Updated 2:08 p.m.: The Capitals placed Jeff Schultz on unconditional waivers Tuesday for the purpose of buying the defenseman out of the final year of his contract.
Schultz, 27, will receive a compliance buyout, which means the $2 million Washington owes him over the next two years will not count against the salary cap. The blue-liner had one year remaining on his four-year, $11 million contract and would have carried a $2.75 million salary cap hit in the 2013-14 season. General Manager George McPhee, who previously stated his dislike of compliance buyouts, declined to comment Tuesday through a team spokesman.
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, teams are permitted two compliance buyouts that can be used either this offseason or next. Assuming Schultz clears waivers and the Capitals are able to buy him out, the team will have one compliance buyout remaining that they can use either before this year’s window closes at 5 p.m. Thursday or next summer.
Buying out Schultz will give Washington a little over $9 million in space under the $64.3 million salary cap. That additional room will provide important flexibility as the Capitals look to re-sign restricted free agents Karl Alzner, Marcus Johansson and perhaps bring in a new player once unrestricted free agency opens at noon on Friday.
Washington’s move to buy out Schultz makes sense from both a salary-cap management and roster perspective. In late May, Schultz made it known that he requested a trade from the Capitals because of a lack of playing time over the past two seasons.
Schultz, who played 399 regular season games for the Capitals through the first seven years of his NHL career, is glad to know he will have the chance at a fresh start.
“It’s nice to have it happen now and I can look to the future,” Schultz said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “I’m excited. I’m excited to move on and restart the game of hockey for me. The last month and a half of the year was tough just practicing all the time not knowing. I’m looking forward to starting over again. I want to get back out there and play.”
The Calgary native’s role in Washington diminished rapidly over the past two years. A 2004 first-round pick, Schultz was a top-four defenseman for the Capitals as recently as the 2010-11 season but he quickly fell out of favor with Dale Hunter the following season. Under Adam Oates in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, he fell down the depth chart and became a consistent healthy scratch. He’s hoping to show once again he deserves a regular place in an NHL lineup.
“It’s hard, you get out of the rhythm of things when you’re not either in the lineup or playing a regular shift,” Schultz said. “I think the biggest thing is just getting back out and playing and trying to get my game back to where it was. It starts with getting on a team, seeing where I fit in and going from there.”
McPhee said last month that he was attempting to accommodate the defenseman’s trade request, but a trade wasn’t in the offing. It makes sense that the Capitals would buy out Schultz rather than use $2.75 million of their salary cap space with a player who had no defined role in the lineup.
“We’ve told our players over the years, if you don’t want to play here we’ll move you,” McPhee said. “It’s that simple. This is a great place to play. Great place to live and work, great fan base. If you don’t want to play here, that’s fine we’ll move you along.”