The NHL was never exactly in favor of the amnesty buyouts, which would allow teams to escape poison contracts (Rick DiPietro, Wade Redden and the like) by buying them out with no penalty against the salary cap. That's in keeping with the League's disdain for cap circumventing contracts, burying players in the AHL and other loophole-ish behavior. Gary Bettman and Co. have been consistent: You sign the deal, you face the consequences.
Hence, Craig Custance of ESPN.com believes that it's the NHLPA that may have anted up amnesty in the negotiations, knowing that a good percentage of owners find the option appealing — especially when they know the cap will be reduced down in Year 2 of the new CBA after the NHL allows teams to exceed it for a season.
The best thing about amnesty being in the conversation is, in fact, the conversation: Every time it comes up, fans start forecasting which players would be jettisoned and digital ink is spilled on the teams that need them most.
Michael Traikos of the National Post did the team-by-team thing on the amnesty clause, which led to some weird leaps in logic (the Dallas Stars signing, and then buying out, Jaromir Jagr) and some absolute guarantees (Scott Gomez, who would be bought out before the ink dried on the CBA by the Montreal Canadiens).
Three of his options struck us as really, really intriguing.
From the National Post:
Buffalo Sabres: Ville Leino
Everyone knew it was a risk when the Sabres signed a winger who had never scored 20 goals to a six-year deal worth US$27-million. After scoring just eight goals and 25 points last season, Leino's play did not calm fears.
This one might seem obvious until you factor in that he was part of Terry Pegula's initial big splash as an owner. Granted, he's a hockey guy and someone that doesn't seem egomaniacal enough to never own up to a mistake. But he's also someone that committed six years to a player and may not seek to define Leino as a mistake after one season and with a $4.5 million cap hit.
Minnesota Wild: Dany Heatley
Now that Zach Parise is on the team, and Mikael Granlund is about to step up, is there a need — or a way — for Minnesota to keep paying Heatley's US$7.5-million salary?
Heatley has the rest of this season and one more at $7.5 million, having posted 53 points in 82 games with the Wild last season. But again, the decision goes beyond the dollars: Heatley's well-liked in the Wild room and helped recruit Ryan Suter to the fold with some sort of Wisconsin hockey voodoo spell.
Is he worth the money? No. Would that lead to a buyout? Potentially, given that players salaries are the chief reason the Wild don't turn a profit said owner Craig Leipold months before committing $196 million to two players.
Philadelphia Flyers: Ilya Bryzgalov
The colourful goalie's US$5.6-million cap hit runs until 2019-20. That is a lot of money to pay for someone to philosophize on the universe.
This is a tough one.
Bryzgalov's contract runs through 2020, but that drop in value after 2018 would seem to indicate that would be his last season in the NHL. Would the Flyers be willing to crank up the goalie carousel again after Ed Snider deemed Bryzgalov as a victory for stability between the pipes?
Bryzgalov performed quite well for a first season in a new city, new system, a blood thirsty fanbase, a crippled and Pronger less defense, and the distractions of HBO. After a rough Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Pittsburgh, Bryz was arguably one of the few bright sports in the Semifinals against New Jersey minus a puck handling gaffe in the last game of the Flyers' season.
Give Bryz another chance this season and if he fails badly Flyers should cut him lose, pending there's amnesty buyouts in the new CBA and find another goalie next offseason.
The timing of the buyouts is an interesting concept; would they have to occur before a shortened season begins or would they be for next summer? Could the Flyers give Bryz another audition and then make the call in June?
Again, not every team is going to go down the amnesty road. The tricky part for the ones that do: Is this decision too short-sighted?
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