Before the window closes on June 30, Ekman-Larsson probably won’t be alone. The buyout is a tool that only fits certain situations, but for teams in need of short-term salary cap relief it can be a useful lever to pull.
For a player to be a candidate he needs to be on a club that needs salary-cap space and can’t have much trade value — even with salary retained. Most of the guys on the list below are on squads that are in their competitive window now, which might be willing to sacrifice future flexibility for immediate-term maneuverability.
Here are a few buyout candidates who could be looking for new jobs in the weeks to come:
2022-23 stats: 26 GP / 3.01 GAA / .903 SV% / -1.1 GSAA
Why the Maple Leafs could consider it: Murray’s work when healthy in 2022-23 was adequate, but he hasn’t posted a season with a positive GSAA since 2018-19 — and his durability is a serious concern.
The Maple Leafs project to have less than $10 million in cap space, but have eight players who held down prominent roles in the postseason hitting unrestricted free agency. Their starting goaltender, Ilya Samsonov, is also a restricted free agent who needs a new deal.
All of that makes the idea of holding onto Murray at a cap hit of around $4.69 million untenable, and the man who brought him in and believed in him — Kyle Dubas — is no longer around.
Toronto wouldn’t be thrilled by the idea of putting $2 million in dead money towards its 2024-25 cap, but it might be worth it for the team to bolster its 2023-24 roster. In some offseasons there might have been a chance of offloading Murray with salary retained, but the goaltender trade market is hot with names like Connor Hellebuyck and Josh Gibson in the mix. There are also plenty of options in free agency.
2022-23 stats: 58 GP / 10 G / 15 A / 25 P / 52.8% CF
Why the Oilers could consider it: Yamamoto is a victim of circumstance in that his age makes his buyout significantly cheaper than it would be otherwise, and Edmonton has one of the least flexible rosters in the NHL.
While the 24-year-old would garner some trade interest, his production has not impressed despite the fact he’s played with elite offensive linemates at times with the Oilers.
A team acquiring Yamamoto would likely ask for the Oilers to retain more than this buyout would cost in 2023-24, making it easier for the Oilers to get rid of him this way. It wouldn’t create a massive amount of savings, but a team with just over $5 million in projected cap space needs all the breathing room it can get.
2022-23 stats: 27 GP / 2.87 GAA / .894 SV% / -7.1 GSAA
Why the Flames could consider it: Making this move wouldn’t make a profound difference for Calgary, but a Flames team with a projected $1.25 million in cap space needs to think creatively.
Vladar has not done anything to suggest he’s more than a replacement-level backup since joining the Flames, and Jacob Markström is clearly the top dog despite a rough 2022-23.
If the Flames don’t believe Vladar is on the verge of taking a step forward, they can grab nearly $2 million in savings in each of the next two years, sign an extremely cheap veteran backup to keep some of that space open, and face minimal consequences in the years to come.
It wouldn’t be the best look considering the team traded a third-round pick for Vladar less than two years ago, but new Flames GM Craig Conroy wouldn’t feel beholden to that move.
2022-23 stats: 64 GP / 8 G / 17 A / 25 P / 48.2% CF
Why the Islanders could consider it: Bailey has been a significant figure in Islanders history, but the team is unlikely to have much of an appetite for paying the player — one who was often healthy scratched down the stretch last season — a healthy $5 million.
It’s possible that New York could find a taker for Bailey with salary retained, but it might be a tough sell as he’s coming off a rough season and seems to be slowing down with age. The Islanders project to have just over $5 million in cap space in 2023-24, but that number eclipses $24 million in 2024-45.
That means borrowing some flexibility from the future to help pay for next season’s squad makes sense for this team.
2022-23 stats: 10 GP / 0 G / 1 A / 1 P / 52.9% CF
Why the Bruins could consider it: Having a bottom-pairing defenceman making $3 million doesn’t make sense for a Bruins team facing a cap crunch.
Boston has plenty of money coming off the books after 2023-24, and a $1.3 million dead-money hit should be manageable. Meanwhile, a team incurring the NHL’s biggest performance-bonus overage ($4.5 million) needs help to bolster a win-now 2023-24 roster.
It’s hard to envision Reilly having much value around the league after Boston buried him in the minors for most of 2022-23, especially considering he’s a left-shot defender without any standout physical attributes.
2022-23 stats: 43 GP / 7 G / 7 A / 14 P / 45.4% CF
Why the Canadiens could consider it: Pushing dead-cap hits into the future may not seem intuitive for a Canadiens team with a competitive window that has yet to open, but it’s tough to pay $3.4 million for a forward who’s posted just 14 points in three consecutive seasons.
Armia’s inability to remain healthy and productive for an extended period of time is hurting the Canadiens, who project to have just $725K in cap room for 2023-24 as it stands.
There’s an argument to be made that Montreal could hold onto Armia and try to rehabilitate his value — or buy him out a season later — but if the team wants to find any kind of external help over the next two years it needs to explore moves like this.
Source: Yahoo Sports