One of the wrinkles in the new collective bargaining agreement that should make for an even more interesting offseason across the NHL is the use of compliance buyouts – buyouts that don’t count against the salary cap.
Beginning 48 hours after the Stanley Cup final ended Monday night to 5 p.m. on July 4, general managers can use none, one or both of the two compliance buyouts at their disposal.
Unsurprisingly, General Manager George McPhee didn’t tip his hand when asked if he expected to use a compliance buyout this offseason but added that he was scheduled to meet with Capitals ownership about it Monday.
“I don’t know,” McPhee said Monday. “Ownership can view it different ways…Some owners don’t like it. Some owners say, ‘Boy this is a weapon let’s use it, let’s buy this guy out and use this money to go get someone else.’ People view it in different ways.”
While compliance buyouts won’t count against the salary cap, teams will still be paying a player while they’re playing elsewhere. That can be a tough sell for some organizations.
But the ability for a mulligan on any regrettable long-term, over-valued contracts or poorly-structured deals, will be too good for some teams to pass up. It’s also why McPhee isn’t fond of compliance buyouts.
“I wish we didn’t have them,” McPhee said. “I think in a lot of cases teams have done real bad deals or cheated a little bit and shouldn’t be able to get out of them. Because we haven’t done a lot of bad deals here, we haven’t cheated on contracts we haven’t had the back-diving deals. We never did that, didn’t think it was the right way to do business. But other teams did and they’ll get out of it, but that’s life.”
Some teams’ plans are already known. Philadelphia will buy out Danny Briere, who was slated to earn $5 million over the final two years of his contract but had an annual salary cap hit of $6.5 million and Montreal will buy out Tomas Kaberle, who was slated to make $4.5 million ($4.25 million cap hit) in the final year of his contract.
If the Capitals opt to use a compliance buyout this offseason, Jeff Schultz is a likely candidate. Schultz, seldom used over the past two seasons, recently asked to be traded and McPhee said Monday that he is trying to accommodate that request. Should McPhee not be able to move Schultz, though, buying him out would free up another $2.75 million in space under the salary cap.
As things stand, Washington has a little more than $58 million committed to 19 players for next season. The Capitals have roughly $6.2 million under next year’s $64.3 million salary cap to sign restricted free agents Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson in addition to any other offseason roster moves McPhee might make. While the Capitals aren’t desperate to shed salary like some teams, they could use the flexibility that comes with a little more wiggle room under the cap.
A few notes about compliance buyouts
- Teams are permitted two compliance buyouts that can be used either this offseason or next.
- Players who have received a compliance buyout are prohibited from rejoining the team that bought them out for the next full season.
- Injured players cannot be bought out.