Lord Stanley’s Cup has yet to be handed out, but an accelerated NHL offseason calendar waits for no one this fall.
On Friday, the league will arrive at one of its first critical dates of the 2020 offseason, with a two-week buyout window giving teams the ability to free up cap space in an effort to both create fiscal flexibility and account for a flat upper limit of $81.5 million for the 2020-21 season.
The buyout window will last for two weeks, ending on Oct. 8 — the day before the start of free agency. With every GM cognizant of the looming cap crunch on the horizon, expect a frantic flurry of moves in the coming days, with franchises cutting ties with burdensome contracts that would otherwise remain stagnant on the books.
For those who need a refresher on the way buyouts function in the NHL, the fantastic folks over at CapFriendly have an extensive FAQ and breakdown, but we'll touch on a few of the primary points here:
- Teams that opt to buy out a player are still responsible for paying two-thirds of their remaining salary on the contract — unless the player is under 26, in which the team is only responsible for paying one-third of the remaining salary. In terms of a buyout of a player who signed said contract at age 35 or older, there are no cap savings — the only relief comes from the actual salary the team was paying out to the player.
- Signing bonuses are fully guaranteed and will be paid out, even if a player is bought out.
- Buyouts are spread out over twice the remaining term of the contract — for example, a three-year contract that was bought out would be spread over six years.
It only takes a quick glance around the league to spot a couple of clear candidates that will likely hit free agency by way of a buyout over the next few days.
With just one year (and $8.5 million sitting against the cap) left on his contract, it seems as though Henrik Lundqvist's time with the Rangers will come to a close, with a buyout creating about $3 million in added cap room for New York and giving the Blueshirts the freedom to hand over full-time goalie duties to the duo of Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev.
The cap-crunched Blues, who could see captain Alex Pietrangelo depart in free agency, could cut ties with veteran Alex Steen — saving over $2 million in cap room, with just an added $1.17 million tacked on in 2021-22.
Kyle Turris, Karl Alzner, Justin Abdelkader, Anton Stralman, Sven Baertschi, James Neal, Martin Jones ... the list goes on and on when it comes to potential buyout candidates this offseason.
But could the Bruins also find themselves amongst a crowded field of teams shaving some cap space in the coming weeks? With a little over $15 million in cap room entering this offseason, Boston is in a much better spot than most franchises when it comes to adapting to a flat cap upper limit of $81.5 million.
But given the potential departure of Torey Krug and the need to acquire legitimate talent up front or on the blue line via free agency or trade, Boston needs all the help it can get when it comes to freeing up as much spending capital as possible in what could be a pivotal couple of months for the Original Six franchise.
So which Bruins could be candidates for a buyout within the next week?