Antoine Vermette has officially become an unrestricted free agent following an entirely unexpected buyout that saw the 34-year-old sent packing by the Arizona Coyotes.
Vermette told RDS that he understands the reasoning behind the move from the Coyotes’ perspective. With young talent on the rise in Arizona, the management needed to make a decision that would allow room for the Dylan Stromes and Christian Dvoraks of the organization to have their chance at making the club out of training camp.
"Given the change in leadership, the youth movement started last year and that the best hopes of the organization are centers, I could see that it was only a matter of time,” Vermette told RDS.
Still, it caught him off guard. Vermette said he didn’t expect to be sent packing so soon or by way of a buyout, but the Coyotes assured him it had “no connection with (his) performance on the ice,” Vermette told RDS.
Even when Vermette signs elsewhere, he will still count against the Coyotes’ salary cap for $1.25 million. It seems like a lot of money to pay a player to go away — and looks worse when you add Mike Ribeiro’s $1.444 million buyout cap hit, which means Arizona will pay nearly $2.7 million to players on other teams — but Vermette’s buyout cap hit isn’t even among the top five in the league. More surprisingly, the combined buyout cap hits of Vermette and Ribeiro aren’t even the worst pair of buyouts in the league.
Here are the five biggest buyout cap hits for the upcoming season:
(All salary information via CapFriendly)
5. Dennis Seidenberg, D
Buyout Cap Hit: $1.667 million, Boston Bruins
Seidenberg missed 19 games this past season and has been looking slower with each passing season, so the Bruins decided to free up some cap space and ditch the final two years of the 35-year-old defenseman’s four-year, $16-million deal when the buyout window opened this summer.
It’s been a quick drop off for Seidenberg, who was once a top-pairing and top-four guy in Boston but played a more limited role this past season, even though the Bruins were in desperate need of help on the back end. He averaged 19:23 in ice time in 2015-16 — the lowest of his career since 2007-08 — and managed just one goal and 12 points in 61 games.
Seidenberg could find himself a deal in training camp through a professional tryout, but the back injury that caused him to miss 15 games this past season may scare teams off.
4. Matthew Carle, D
Buyout Cap Hit: $1.833 million, Tampa Bay Lightning
Carle admitted that he had one of the most frustrating and inconsistent seasons of his career in 2015-16, and his critique of his campaign is bang on. A steady 20-point contributor for just about his entire career, Carle mustered a meager two goals and nine points in 64 outings with the Lightning last season.
With contracts coming up for Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin, not to mention yet to be completed deal with Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning couldn’t justify paying Carle $5.5 million in each of the next two seasons. Thus, his six-year, $33-million deal was bought out.
Carle’s cap hit may be $1.833 million, but the 31-year-old defenseman will add $700,000 to his salary next season on a one-year deal with the Nashville Predators. It took him less than a month to land with Nashville, which should give hope to other players seeking deals after off-season buyouts.
3. Alexander Semin, RW
Buyout Cap Hit: $2.333 million, Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes made a risky move during the 2012-13 season when they ponied up $7 million to sign Semin as he hit unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career. Semin was coming off of a 21-goal, 54-point season and was only two years removed from a 40-goal campaign, so the hope was the gamble would pay off and the Hurricanes would have a bonafide sniper in their ranks.
Well, that worked for one year. Semin scored 13 goals and 44 points in 44 games with the Hurricanes during the lockout-shortened season, but he signed a five-year, $35-million extension that would become an anchor for Carolina.
The Hurricanes bought out Semin two (unproductive) years into the deal. He’ll count against the Carolina cap for the next five years, regardless of where he’s playing. He finished 2015-16 in the KHL.
2. James Wisniewski, D
Buyout Cap Hit: $3.5 million, Carolina Hurricanes
Remember the whole thing about Arizona not paying the most money to make players go away? That’s because that honor belongs to the Hurricanes, who’ve got a combined $5.833 million tied up in Wisniewski and Semin.
The Wisniewski buyout is almost laughable, too, because his entire regular season tenure with Carolina lasted one, 47-second shift. The first time Wisniewski hit the ice with the Hurricanes, he ended the shift with a torn ACL. Wisniewski is as much a victim of his contract as he is his injury trouble, though.
Wisniewski signed a six-year, $33-million deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets in July 2011 after putting up 10 goals and 51 points in a season split between the Canadiens and Islanders. He replicated that total under the six-year deal when he scored seven goals and 51 points in 2013-14 and he’s still a 30-point player when healthy. But his injury history paired with the high-priced deal makes him tough to keep around.
1. Brad Stuart, D
Buyout Cap Hit: $3.6 million, Colorado Avalanche
Stuart was brought in by the Avalanche by way of a July 2014 trade with the San Jose Sharks, and before he had even played a game in Colorado, Stuart was inked to a two-year, $7.2-million contract extension. It was a bizarre choice by Avalanche GM Joe Sakic to sign Stuart to that type of deal before he had actually suited up, especially because his age made the extension 35-plus deal. It proved to be costly this off-season.
Stuart’s first season in Colorado, the 2014-15 campaign, saw him play out the final year of his previous three-year, $10.8-million deal, and he contributed three goals and 13 points as a top-four blueliner. The 2015-16 season was an unmitigated disaster, though. Stuart was scratched early in the season in part because of a back injury, played third-pairing minutes when he could get into the lineup and then missed the final 62 games of the year with a back injury.
Here’s where it gets worse for the Avalanche: buying out Stuart gives them absolutely nothing in the way of salary cap relief. It’s simply a roster spot opened up and some cash savings. Colorado could use the cap space, too. As of Thursday, they have little more than $1.5 million in cap space. That’s the price the Avalanche have to pay for Stuart signing the 35-plus contract.
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