After trying for months to find a trade partner willing take on left winger Chris Higgins, the Vancouver Canucks will instead buy out the final year of his contract.
Higgins, 33, was put on waivers on Monday. When he goes unclaimed the Canucks will buy him out, and save $1.67 million in 2016-17, and have $833,333 count against the cap in 2017-18.
The Canucks first tried to trade Higgins in January, and even went so far as to put out bizarre a press release announcing his availability and their desire to trade him. When GM Jim Benning couldn't find a suitor, he was sent to the AHL. Higgins spent 22 games with the Utica Comets before being recalled to the NHL in March. In all, Higgins played 33 games for the Canucks this past season and collected three goals and one assist.
The move shouldn't come as a surprise. Aside from Higgins' declining on-ice production, he is past his prime, and missed 22 games due to injury over the last two seasons. On top of that, Benning has made it well known that he intends to try to make a splash in free agency.
Last week, Benning said he would like to go after free-agent-to-be Steven Stamkos, and Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban. Unfortunately, both players are currently under contract, and Benning is now facing tampering charges from the NHL. Aside from those two very large fish, there have been whispers the Canucks would like to pursue free agent wingers Milan Lucic, a Vancouver native, and Loui Eriksson.
None of those players will come cheap, and Higgins is the first casualty in the Canucks trying to make room for a big free-agent haul.
Higgins was acquired by Vancouver at the trade deadline in 2011 and was re-signed to a two-year deal and handed a four-year extension in 2013. In 314 games with the Canucks, Higgins scored 62 goals and 142 points.