Here we are with the third installment of the players who could be bought-out by their respective teams with one of the two amnesty buy-outs each team is allowed to use during the next two offseasons. Let's hop right into the players that could find themselves looking for some floaties and goggles sooner then expected because they very well might be headed to the free agency pool (see what I did there?).
I present to you the buy-out candidates for the Southeast Division.
Note: I am ignoring the implications of whether or not a team can "afford" to buy out a player or not for the sake of debate and discussion about what players are good buy-out candidates.
Who Could be Bought-Out: Brooks Laich
Brooks Laich is now three seasons removed from the last time he eclipsed the twenty goal mark (or scored at that kind of pace considering the partial season this year). Laich, 29, has four years left on his contract and he takes up $4.5 million of cap space on a team that doesn't have a great deal of cap space to work with. The fact that Laich has been struggling with injuries isn't helping his case but he is a popular and respected player in Washington and I am not sure that we will see him bought out unless the Capitals find they are desperate for cap space and can stomach parting with the solid two-way forward.
Who Could be Bought-Out: Tuomo Ruutu
Ruutu, 30, has three years left on his deal with a cap hit of $4.75 million a year. Carolina went on a rampage to bring in and secure top six talent that has greatly diminished Ruutu's role and also his value to the team. Ruutu is just one more example of a guy who isn't bringing enough bang to the team for all the bucks he is being given. Carolina does have some cap space to work with but if they want to make another splash in the free agent market like they did last year they might want to consider using an amnesty buy-out on Ruutu because trading him and his contract is going to be a tall task with his NMC. Ruutu was banged up this past season and had 9 points in 17 games, the season before that he had just 34 points in 72 games played.
Who Could be Bought-Out: n/a
At the moment the Jets don't seem to have any albatross contracts that they might want to look into escaping from. Winnipeg only has valuable players like Tobias Enstrom, Evander Kane, Dustin Byfuglien, and Andrew Ladd locked up to long-term deals at the moment. I expect Winnipeg to make some waves in the free agency pool this offseason because they have quite a lot of cap room to work with. The biggest moves they can and should make this offseason are re-signing RFAs Zach Bogosian and Blake Wheeler to keep them around in Winnipeg for as long as possible.
The Panthers signings and moves confuse me more than any other team in the league and that my friends is really saying something. Scottie Upshall has two years left on his contract at a cap hit of $3.5 million a year and has struggled to stay healthy and simply hasn't produced as a Panther. Ed Jovanovski is slow, injury-prone, and not the player that he used to be. Jovanovski has two more years left on his contract and he takes up $4.125 million a year of cap space. Brian Campbell's contract is also a big headache but he has been outstanding playing in Florida since coming over from Chicago in a trade two seasons ago. But if Campbell's play regresses next season I can see his name being discussed as an amnesty buy-out option considering he currently has three years left at about $7.14 million a year.
The Panthers are a team that will surprise me no matter what they do with their amnesty buy-outs. Trying to predict what the Panthers are going to do is just seems pointless because their moves and signings are just a little less chaotic than a cougar trapped in a car.
"That beautiful death machine will do what god made it to do..."
I'm going to turn the analysis of who might be bought-out in Tampa over to the Raw Charge's Managing Editor John Fontana who had this to say when I asked him which Bolts could be bought-out and why:
You think buyouts and think of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the elephant that comes into the room is team captain Vincent Lecavalier. Lecavalier signed an 11 year $85 million contract extension in 2008 that took effect in 2009. It’s one of those diving contracts akin to Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo’s contract. It’s one of those deals that amnesty buyouts were created for – to rid the league of bad contracts.
Another Tampa Bay Lightning site, Bolt Prospects, gave a great write-up on moving Lecavalier and the complexities of the issue (that has been presented as a black-and-white issue by all too many reactionary bloggers and pundits). If Tampa Bay is looking to create cap space in the next two seasons, Vinny’s contract must be scrutinized as a buy-out candidate.
Another buyout candidate (and another contract was created in 2008) is left wing Ryan Malone. Malone only has another three seasons on his contract, and while the numbers are relatively reasonable when compared to the length and cap hit on Lecavalier’s contract.
But Malone’s cap hit along with his ability to find himself on IR more often than contribute on ice is reason enough to think he’d be a potential amnesty buyout target.
On defense, depending on what the intentions are for the club during the off-season, Eric Brewer disappointed greatly this past season and was seen as part of the problem to Tampa Bay’s heinous defense. An amnesty buyout would wipe a $3.875 million cap hit off the books for TB.
The lame duck contract on defense that the Lightning can’t buyout is Mattias Ohlund. Ohlund hasn’t played since 2011 due to knee issues (and radical reconstructive surgery). His career is basically over but you can’t buy out players that are on long term IR.
Wow, maybe I should have just asked John to write the entire series for me. He is good at this whole "writing words to talk about hockey thing".
I think Brewer is a strong candidate and Malone is certainly an intriguing one especially considering how often he is injured. Vinny is a very tough call and I am not sure we will see it this offseason but I might actually be surprised if he isn't bought out next season when he is 34 years old and still is signed until the End of Days.
So what do you think boys and girls? Am I forgetting someone from the Southeast Division? Are any of these players potential fits or fixes for our beloved Rangers? Which of these players (if they are bought out) have the best chance of success wearing a different jersey? Do you think Lecavalier is hitting free agency two offseasons from now like I do? Have at in in the comments.
Let's go Rangers.
Special Thanks to John Fontana. Please go read and visit Raw Charge to check out outstanding hockey writing and Tampa Bay Lightning coverage.