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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

With the salary cap being such an important player in the way teams are managed and talent is paid, it’s hard to believe some of the ludicrously long contracts doled out in recent years. GMs must be kicking themselves they didn’t have in their negotiations whatever Mike Gillis had in his to get the Sedins to agree to five-year deals at a reasonable $6.1 million each.

Vinny Lecavalier, Johan Franzen and Mike Richards are signed through 2020, Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Zetterberg, Rick DiPietro (more on the Islanders later) and Marian Hossa through 2021. Craziness.

Speaking of Hossa, people are wondering what capped-out teams such as Chicago and Philadelphia are going to do after this season. The Blackhawks already have $43 million wrapped up in 12 players next season and that doesn’t include those looking for massive raises – Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane. The Flyers have $46 million tied up in 13 players and have no goalie to speak of for 2010-11.

But looking around the league, even more ludicrous than super long-term deals to top-notch players are contract buyouts. This season, 17 teams have cap space being taken up by players either on other teams or out of the league. Those 17 squads account for 27 buyouts – Boston and Carolina lead the way with three apiece. And of those 27 players, at least eight are currently under NHL contract to other teams, while most others are getting paid in Europe.

Some notable cap hits via buyout include: Colorado’s Darcy Tucker, whom Toronto has on the books at $1 million a season for the next five seasons; and the Rangers’ Vaclav Prospal, who’s good for close to $1.2 million a year for the next six seasons in Tampa Bay.

Mark Parrish scored eight goals and 13 points in 44 games for Dallas last season, but it’s Minnesota that has to deal with him on its cap – $727,778 this season, $927,778 each of the next four. Ouch. Other high-priced buyouts this season include: Dan Cloutier in L.A. at $1 million-plus this season; Marc Denis in Tampa, $1 million; Jay McKee in St. Louis, $1.3 million for two seasons; Todd Bertuzzi in Anaheim at $1.3 million; Alexei Zhitnik in Atlanta at $1.2 million; even Duvie Westcott (if you know him, you’re good) will count for $367,000 on Columbus’ cap this season, before eating $617,000 each of the next two.

But the Howard Stern of the buyout biz is none other than Alexei Yashin, currently a high-scoring center for Yaroslavl of the Kontinental League and, unless John Tavares hits all of his bonuses, the second-highest paid New York Islanders skater this season. That’s right: The team that started it all with Yashin’s 10-year contract and a 15-year deal for DiPietro only has all-star game participant Mark Streit and DiPietro counting for more than Yashin this year.

And it gets worse. Next season, The King of All Buyouts will account for nearly $4.8 million of the Islanders’ cap space, even more than Streit. But never fear Isles fans, it gets better after 2010-11; Yashin only costs your team $2.2 million worth of wiggle room the next four seasons – he’ll come off the team’s books in 2015.

Now, it’s not like the Isles are a competitive team that spends to the cap, but just imagine they were. Imagine if your team had a chance to win the Cup, but was handcuffed salary-wise by a player plying his trade in Russia. Would that not drive you crazy?

Islanders ownership/management will tell you the franchise saved millions by buying out Yashin. And it did. But what if the team actually had a new, sold-out rink, made money and hadn’t been run so poorly these past years? What if the Islanders were a good team that needed a few million bucks to pick up a missing piece of the playoff puzzle and couldn’t? That’s the chance teams are taking.

And with the new long, long-term deal contract fad, buyouts become next to impossible. The Islanders simply couldn’t buy out the oft-injured DiPietro – they’d be paying him $2 million or so a year until 2042!

That's like if they were still paying Butch Goring for his services.

John Grigg is a copy editor and writer with The Hockey News and a regular contributor to with his blog appearing regularly during the summer and the Wednesday Top 10.

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