The window for National Hockey League clubs to buyout players opens on Friday 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 finish off the potential buyouts with a look at the Atlantic Division.
Buffalo, Detroit, and Tampa Bay
The Sabres continue to be a budget team in the early stages of a rebuild around youngsters Rasmus Dahlin and 2021 top pick Owen Power. GM Kevyn Adams needs to add $13 million in salary to get to the floor of the NHL salary cap and Buffalo appears to be focused more on adding or signing short-term deals (like acquiring the retired Ben Bishop from Dallas and signing veteran goalie Craig Anderson for $1.5 million) and less on opening up more room to spend on big-time free agents.
The Red Wings are similarly going through a methodical rebuild under GM Steve Yzerman and have to add more than $15 million to get to the cap floor. Detroit has only one player on their NHL roster signed past next season, so they are a fairly clean slate.
The Lightning coming off their third straight Cup Final appearance are right up against the cap but do not have any bad contracts that would qualify as obvious buyouts. The more likely scenario to open up cap space may be to trade veterans Alex Killorn or Ryan McDonagh while they still have value.
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Nick Foligno (1 year @ $3.8 million)
The former Blue Jacket team captain struggled with injuries and appeared to lose some speed after signing a two-year, $7.6 million deal. A buyout of the final year would clear nearly half of his 2022-23 cap hit, which could open up some of the room needed to re-sign Selke winner Patrice Bergeron.
Patric Hornqvist (1 year @ $5.3 million)
The two-time Cup winner was acquired by the Panthers two years ago and posted his lowest goal total (11) in over a decade. A buyout of the 35-year-old winger’s final year would open up over $3.5 million next season, which along with the potential of putting Anthony Duclair on LTIR (Achilles injury) would open up enough cap space to re-sign pending free agent Claude Giroux.
Mike Hoffman (2 years @ $4.5 million)
The Habs are entering a rebuild under Team President Jeff Gorton and GM Kent Hughes, and are looking to shed long-term veterans Jeff Petry, Josh Anderson, Brendan Gallagher, and Carey Price (if not injured), but might also be willing to buyout veterans that they cannot move without retaining salary. Hoffman was added last summer to provide secondary and power-play scoring, but the 32-year-old underwhelmed with 15 goals in 67 games last season. A buyout of the final two years would save Montreal $3.33 million per year.
Colin White (3 years @ $4.75 million)
The Senators have three viable buyout candidates in goalie Matt Murray ($6.5 million AAV), defenseman Nikita Zaitsev ($4.5 million AAV) for two more years, and White for three more years. Murray’s injury status may complicate a buyout, but Ottawa would save $10 million of the $15 million owed to the two-time Cup winner, while Zaitsev’s signing bonus would mitigate any savings.
White’s one-third buyout (for being under the age of 26) would save the Sens $10.5 million and result in a minuscule $875,000 cap hit for five of the next six seasons.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Petr Mrazek (2 years @ $3.8 million)
The 30-year-old netminder was signed to a three-year, $11.4 million contract to share duties with goalie Jack Campbell and struggled with injuries and inconsistency (12-6-0, 3.34 GAA, .888 save percentage). With Toronto likely needing to open up space to re-sign or find a replacement for Campbell, a buyout would open up $2.76 million in cap space in 2022-23, and nearly $3 million in 2023-24.
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