With the NHL trade market dormant until June, speculation has shifted toward which high-salaried players could become amnesty buyout candidates.
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, teams are allowed to buy out up to two players with no salary cap penalty. They can buy out two this summer or next or one player in each summer.
The New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens each have only one remaining, having used compliance buyouts (hastily negotiated by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association prior to the season) to shed the contracts of Wade Redden and Scott Gomez.
Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov created a recent media stir claiming he “didn’t care” about the possibility of a buyout. Bryzgalov meant he was unconcerned about a scenario beyond his control, but his choice of words provided ammunition for his critics.
However, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported team executives were undecided, contemplating the possibility of Bryzgalov returning next season with recently acquired Steve Mason.
Danny Briere is another buyout candidate, acknowledging that possibility in a recent interview.
In late-February, Briere quashed trade rumors by saying he wouldn’t waive his no-movement clause. It’s believed the Flyers could use the amnesty buyout to shed the remaining two years (and the $6.5- million cap hit) of his contract.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun listed Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo and New York Rangers center Brad Richards as buyout possibilities, dismissing the former as “unrealistic” while suggesting the latter could return to the Tampa Bay Lightning if bought out.
Richards had his best seasons with the Lightning but, like the Flyers, they are also pressed for cap space next season, with $59.5 million invested in 17 players next season.
Knee injuries have all but ended defenseman Mattias Ohlund’s playing career, so placing him on long-term injury reserve next season will provide some cap relief. If Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is interested in Richards, that relief won’t be enough to sign him (even at a significantly reduced salary) plus a suitable replacement for Ohlund.
Amnesty buyouts could be Yzerman’s best option to free up sufficient cap space to bolster his roster depth. Captain Vincent Lecavalier has another seven years (at a cap hit of $7.7 million) on his contract, making him a tempting buyout target.
Other potential buyout candidates include Buffalo’s Ville Leino (four years, $4.5-million cap hit), Edmonton’s Shawn Horcoff (two years, $5.5 million) Montreal’s Tomas Kaberle (one year, $4.25 million), the New York Islanders’ Rick DiPietro (eight years, $4.5 million) San Jose’s Martin Havlat (two years, $5 million), Toronto’s Mike Komisarek (one year, $4.5 million) and Vancouver’s Keith Ballard (two years, $4.2 million).
Teams are also prohibited from buying out injured players (including those on LTIR) like Ohlund, Philadelphia’s Chris Pronger and Boston’s Marc Savard.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).