Top five compliance buyout candidates for 2014

Leino

It’s that time of year when fans prepare for playoff pushes and other fans go full Joffrey and demand heads on stakes.

By heads on stakes, I mean buyouts in this case. For any suffering supporter who can’t stand to look at an expensive star player’s face another second, there’s hope. Remember the compliance buyouts from last summer? They’re BACK, albeit not in Pog form.

The rules, per NHL.com:

Under the collective bargaining agreement signed last season, teams are allowed two compliance buyouts within designated time periods last summer and this summer. That’s two buyouts total, not two per summer, and the buyouts can be used at a team’s discretion. That means some teams can (and did) use both last summer, some used one and some saved both for this summer.

When using a compliance buyout, a team “must pay two-thirds of the remaining contract across twice the remaining term of the deal. The bought-out players become free agents July 5 (2013, and July 1, 2014) and can sign with any team, other than the one that bought out the player.”

A refresher of last year’s compliance buyouts can be found here. But here’s a short list of who does and does not have flexibility.

TWO BUYOUTS LEFT: Anaheim, Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Florida, Los Angeles, Nashville, Ottawa, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Jose, St. Louis, Winnipeg

ONE BUYOUT LEFT: Detroit, Edmonton, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, Washington

NO BUYOUTS LEFT: Chicago, Montreal, Philadelphia, Toronto

Factoring that list in, I’ve ranked my top five compliance buyout candidates below. My key criteria: (a) No one would want any part of this player’s contract in a trade; (b) this player wasn’t signed last summer, as sheer pride would likely stop most GMs from admitting their mistakes after just one year; (c) this player is not suffering from a long-term injury.

1. Ville Leino, LW, Buffalo Sabres
(Three years left, $4.5-million cap hit)

He scored in his first game as a Sabre Oct. 7, 2011 and it was all downhill from there. In the 132 contests since, Leino has nine goals. He has zero in 54 games this season. Calling him a buyout candidate is a gross understatement.

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Ask Adam: Playoff payouts, Heatley’s future, suspensions and bonuses

Adam Proteau
Dany Heatley (Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

I hope you know how the mailbag operates by now, because I’ve explained it more than enough over the years. Thanks to all who submitted a question.

Adam, in terms of player compensation, how do the NHL playoffs work? Clearly the venues and owners benefit from the extra games, but are players just playing out of the goodness of their hearts? Do they make the same in a four-game sweep as a seventh game double-overtime nail-biter? Thanks for answering my question.
Ken Jewett, Nashville, Tenn.

Ken,

The 16 playoff teams receive varying degrees of bulk payouts from the league that are dependent on where they finish. Last season – the first under the new collective bargaining agreement that doubled the amount of total playoff monies available – the eight teams that lost in the opening round were given a quarter-million dollars to split amongst their players. If a team divvied up its money between 25 players, that works out to $10,000 per roster member.

The payout rises with every playoff round victory. The 2012-13 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks received $3.75 million total (which would reward each member with $150,000) and the Cup finalist Boston Bruins received $2.25 million (or $90,00 per player)

As the league’s revenue projections climb, so too will the playoff payouts. So to answer your question: no, they don’t play simply for the love of the game, but they’re also not going to retire based on the cash they earn in the post-season.
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Ageless Iginla faces uncertain future with Bruins

Ken Campbell
Iginla

Right around the same time he’s blowing out the 37 candles on his birthday cake, Jarome Iginla will have an enormous, career-altering decision to make about his immediate future and that of the Boston Bruins.

The Bruins winger, who is in the running with Valtteri Filppula and Daniel Alfredsson as the best free agent signing of last summer, turns 37 on July 1, the same day free agent frenzy begins. Essentially, what Iginla will have to decide is whether or not he’s comfortable on a series of one-year contracts with a team that will perennially contend for the Stanley Cup or he’s willing to go elsewhere for the security of a two- or three-year deal. Read more

NHL eases punishment on Devils for Ilya Kovalchuk contract

Rory Boylen
Ilya Kovalchuk

In 2010, the New Jersey Devils did their best to circumvent the spirit of salary cap rules by signing Ilya Kovalchuk to a ridiculous 17-year, $102 million contract. The Blackhawks and Canucks had attempted something similar with Marian Hossa and Roberto Luongo and the Red Wings did it with two of their own players, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen. Each of them were signed for more than a decade to bring down the cap hit.

But the deal the Devils struck with Kovalchuk, the NHL arbitrarily decided, went too far. It made a joke of the last few years of a deal Kovalchuk never would have played out. So the league stepped in, supported by a ruling from an independent arbitrator that the Devils were indeed skirting the rules, and fined New Jersey $3 million, a third round pick and the forfeiture of a first round pick from one of the next four drafts. The Devils kept or traded the pick for the first three years, so this year they would have been without it.

That is, until today. The NHL decided to lighten the punishment by refunding half the $3 million fine and allowing the Devils to pick 30th overall this summer, no matter their finish. Though they aren’t allowed to trade that pick, it’s a much better situation for the Devils to be in than their original predicament. Read more

Trading for Vanek might be easier than you thought

Thomas Vanek

It has been widely speculated that Thomas Vanek will ultimately be a member of the Minnesota Wild, either before the trade deadline this season or when he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1.

That might be a little premature, given how quickly and radically these situations can change, but it’s a good bet that Minnesota – where Vanek lives in the off-season – is on the short list of teams for which he can envision playing next season. And when he turned down an offer worth a reported $50 million over seven years from the New York Islanders, it all but guaranteed that he’ll be the crown jewel of the trade deadline madness.

And even though he carries a huge cap hit, the reality is that any team with cap issues would be able to get him as a rental this season for a little more than half a million dollars. It will take some creativity and a willingness to part for more than a team usually would for a rental, but there is definitely a way a team up against the cap would be able to fit him in for the rest of this season.

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Top 10 NHL career salary earners: Jagr leads the way

Jason Kay
Jaromir Jagr

In comedy, timing is everything. In real estate, it’s location, location, location.

And for the NHL’s all-time career earnings leaderboard, it’s both.

When former NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow spearheaded the initiative that brought about player salary disclosure in 1990, he set in motion a pay hike trend that made the world’s best hockey players amazingly wealthy.

At the same time, free agency rules and owners with increasingly deep pockets helped fuel the inflationary spending.

The factors combined is why Wade Redden, who announced his retirement the other day after 14 NHL seasons, was able to leave the game 20th in all-time career earnings at just under $70 million according to data compiled by Capgeek.com. An elite defenseman for the first two-thirds of his career before joining the New York Rangers as a free agent in 2008, Redden made on average just more than $68,000 for each of his 1,023 regular season games.

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NHL fielding interest in expansion because sport is the last vestige of traditional TV watching

Adam Proteau
2013 NHL Draft

When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke to reporters Tuesday afternoon at the league’s Board of Governors meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., a major topic of discussion was the prospect of expanding the number of franchises. As is his wont, Bettman spoke cautiously, but – just as he refused to rule out the possibility a fight could lead to an automatic ejection for NHLers in a conversation with me Sunday – he also didn’t dismiss the chances the number of NHL teams could increase in the relative near-future.

“Everybody needs to slow down,” Bettman told the assembled media throng. Yet he still admitted what the hockey world has known for months, if not years. “We’re getting lots of expressions of interest, and no decisions have been made to do anything other than listen…We haven’t embarked on a formal expansion process, but when people want to talk to us, we listen.”

If you listen closely, you can hear Bettman parsing his words like a fine gardener of verbal foliage. The key words there are “formal expansion process”. But just because league owners haven’t discussed it officially in the boardroom doesn’t mean they haven’t done so unofficially in the hotel bar or on the golf course.

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Jagr could be as high as No. 2 in all-time goals if not for lockouts

Jason Kay
Jaromir Jagr

Jaromir Jagr’s legacy is cemented. He’s won Stanley Cups, Olympic gold, the Hart Trophy and Art Ross. He’ll enter the Hockey Hall of Fame three years after he retires, a first-year eligible inductee hands-down.

At 41, he’s growing his already enormous legend, leading the Devils in scoring and continuing to work as hard and as passionately as any player in the game.

Yet, there remains a lingering “what if”. In Jagr’s case, it’s a double-whammy: his decision to play three seasons in the KHL and, more relevant to this analysis, the hat trick of lockouts he has endured. (He also was in the NHL for the 10-day 1991 strike, the only player to be “active” through all four work interruptions).

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