So, under the new CBA the cap is coming down next season to around $64 million from about $71 mil. Which means certain teams will be in serious cap trouble after this season. To give everyone a little breathing room each team was granted 2 amnesty buyouts which do not count towards the salary cap. They can be used 1-time only this summer. Montreal and New York will only have the option to buy out 1 player each since they were granted a chance to buyout Redden and Gomez already.
So here are some contracts of players who could be buyout candidates. Remember, not every team will necessarily use both, or even one of their buyouts, but here are some of the more likely buyout candidates who could become UFA's this summer:
Shawn Horcoff, Edmonton - The Oilers have Horcoff under contract for two more years, at a $5.5 million cap hit. That's way too high for a guy who plays 3rd line centre and special teams. He is the Oilers captain, but they have to factor in Hall and Eberle's $6 million contract extensions kicking in next year, plus having to give a raise to Sam Gagner who goes RFA this summer. On the flip side, Whitney is a UFA, and so is Khabibulin so they save cap space there, but will have to replace (or re-sign) both players, and have to pay for that. Then you figure Yakupov and the Nuge will have to get payed in a couple years and it just seems to make sense for the Oilers to buyout their captain.
Mike Komisarek, Toronto - $4.5 million cap hit for next season, or he could be bought out for a measly $2.3 million and free up the cap space. The only other candidate in Toronto might be 32 year old John-Michael Liles who carries a $3.9 million cap hit for the next 3 seasons.
Scotty Upshall, Florida - Two years left and $3.5 million per season for a solid 3rd line grinder is way too rich.
Ilya Bryzgalov, Flyers - What a nightmare it would be to buy him out just two years into his monster 9-year deal. But The Flyers are also a team pushing the salary cap limits and will need to shed. Of course with Timonen's $6.3 million cap hit coming off the books, and Pronger on LTIR not counting against the cap, they might be able to squeak by. Having said that, if the Flyers have an underwhelming season it would be very Ed Snider/Paul Holmgren-esque to do something big like buyout Bryzgalov and then make a splash elsewhere. Buying out Bryz would cost $22 million over 14 years.
Ville Leino, Buffalo - After playing really well for the Flyers, Leino cashed in on a 6-year, front loaded deal with the Sabres. Things haven't gone well for Leino in Buffalo at all, and he hasn't lived up to that contract. After this season he's owed $15 million over the next 4 years, and carries a cap hit of $4.5 million. Which is money the Sabres could use. Of course it would cost them about $10 million, spread out over the next 8 years to buy him out, but that money would not go against the cap, and Sabres owner Terry Pegula seems like he won't mind spending.
Mike Cammalleri, Calgary - He has 1 year and $7 million left owed to him. Of course the Flames could get rid of his $6 million cap hit for next year by paying him around $1.2 million in each of the next two years. Might make sense for them, depending on how the season goes and what happens with Iginla (pending UFA).
The Rangers situation - They don't have any big contracts worth buying out (Nash, Gaborik, Lundqvist, Richards, Callahan), and they won't be interested in buying out one of their high end defence men like Staal, Girardi, or Del Zotto, who are all core pieces. Plus they have to re-sign Ryan McDonaugh who will get a healthy raise from the $1.3 million he's earning now. So how to shed the necessary $6 million it would roughly take to get New York under the cap? Back up goalie Marty Biron's $1.3 million could be expendable, but even if he's replaced by a backup earning league min, that only shaves off about half a million. Everyone else on the team earns between $1-2 million pretty much, so it will be interesting to see how Sather gets this team under the cap. Your guess is as good as mine here.
Rostislav Olesz, Chicago - Injured players can't be bought out, but if he's off IR you can bet the Blackhawks will buyout the final year of Olesz's contract. The grinder is owed over $4 million and taking his $3.1 million cap hit off the books will be huge for Chicago to get under the cap with all the high payed stars occupying most of the Hawks' cap space. Johnny Oduya and Steve Montador both carry contracts in around $3 million, each with 2-years remaining, so the Hawks may be in a position where they have to choose to keep one or the other and use both their buyouts to stay under the cap.
Mike Samuelsson, Detroit - I doubt they buy him out of the 2nd year of his deal. But he's owed $3 million next year and the Red Wings might be in a position where they want the additional cap space. Samuelsson, and Jonathan Ericsson are the two expendable players on the team who make a decent enough amount of money, so if the Wings were so inclined, these players would be the most likely options.
David Booth, Vancouver - He's a good player when healthy, but he's always hurt and Vancouver needs to clear up some cap room. Aside from moving Luongo, they might consider ditching Booth's $4.2 million cap hit.
Mike Green, Washington - If they don't feel like they're getting full value from him, the Caps could definitely look at buying out the final two years of Mike Green's contract. His cap hit is $6 million and he's playing like a $3-4 million player at best. It's no slam dunk that he'll be bought out by any means, I actually doubt it, but he's been under performing for a few seasons now, so he could be on a short leash with management.
Montreal Canadians situation - They are basically a cap team right now, with all of their big money players under contract for next year. For them to get under the cap they may have to bight the bullet and buyout their captain, Brian Gionta, who earns $5 million next season. They'll have to shave some salary somewhere it makes more sense to buyout a 34 year old who hasn't scored a lot of goals in a couple years, over some of the younger players who earn decent coin in Montreal. Veteran blue liners Andrei Markov ($5.75 mil cap hit) and Tomas Kaberle ($4.25 mil cap hit) each have 1 year remaining on their deals, and buying out one of them along with Gionta should be enough to keep the habs cap compliant. Markov seems to be healthy and is playing well so far this year, so it may be Kaberle who is the cap casualty in Montreal.
Paul Martin, Pittsburgh - 2 years left at $5 million a season is a little steep for the Pens, and they could use the cap breathing room. Another option in Pittsburgh could be to trade Marc-Andre Fleury. A little crazy maybe, but they could free up cap space and grab something useful back. Plus they have Vokoun in net there and he's looking good.
Rick Dipietro, Islanders - Of course Rick signed that huge 15-year deal and hasn't been healthy for a whole year since he signed. That's the way it goes on the Island, and this could be their chance to get rid of that contract. It would be costly though. After this season he will be 7 years into his contract with 8 years remaining. He'll be owed $24 million if he's bought out ($1.5 million a year for the next 16 years). Pretty steep price to be paying a guy not to play for you. Of course the Islanders are still paying Yashin $2.2 million a year for the next two years, as they have been for the last 3 years to play in Russia, so Wang might pony up for Rick as well.
Vinny Lecavalier, Lightning - Might seem a bit extreme, and I think he has some trade value but he's an interesting one to look at. Vinny is 33, has 7 years left on his contract and a cap hit of $7.7 million. That cap hit will only look uglier in 3 or 4 years and this is the one opportunity to dump him without cap penalty. Having said that he does offer some value to the team. I doubt he'll be bought out, but its an interesting one to look. It would cost Tampa ownership close to $24 million to buyout Vinny, payed out over the course of the next 14 years. So that would be about a mil and a half a year for the next while. Which might be more palatable than the $10 million in actual dollars he's due to earn in each of the next three seasons of his deal.
So anyway's here are a handful of guys who could be added to the free agent list this summer. Also, unlike other summers I predict that there will not be as many re-signings prior to July 1st, with the cap coming down and so many teams lacking space. I think the opportunity for weaker teams with cap space to pounce is this summer when the lower cap could force good players to leave good teams such as New York or Vancouver.