The Islanders acquired Alexei Yashin at the 2001 Draft. Fourteen years later, they have stopped paying him.
The Blackhawks's victory in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final puts an official end to the 2014-15 NHL season, which was the final year of Yashin's buyout. The Islanders made the decision in 2007 to cut loose their captain, and had been paying him between $2.2 and $4.7 million annually ever since.
For a few years, Yashin's buyout made him one of the team's highest paid players, despite the fact that he wasn't actually playing for them.
The hindsight on the trade that brought Yashin to Long Island from Ottawa is beyond 20/20 at this point. Yashin was a premier player at the time of the deal, and combined with Michael Peca - who was also acquired at that same 2001 draft - he gave the Islanders a depth at center they had not had in over a decade. Yashin scored 119 goals and 171 assists (290 points) in 346 games as an Islander, but never led the team beyond the first round of the playoffs.
All he cost them was grinding forward Bill Muckalt. Oh, and a first round pick that ended up becoming All Star Jason Spezza. Oh, and some raw, hulking defensive prospect named Zdeno Chara that went on to... smash.
Chara and Muckalt would also seem to be major considerations for Ottawa in the deal. Chara, a 24-year-old Slovak, is the tallest player ever to lace up skates in the NHL and looms at close to seven feet in those skates. Being an enthusiastic hitter only adds to his intimidating presence.
Chara scored twice and added seven assists and 157 penalty minutes last season.
(Bonus Mike Milbury Quote: on the holdout and bad blood that drove the Senators to trade Yashin: "Mother Theresa would have a bad reputation in Ottawa.")
Upon his arrival, Yashin signed a 10-year, $87.5-million contract with the Islanders, at that time the fattest deal in NHL history. It was so unprecedented that the team almost couldn't get it insured without some creative measures.
"There was some funky stuff in there that had to be done, but we were able to secure insurance for the length of the contract," Milbury said. "We had to do a few things and Alexei and (agent) Mark (Gandler) had to do a few things and we all agreed to do so."
I'm no NHL general manager, but if something required me to go to great lengths to get it insured financially, I might think twice about whether or not it was worth doing at all.
The deal was meant to reflect a new era in Islanders history, one of spending money and building a lasting foundation. But Yashin's play - skilled as it was - never justified an almost $8 million a year price tag and seemed to cause more problems than he could solve on the ice. The ascendance of the Chara, Spezza and the Senators made things even look even worse. (Ottawa eventually letting both Chara, then Spezza walk via free agency doesn't really salve any wounds, either).
The End and Beyond
After six years, three coaches, two general managers, four fruitless trips to the playoffs, one wrist laceration that cost him almost an entire season and some locker room strife (perhaps stemming from his supplanting Peca as captain), the Islanders officially bought out Yashin's contract on June 6, 2007.
"I believe this is in the best interests of the team and player. ... " Nolan said. "Alexei will have the opportunity to pursue a fresh start and we'll look at options to fill his position."
Despite almost annual reports of his fishing for a deal, Yashin was not signed by any other NHL clubs after his buyout. He played for a while in the KHL, was named general manager of the Russian Women's National Hockey Team, randomly popped up at Islanders practices and generally spent time with his partner, model Carol Alt.
Yashin was a very good player at a time when the Islanders desperately needed some. He was paid too much too soon and the interest on the cost to acquire him ballooned to an astronomical amount as time went on. With the team in a better place now than it was when he left, a card with an extra couple of million bucks in cap space in it makes for a lovely parting gift.
Rick DiPietro's buyout comes off the books in