The last time the National Hockey League endured such a severe interruption of action — and the inevitable economic sucker-punch that goes with it — the general managers were granted a get-out-of-jail-free card. Two of them, in fact.
In the summer that followed the 2012-13 lockout and truncated season, the players and governors agreed that each club would be permitted two compliance buyouts to help free up salary-cap space in the face of a stagnant cap ceiling. These could be used in the summer of 2013 and/or the summer of 2014, as the cap ceiling waited two seasons to resume its upward trajectory.
With aid of this handy buyout tool, a whopping 28 overpaid players were granted early free agency — on the condition they didn’t re-sign with the same team that bought them out within a full calendar year.
Household names like Martin Havlat, Daniel Briere, Brad Richards, Scott Gomez, Tomas Kaberle, Ilya Bryzgalov and Christian Ehrhoff were among those who had to find new employment.
Is there anything more wonderful than a mulligan?
With the 2020-21 cap expected to take a COVID-19 hit, there are rumblings the league may consider implementing a similar option in the near future — with the NHLPA’s blessing, of course.
And while a throwback to the compliance buyout is purely hypothetical at this stage, we found ourselves with enough time on our hands to sift through the rosters and drum up a list of potential candidates.
Here is a breakdown of 11 players who might be considered for an amnesty buyout, and the pros and cons of pulling the trigger on arguably the most uncomfortable tool at a GM’s disposal.
(For all the nitty-gritty details on buyouts and a handy buyout calculator, head over to the excellent CapFriendly.com.)
Loui Eriksson, two years at a $6-million cap hit
In the summer of 2016, Vancouver signed a 30-goal, 63-point stud out of Boston. In four runs as a Canuck, Eriksson has never scored more than 11 goals or 29 points. His slowing feet have also led to an increase in minor penalties and occasional benchings.
That Eriksson’s actual annual salary drops to $4 million in 2020-21 and 2021-22 makes him slightly more tradeable, but the 34-year-old winger is long past his prime — and an exciting Vancouver core is starting to come into its own.
Jim Benning is a spender, and he’s up against it with Roberto Luongo’s cap-recapture penalty and his highest-priced forward under-delivering.
With Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev, Josh Leivo, Tyler Toffoli and Jake Virtanen all heading toward free agency, its arguable that a compliance buyout window could help Vancouver more than any other club.