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.

2. Brad Richards, C, New York Rangers
(Six years left, $6.7-million cap hit)

Seeing what Jaromir Jagr has done at 42 and even what Jarome Iginla has done at 36, Richards sure seems like an old 33, doesn’t he? Too much mileage, too many years left, too many dollars for someone who can no longer function as a team’s No. 1 pivot.

3. Ondrej Pavelec, G, Winnipeg Jets
(Three years left, $3.9-million cap hit)

Name a goalie, any goalie, and he has a better save percentage than Pavelec this season. I’m barely even joking. Of the 49 qualified leaders in save percentage, 43 rank ahead of Pavelec, a “starter.” Time for a change in Winnipeg’s net. Al Montoya deserves a longer look, maybe as part of a tandem with someone like Brian Elliott or James Reimer.

4. Marty Havlat, RW, San Jose Sharks
(One year left, $5-million cap hit)

Marty, not Martin anymore, according to his official profile page. Havlat makes the money of a key offensive contributor and he simply isn’t one anymore. He only has a year left on his deal, but the contending Sharks could do plenty with that $5 million as they seek another piece of the Stanley Cup puzzle. Assuming they don’t win it this year, of course.

5. Tyler Myers, D, Buffalo Sabres
(Five years left, $5.5-million cap hit)

Am I contradicting my own criteria? It’s controversial pick, as some teams may be willing to explore a trade for him, but the cap hit and term, not to mention Myers’ no-trade clause that kicks in for 2016-17, would make it tough for Buffalo to find a dance partner. The Sabres don’t need Myers for their future, as they have Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov and Jake McCabe to build around, not to mention Christian Ehrhoff signed at a reasonable price until the end of time. Myers is the anti-Dennis Green player, in that he just isn’t who we thought he was after that Calder Trophy campaign in 2009-10.

Agree or disagree with these picks? Have some candidates of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blogFor more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazineFollow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin