This Friday starts the two-week window where NHL organizations can erase (sort of) their mistakes of years past by initiating buyouts.
How the buyout process works
A player can only be bought out after clearing unconditional waivers. For a player a team wants to buyout, the likelihood of failing to clear is usually small — and in either case, the team is happily rid of the player. If the player has a no-move clause, for example Johnny Boychuk or Andrew Ladd, he can refuse those waivers, which simply means his buyout can take place immediately. He cannot avoid a buyout by any clause in his contract.
Age certainly plays a major factor in deciding whether to buy out a player. If a player is 26 or under, the buyout value is a third of his contract. The Islanders do not have that scenario with their buyout candidates.
For players 26 or older, the buyout value doubles to two-thirds their contract.
Former general manager (still getting use to that) Garth Snow handed out long-term contracts to anyone and everyone during his tenure. Unfortunately, Lou Lamoriello cannot snap his fingers like Thanos and make these contracts disappear.
Fans thinking long and hard about the team buying out certain players have to factor in the lengths of the deals. If a player has four years left on his deal, the buyout length becomes double the contract, eight years in this case.
One added bonus
Signing bonuses are paid to the player regardless of a buyout. Both Ladd and Boychuk have signing bonuses in their contract. In fact, the majority of Ladd’s deal is paid through his signing bonus, something we’ll get into later. The bonus is added to the final cap hit. Garth really panicked with this deal after letting Kyle Okposo walk. (Okposo, incidentally, also received a bonus-laden contract in Buffalo.)
The Athletic lists their top-25 candidates to be bought out. Only one Islander makes the list, Thomas Greiss. It cannot get any worse than last season, right? The German has two years left on his three-year deal at $3.3M per. His buyout is pretty affordable, $1.25M cap hit for the 2018-19 season, but is ultimately safe since he is the only NHL goaltender on the roster.
Many eyebrows were raised when Garth decided to extend the gritty fourth-liner forward for five years. Not sure if the former general manager (feels good saying it) felt teams were going to knock down the then 29-year-old’s door for a multi-year extension.
The buyout itself is not that bad, just under $600K hit on next season’s cap. Clutterbuck rebounded sightly after a disappointing 2016-17 season. The way he plays, Clutterbuck will never play 82 games. The closest, 78 in his age-21 season with the Wild. He came close last season, playing 76 games.
Now is where the fun begins. I certainly did not argue when the team re-signed Boychuk to a seven-year, $42M deal. It was a necessary evil. However, the defenseman missed 52 games since signing that deal. Plus, he’s not getting any younger, turned 34 in June. Like I mentioned above, the signing bonus is where it makes it extremely unlikely that Lamoriello buys him out. Years three and four there is virtually zero relief, six million counts toward the cap, his current cap hit.
Now the virtually impossible. As bad as Andrew Ladd struggled as an Islander, it’s pays to keep him around then not to. The team would only save $666K each of the first five years of the buyout. In effect, the Islanders would be paying $4.83M for Ladd not to be there, I’ll refrain from the low-hanging fruit joke. That being said, it would not surprise me to see Ladd in a Sound Tigers jersey in the near future.
Tomorrow: We’ll revisit this topic, as Dominik makes the case against Islanders buyouts.