And just like that we enter the Western Conference and get to say goodbye to some of the divisions there and one of the best in-division rivalries in sports (the Blackhawks and the Red Wings). The Central Division doesn't have many strong buy-out candidates for one of the two amnesty buy-outs that each team is allowed during the next two offseasons but I thought we'd go through the motions and go through all the teams anyway. If you missed any of the other articles or want to jump back into the discussion and tell me how wrong I am here is what we have gone through so far:
Without further delay let's jump right into it guys and dolls. I present to you the potential buy-out candidates for the mighty Central 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.
The Blackhawks have all their money in the right places and in the right players. The only exceptions to this might be veteran blueliner Steve Montador and winger Rostislav Olesz both of whom were put on waivers this year. Montador, 33, is signed for two more seasons at $2.75 million a year on the cap and no longer has a place on the Blackhawks roster. Olesz, 27, has injury issues and simply isn't worth the cap space he takes up though he is under contract for just one more year, taking up $2.2 million in cap space. If Chicago can free up come cap space by buying out Olesz and Montador they can have a real chance at keeping Bryan Bickell, Viktor Stalberg, and other pending free agents around.
EDIT: As Blueshirt Banter member Hockey_Man84 pointed out Marian Hossa is a name that can't be ignored as a potential buy-out candidate for the Blackhawks because of the length of his contract, his age, and his susceptibility to injuries. Hossa still has all kinds of value on the ice and he is one of the best players in the league but Hossa is currently 34 years old and is signed until the 2020-2021 season... that isn't a good thing. I expect his name to be under serious discussion and consideration next offseason.
Who Could be Bought-Out: n/a
The Blues are another team that has all of their money in the right places. The biggest issues they have this offseason are re-signing RFAs Kevin Shattenkirk, Alex Pietrangelo, Chris Stewart, Patrik Berglund, and Kris Russell. If the Blues find some more scoring in their lineup or in the free agency market and finally figure out who the heck their starting goaltender is they are going to remain a force to be reckoned with for a long, long time.
Who Could be Bought-Out: Mikael Samuelsson
How well run are the Detroit Red Wings? It's absolutely amazing. Samuelsson's contract stands out as the only real target for an amnesty buy-out because of his injury issues and his game and efficacy starting to slip as he enters his late thirties. Under contract for just one more season at a cap hit of $3.00 million, the 36 year old Swedish forward might be hitting the free agency market a year earlier than expected. A little bit more cap room would be welcome in Detroit so that they can bring back players like Damien Brunner, Valteri Filppula, and Ian White or make some splashes in the free agency pool this offseason.
Who Could be Bought-Out: n/a
I could bring up names and contracts like Fedor Tyutin, R.J. Umberger, James Wisniewksi, and Jack Johnson but I don't think I should (well, I suppose I just kinda did...). 'Lumbus finally found their game and some major chemistry and almost made good on an inspiring push to make it into the playoffs this season. With the Vezina Award-winning Sergei Bobrovsky in net Lumbus could really be a ship that is finally being steered in the right direction. The Blue Jackets need to turn their focus on re-signing RFAs Artem Anisimov and Sergei Bobrovsky and looking to add the right kind of depth via free agency. A few of the names I mentioned earlier could be talked about as buy-out targets next offseason if they struggle or regress from what they accomplished last year but for now Columbus should not try to fix what isn't broken and go with the group that got so many of us finally interested and excited about hockey in Ohio.
Who Could be Bought-Out: Paul Gaustad
Paul Gaustad cost the Nashville Predators a first round pick on deadline day last season and since then he has scored two goals and seven assists as a Predator. Gaustad, 31, has three years left on his deal at a cap hit of $3.25 million a year. Buying Gaustad out would probably make Predator fans grumble even more about the trade that brought him to Nashville but Gaustad is simply not worth the cap space he is taking up and the Predators could give promising young players more valuable ice time if Gaustad is out of the picture. Personally I don't think we'll see Gaustad hit free agency prematurely but I think he is certainly worth discussing for the Predators. I don't think you should be paying a third liner as much as Gaustad is making but I don't run a professional hockey team... yet.
So what do you guys think, am I forgetting someone? Are any of these guys potential fits or fixes for the New York Rangers? Was this article as boring as I thought it was? Which of these potential buy-out candidates has the best chance for success wearing another team's jersey? Why do fingernails grow faster than toenails? Have at it in the comments.
Let's go Rangers.