The NHL's buyout window officially opened Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon saw the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers become the first teams to take advantage of the opportunity to get rid of a contract.
Jared Cowen’s contract was the first to fall, as the Maple Leafs placed the 25-year-old blueliner on unconditional waivers for the purposes of a buyout on Wednesday. He cleared waivers Thursday afternoon to make the process official.
Cowen didn’t play a single game for Toronto and it had been clear for the final few months of the 2015-16 campaign that the Maple Leafs were going to rid themselves of Cowen’s contract come mid-June. The reason for the buyout is two-fold, though. First, Cowen doesn’t fit into what the Maple Leafs are building and he wasn’t in coach Mike Babcock’s plans, nor was he part of the future of the team. The second, much more interesting, reason is that buying out Cowen’s contract provides Toronto with a cap credit of $650,000 for 2016-17.
That’s right: the Maple Leafs earned salary space by buying out the final year of the rearguard’s four-year, $12.4-million deal. They will be on the hook for $750,000 in 2017-18, however.
The day’s other buyout was that of R.J. Umberger by the Philadelphia Flyers. The 34-year-old winger’s buyout comes following a tough 2015-16 campaign, and it’s not a move that will catch any by surprise. Before the decision was announced by the Flyers, Hextall had told reporters that he did, in fact, intend to buyout Umberger and even Umberger himself had acknowledged that the "business side" of the league would likely result in his contract being bought out this summer.
“Who wouldn’t after my season?” Umberger said, via CSN Philly’s Jordan Hall. “That’s something up to them, their decision. Business side of it, you can’t control that.”
And Umberger’s completely right. The buyout has as much to do with his $4.6-million cap hit as it does his performance. While he was an all right player when in the lineup, it was hard for Philadelphia, which had less than $6 million in cap space, to keep Umberger’s salary when he had produced just 11 goals and 26 points over the past 106 games he had played for the club.
It’s a disappointing end to what was an ugly trade for the Flyers. Umberger was acquired ahead of the 2014-15 campaign in exchange for Scott Hartnell, and the four-time 45-plus point player has failed to even crack the 20-point plateau since. Meanwhile, Hartnell has been as prolific in Columbus as he was in Philadelphia, notching 51 goals and 109 points in the past two seasons.
With the buyout, the Flyers will spread out two-thirds of Umberger's cap hit across two seasons. Per CapFriendly, the result is a saving of $3 million this coming season but a cap hit of $1.5 million for the 2017-18 season.