In the post-Lockout era of the NHL, where beating the salary cap is king, teams have always looked for ways out of contract follies. The Chicago Blackhawks sent Christobal Huet overseas to get his money off the books. Others have sent players to the AHL or traded at the deadline for draft picks. On June 15, teams can begin what is probably their least-preferred option: the buyout.
Sources have recently told the New York Daily News that one player set to be bought out is Rangers captain Chris Drury. The center, at the back end of a five-year, $35 million contract only played 24 games for the Rangers last season. Buying him out will save the Rangers $3.3 million in cap space. It seems reasonable to guess the Rangers aren't thrilled to have to pay Drury to go away, but he has zero trade value and opens up enough cap space for a player who will offer much more on the ice. With the deadline to start buying players out approaching, what other players could be potential buyouts?
So let's look at the criteria for potential buyouts: First, buyout players have just one year left on their contract. Second, they have a large cap hit. And most importantly, players most likely to be bought out are post-prime and are extremely unlikely to produce at the level they did when originally signed, and like Drury, have little-to-no trade value.
Here are five players likely to be bought out on June 15:
D Sheldon Souray, Edmonton Oilers
At 34 years old and with a $5.4 million cap hit and after spending the 2010-11 season in the AHL, it's clear that Souray doesn't have a home in Edmonton. He's only two years removed from a 53-point season, so you would think a trade would be possible, but if the Oilers couldn't deal him at the deadline last season, chances are low they'd be able to do it now. And if he can't play on one of the league's worst teams, who would take him in a deal? Also, Edmonton probably doesn't want to pay his current $4.5 million salary for him to be a contributor to someone else's AHL team as he was rented last year to Hershey.
LW Kristian Huselius, Columbus Blue Jackets
While he's only 32 years old and could still have a bounceback season, Jackets' forward Kristian Huselius was injured last season and has fallen short of the expectations he set in 2006-07 when he scored 77 points. Whether the Blue Jackets buy out Huselius will depend on their future plans. If they are looking to bring in a big fish free agent or pull off a blockbuster trade, they'll want to get Huselius' money off the books. His cap hit is $4.75 million for 2011-12.
C Daymond Langkow, Calgary Flames
Flames' long-time forward Daymond Langkow made an impressive comeback from a neck injury last season, but spent the previous four seasons showing the affects of age. His point totals fell from 77 in 2006-07 to 65, 49 and 37 over the course of three seasons. At 34 years old and with a cap hit of $4.5 million, it might be time to move on.
RW J.P. Dumont, Nashville Predators
After three 60-plus point seasons with the Predators, J.P. Dumont hit a wall last season, managing just 19 points in 70 games. If he doesn't return to formwhich is pretty unlikely as he'd be a third-liner at bestthe winger doesn't bring anywhere near $4 million of value to the team. Clearly, the Predators would have traded him at the deadline if they could have. Dumont's cap hit would be cut in half with a buyout.
D Filip Kuba, Ottawa Senators
The Senators had somewhat of a successful fire sale at the trade deadline, moving players like Chris Kelly and Mike Fisher. 34-year-old blueliner Filip Kuba could be the next victim of the Ottawa youth movement. He's set to have a cap hit of $3.7 million. With only 16 points in 64 games and a minus-26 (career minus-64) Kuba has little value to a rebuilding team outside of a veteran presence. And it seems reasonable to think that if he wasn't traded at the deadline last year, there wasn't a market nor will there be this summer at his price.
There are some other reasonable candidates, too. Anaheim Ducks' winger and one-time 40-goal scorer Jason Blake, who is currently costing the Ducks $4 million toward the cap at 37-years-old , for one. But the team would only save $1 million and Blake can still be productive, scoring 32 points last season. Contenders are far more likely to keep overpaid, underproducing players who still have a role on potential playoff teams.
The other side to buyouts is they toss a couple more names on the list of free agents. Teams who are one veteran defenseman away from the playoffs or in need of leadership might do well to take a one-year, $1.5 million deal on someone like Kuba or Drury. Or in other words, buyouts make July 1 a little more fun.
Matthew Coller is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
You can contact Matthew by clicking here or click here to see Matthew's other articles.