ $3.25 million)
The Stars former first-rounder was signed to a five-year, $16.25 million deal after four consecutive years of scoring in double figures. In the last two seasons, the 28-year-old center is -35 and has 11 goals in 132 games. GM Jim Nill has nearly $20 million in cap space but has to re-sign winger Jason Robertson and goalie Jake Oettinger this summer and can extend center Roope Hintz. A Faksa buyout would clear almost $2.8 million in space over the next two years.
Cam Talbot (1 year @ $3.66 million)
The 34-year-old lost his starting job to Marc-Andre Fleury in the playoffs. Fleury is a free agent, but there is speculation that GM Bill Guerin would like to re-sign the future Hall-of-Famer. It is possible that the Wild could trade Talbot to a club looking for a short-term fix between the pipes, but if not a buyout would clear $2 million in cap space next season.
Ryan Johansen (3 years @ $8 million)
The Predators are in a staring contest with pending free agent Filip Forsberg. GM David Poile has reportedly offered the 27-year-old winger an eight-year deal, but with a number of core players signed to long-term deals, Nashville is hesitant to sign another. Johansen had a bounce-back season (26 goals, 37 assists) last season, but barring a trade a buyout would open up $5.33 million over the next three years.
St. Louis Blues
Marco Scandella (2 years @ $3.275 million)
The Blues have a number of players (team captain Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, Robert Thomas, and Jordan Kyrou) entering the final year of their contracts. A buyout of Scandella could wait until after next season and shorten the dead cap hit by two years, but GM Doug Armstrong might want the space opened earlier to re-sign pending UFA David Perron.
Nate Schmidt (3 years @ $5.95 million)
The 30-year-old blueliner was acquired from Vancouver as a salary dump last summer and scored 32 points with the Jets, but with youngsters Dylan Samberg and Vinne Heinola waiting in the wings, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff may want to reallocate some of Schmidt’s salary towards other areas of need. A buyout would clear over $3 million each of the next three seasons.
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