Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray made headlines Thursday afternoon when he said the team has considered buying out the contract of 25-year-old winger Cody Hodgson.
Hodgson signed a six-year contract in September 2011 valued at an average annual salary of $4.25 million, but his production slipped in a big way this past season as he managed just six goals and 13 points in 78 games. Hodgson, who was drafted 10th overall by the Canucks in 2008, hasn’t quite panned out to be the big star the Sabres were hoping for when they acquired him from Vancouver at the 2011-12 trade deadline.
While he did manage consecutive good in 2012-13 and 2013-14, including scoring a career high 20 goals and 44 points in the latter, the drop in play was cause for his name to be mentioned in buyout talks during the season. With Hodgson currently working out in Sweden with a skating coach, according to Murray, if he comes into training camp and his play doesn’t please the staff, it’s possible he’s a late addition to the free agent pool.
Hodgson isn’t the only player who could be headed for a buyout this summer, and here are five other notable players who could be getting paid by two clubs next season:
5. Ales Hemsky, Dallas Stars, $4 million
Never in his pro career – not once – has Hemsky scored at a lower rate than he did last season. His 11 goals and 32 points in 76 games was the lowest total he has posted in a season which he’s played more than 40 games since his rookie year and it was a full 11 points fewer than he scored in one fewer game the year prior.
Brought into Dallas and thought to reconnect with Jason Spezza to recreate the formbidable duo the pair formed in their brief stint in Ottawa, Hemsky simply has been a bust for the Stars just one season into his deal. With two years remaining on his contract at $4 million per season, the likelihood of a team taking Hemsky and his cap hit off the Stars’ hands doesn’t seem promising.
Hemsky’s game could recover, but with improvements needed on the defensive side of the puck and the shifty right winger playing bottom-six minutes for the Stars, it doesn’t make much sense to keep him around.
4. R.J. Umberger, Philadelphia Flyers, $4.6 million
The Umberger-Hartnell swap sure didn’t work out for the Flyers. In Columbus, Hartnell posted the third 60-point season of his career, adding 28 goals on a Blue Jackets team that desperately needed the offense from one of the few players who remained healthy for most of the season. In Philadelphia, Umberger scored nine goals and 15 points in 67 games.
Statistically speaking, the deal doesn’t make much sense, but it’s even worse financially, because in savings, Philadelphia really only saves an average of $175,000 in the next two seasons. Hartnell’s contract is one year longer, sure, but it might be worth the production.
Umberger isn’t the player the Flyers thought they were getting and at $4.6 million per season it could be time to cut ties with the rugged left winger.
3. Vincent Lecavalier, Philadelphia Flyers, $4.5 million
Buying out Lecavalier would make sense for both parties – he doesn’t want to waste away watching from the press box, the Flyers don’t want to pay $4.5 million for a healthy scratch. However, Philadelphia GM Ron Hextall has said he doesn’t consider the veteran center to be a buyout candidate. Why that is, we have no idea, but it would be worth Hextall’s time to reconsider his stance on using a buyout for Lecavalier.
Last season, the one-time 50-goal scorer played in just 57 games due to a mix of injury and coach’s decision. It was his second campaign with the Flyers and another that was disappointing considering they had locked Lecavalier up to a five-year deal after his contract was bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning. He showed some promise in his first season in Philadelphia, scoring 20 goals and 37 points in 69 games, but the massive step backwards – eight goals and 20 points in 2014-15 – had many thinking it was the end of the line for Lecavalier.
The Flyers, who have two candidates for buyout in Umberger and Lecavalier, are barely under the projected $71 million salary cap for next season. If Hextall isn’t considering using a buyout at all, it’s going to be tricky to manage.
2. Alexander Semin, Carolina Hurricanes, $7 million
Is Semin likely to post more than the six goals and 19 points he scored this season in the upcoming campaign? Absolutely. Will he improve enough to justify his $7 million price tag? That’s impossible to say, but the risk might not be equal to the reward.
For the Hurricanes to buyout Semin they would need to assure there’s no way they can swing a deal that gets the once 40-goal scorer off their roster. With all the rumblings that Carolina had attempted to move Semin this past season, it seems like the market for the high-priced winger isn’t great at the moment. Add in the salary cap not increasing by much and trading Semin might look even bleaker.
Semin can be one of the most talented scorers in the league – his wristshot is almost unrivaled – but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. It’s not a good combination for Semin, so a buyout could be the best option for GM Ron Francis.
1. Mike Richards, Los Angeles Kings, $5.75 million
It’s no secret the Los Angeles Kings want to get rid of Richards’ contract. While his level of play has absolutely seen better days, he would still be useful to the Kings were it not for his massive salary, which is something Los Angeles can’t deal with as Anze Kopitar approaches unrestricted free agency. Thus, Richards needs to go. While the preference is to trade him, it could come down to a buyout for the Kings.
If Richards is bought out, it would give him a shot at signing elsewhere for less money and possibly carving out a spot for himself as an effective bottom-six player. But with his current cap hit, he is better served to playing a top-six role to make sure the team is getting some bag for their buck.
With him coming off of a season in which he scored just five goals and 16 points in 53 games, the lowest numbers of his career, there might not be many takers for Richards unless the Kings significantly sweeten the pot. Trade or not, though, Richards is likely the prime candidate for a buyout this off-season.