Among the notable points to emerge from the new NHL collective bargaining agreement is the allowance for two compliance contract buyouts per team.
This provision allows a GM to buy out up to two players at two-thirds the remaining value of their contracts without the cost counting against the team’s salary cap.
According to reports, teams cannot use these buyouts prior to the upcoming shortened season. They can either use the two buyouts over the next two summers only, or both in one summer.
No time period has been given for these buyouts, though they could come within two-four weeks of the end of each season. As with regular contract buyouts, it only applies to players who aren't on long-term injury reserve.
That means, for example, the Boston Bruins cannot use it to buy out the remainder of center Marc Savard's contract. He's been on LTIR since 2010-11 to post-concussion symptoms and will likely remain so for the rest of his contract, which expires at the end of 2016-17.
The same goes for Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger, who is also signed through ’16-17 and could remain on LTIR for post-concussion symptoms.
It didn't take long for speculation to begin over which players could be targeted for buyouts this summer.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun listed Montreal Canadiens center Scott Gomez (cap hit of over $7.4 million through 2013-14) and New York Rangers defenseman Wade Redden ($6.5 million cap hit through ’13-14) as two prime candidates
Garrioch also speculated Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo and Philadelphia Flyers netminder Ilya Bryzgalov could receive buyouts.
Despite the remaining 10 seasons on Luongo's contract, the Canucks aren't expected to buy him out, but instead to shop him in the trade market.
Buying out Bryzgalov, who is entering the second season of a nine-year, $51-million contract, is a popular choice among Flyers fans disenchanted with his underwhelming performance last season. Such a move, however, could once again leave the Flyers searching for an established starting goaltender. Much will depend upon Bryzgalov's performance this season, how much cap space the Flyers have to work with this summer and the availability of a suitable replacement in the trade or free agent markets.
The Edmonton Journal suggested Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff ($5.5-million cap hit per season through 2014-15) could also become a candidate, though GM Steve Tambellini declined to comment on his roster plans beyond this season.
Yahoo! Sports' Greg Wyshynski noted the 10 most popular players for contract buyouts by fans using CapGeek.com's buyout calculator included NY Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro, Montreal Canadiens defenseman Tomas Kaberle, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Mike Komisarek, Tampa Bay Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier and Minnesota Wild left winger Zach Parise.
Wyshynski doubted Kaberle and Komisarek, with one season remaining on their contracts at $4.3 million and $4.5 million respectively, will be bought out.
The oft-injured DiPietro, who's owed $4.5 million per season through 2020-21, is a prime buyout candidate, but it remains to be seen if he can avoid another season-ending injury carrying over into the off-season.
Wyshynski suggested the politics of buying out Lecavalier, the Lightning captain “with deep roots in the community” could prove a tough sell. As for Parise, he and defenseman Ryan Suter inked identical 13-year, $98 million contracts last summer with the Minnesota Wild. They're not going anywhere.
Speculation over compliance buyout nominees will likely die down in the coming weeks as the focus shifts more upon trade rumors. Rest assured, the buyout guessing game will pick up again at season's end.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla's Korner.