When Mikhail Grabovski signed a four-year deal with the New York Islanders that will pay him $5 million a season, he pretty much hit the jackpot. Not the Vincent Lecavalier jackpot, mind you, but the windfall was still mind-boggling.
That’s because Grabovski is one of 28 players who are being paid not to play hockey for the teams that originally signed them under the leagues’ compliance buyout system. You know the one. It’s the buyouts that essentially have given teams a mulligan on bad contracts that were signed before the last collective bargaining agreement. It’s also the one the NHL Players’ Association seemed dead-set against having part of the new system, although when you see the money that teams threw around, you’d have to wonder why.
The period for compliance buyouts is essentially over for good, so it’s probably a good time to take stock of what happened here. (There is an additional compliance buyout period for teams that have arbitration cases, but players who file for arbitration almost always settle before their hearings. As an example, last summer, not a single player ended up going the distance.)
Are you ready for this? With a huge stick-tap to capgeek.com, NHL teams bought out a total of 28 players. The total amount of the buyouts is a combined $176.9 million and that will be paid out over a combined 136 years. Of those 28 players, only six of them – Steve Montador, Ryan Malone, Johan Hedberg, Rick DiPietro, Ed Jovanovski and Tomas Kaberle – did not or likely will not receive another NHL contract after being bought out. All told, 19 teams used at least one compliance buyout and 13 teams used the maximum two that were available to them.
Among those who did, the biggest winner was Lecavalier, who was bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning last summer to the tune of $32.7 million over the next 14 years. That means that combined with the $4.5 million he’s getting from the Philadelphia Flyers and his signing bonus money (which is not subject to the buyout provisions), Lecavalier is making a total of $12.3 million in the first two years of his deal, $10.3 million in the third year and $6.3 million in the fourth. (That assumes, of course, that the Flyers don’t buy him out before this contract ends, which would mean that two teams would be paying Lecavalier not to play for them.)
Not far behind is Brad Richards, who was recently bought out by the New York Rangers. When you combine his $2 million salary for this upcoming season with the Chicago Blackhawks along with his buyout money and his $2 million signing bonus from the original contract with the Rangers, he’ll be pulling down $7.1 million this season. When you combine his buyout from the Toronto Maple Leafs along with his new deal, Grabovski will take home $6.8 million each of the next four seasons.
All in all, pretty good work if you can find it…and then lose it.