Here we are with another installment of potential buy-out candidates, this time we are visiting the often rainy and now very re-buildy (is that a word?) Northwest Division. Each team is allowed two amnesty buy-outs over the next two offseasons so some contracts that wouldn't normally be discussed as being bought-out are now up for discussion. If you missed any of the previous discussions of buy-out candidates from the other divisions here is where you can find them!
Without further delay let's jump right into it guys and dolls. I present to you the potential buy-out candidates from the Northwest 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.
I'm going to let someone who knows a great deal more about the Minnesota Wild step-in for me and talk about who the most likely buy-out Candidates are for the Wild. Here is Emilie from Hockey Wilderness's take on who the Wild could be buying out:
The consensus among fans is that Dany Heatley is the most likely buyout candidate. While Heatley is not the horrible hockey player some would lead you to believe, he's definitely not worth the 7.5 million dollar price tag that is attached to him right now. He has a great net front presence, but is a liability on defense do to filling his skates with cement before games (I mean, do to the fact that he has lost some speed as he's aged). However, since there are always kinks in this kind of thing, Heatley is still on IR due to an shoulder injury at the hands of the San Jose Sharks. There's a pretty decent possibility that he won't be cleared before the buyout period ends.
The second name being tossed recently is Tom Gilbert. Gilbert has never been a fan favorite in MN, I think mostly due to the fact that he was traded in exchange for Nick Schultz, one of the biggest fan favorites besides Derek Boogaard in Wild history. A lot of people don't like that he's not a great stay at home defenseman. Personally, I think Gilbert doesn't need a buyout (if the team wants him gone, he's very easily trade-able). His biggest issue this season was having horrible partners and having to overcompensate for it.
Personally, I think if Heatley isn't cleared from IR, the Wild won't buy anyone out. They will however, probably move a few pieces in trades over the summer.
We all knew Luongo's name was going to come up in this series, didn't we? Luongo has one of the worst contracts in the league and despite repeated efforts it looks like the Canucks simply can't find anyone willing to take him off their hands. If there aren't any suitors in this offseason I can't imagine the Canucks put themselves through another year of the media nightmare that is the Roberto Luongo contract. We'll just have to wait and see what happens with Luongo. No matter what his critics say Luongo is still an outstanding goalie and deserves a starting job somewhere in the NHL... it is a shame that his contract can't be restructured.
The other two most popular names brought up in amnesty buy-out talks in Vancouver are Keith Ballard and David Booth. Ballard, 30, has two years left on his contract at a cap hit of $4.2 million a year and has not lived up to expectations. Ballard simply hasn't been producing in Vancouver, he hasn't been able to stay healthy, and he certainly isn't worth the cap space he takes up as part of one of the most expensive bluelines in the league.
David Booth has also been a disappointment after coming over from Florida to the Canucks. Booth, 28, has had serious issues staying healthy and simply hasn't produced the way he is getting paid to produce. Booth has two more years left on his deal at $4.25 million a year on the cap. Both Booth and Ballard could potentially be moved in trades but I don't expect teams are going to want to take on the contracts of players who are frequently injured and struggled to produce in Vancouver.
Vancouver is a team that is going to be immensely interesting to watch this upcoming offseason with the coaching change, what happens with Luongo, and which players are going to be discussed as amnesty buy-out candidates. I can't say for sure what is going to happen in Vancouver this offseason (sadly, I have yet to develop psychic powers) but I can almost guarantee that it is going to be interesting and maybe even entertaining.
Both Horcoff and Hemsky have been in the news a lot lately because Oilers GM Craig MacTavish had the following to say about their future in Edmonton:
"Ideal scenario would be to move them on and wish them the best..."
Horcoff takes up a ridiculous $5.5 million of cap space for the next two seasons and is among the most likely players to be bought-out by his team and hit the free agent market this offseason. Horcoff is thirty-four years old and at this point of his career looks like he belongs on the third line and shouldn't be getting paid half of what he is getting paid. Hemsky, on the other hand, is a player with just one more year on his contract at $5 million and still looks like he can contribute offensively... if he can stay healthy. Hemsky still could be moved in a trade but I don't expect him to bring much back considering how frequently he is out of the lineup with injuries and the fact that he is going to be entering his thirties next season. Both Horcoff and Hemsky have potential value for a lot of teams but it will be interesting to see if they are both bought-out by the Oilers and which teams call them up when and if they become free agents.
Stajan has been a huge disappointment since coming over in the Dion Phaneuf trade and has hardly lived up to expectations in Calgary. The Flames have a glut of centers on their team and Stajan has been discussed for quite some time as a likely amnesty buy-out target by Flames blogs all season long. Stajan does have just one more year left on his contract but the Flames are a team that is looking to rebuild and might want to see who they can find in the free agency market with the cap space that Stajan currently takes up ($3.5 million). Stajan isn't the only Flame with a bad contract; Alex Tanguay, Dennis Wideman, and Jiri Hudler could all be in the discussion for being amnesty buy-out targets.
Calgary is a team that simply has too many players who aren't worth the cap space they are taking up. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Flames use both of their amnesty buy-outs to try and free up cap space and further commit to the rebuilding process but I honestly don't know what to expect from them, they will be an interesting team to watch over the next two offseasons.
Who Could be Bought-Out: Jan Hejda
Blueliner Jan Hejda is 35 years old and still has two years left on his contract at $3.25 million a year on the cap. We all know that the Avalanche don't exactly have the money to be escaping contracts by buying their way out of them but if they did I think Jan Hejda's name would be in serious discussion. Another name that has been discussed by some Avalanche fans is David Jones. If Jones has another off year his name could come up next offseason as a potential amnesty buy-out target because he didn't play like he was a $4 million dollar player this past season. Personally, I think the Avalanche are going to exercise some patience with Jones because if he can return to scoring in the 20-30 goal range again he is going to be someone they want to keep around in Colorado. Erik Johnson is another player who had a miserable year last offensively but I also anticipate the Avalanche to be patient with him. I don't see Johnson as a likely buy-out candidate.
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? Do you think anyone will take Luongo in a trade? Have at it in the comments.
Let's go Rangers.
Special Thanks to Emilie from Hockey Wilderness. If you have any interest in reading great hockey coverage of the Minnesota Wild you should be making Hockey Wilderness a place you visit frequently. They do a heck of a good job over there and are always talking about hockey no matter what time of the year it is.