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Two amnesty buyouts lets dumb NHL teams off easy (Trending Topics)

Ryan Lambert
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Trending Topics is a column that looks at the week in hockey, occasionally according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear internet instead?

So Thursday morning, news broke that instead of the now-traditional single "compliance" buyout that would allow teams to get closer to the new, significantly lowered salary cap that will go into effect next season, the NHL will instead allow there to be two buyouts before the 2013-14 season.

Man, what a terrible idea.

While we all had a lot of fun sitting there and thinking about just which terrible contracts teams would buy out — Vinny Lecavalier? Roberto Luongo? Rick DiPietro? Ville Leino? — there was a limit to the amount of speculation. These teams were only allowed one such transaction; and depending upon the person would have to pay them either one- or two-thirds of their remaining salary as a lump sum. What's interesting is that there was generally a consensus that there probably wouldn't be too many of these moves on those major, laughably bad deals.

For one thing, when it comes to guys like DiPietro and Lecavalier, you gotta wonder how much their teams, which reportedly aren't doing especially well financially, are actually willing to spend $27 million apiece on these guys. That's a lot of money to splash around, and while the obvious upshot of this on Lecavalier's deal, is that it gets you out from under having to cut him $30 million worth of checks over the next three seasons alone, when his salary rises to an absurd $10 million a year.

Thinking about it, I didn't really believe there'd be much of a desire on the part of most teams to use their amnesty buyouts if they were limited to just one. Guys like Scott Gomez, Wade Redden and Mike Komisarek, who all have a year left on their bad deals, seem like obvious sacrificial lambs for their rich-as-Midas teams; but now, with two buyouts, things get more interesting, but not necessarily better.

There's been a lot of talk, for example, of teams like the Leafs or Habs taking on big contracts from other teams for the express purpose of buying them out and getting a little extra compensation — picks, prospects, or cheap established players — from the teams getting rid of those deals. Idle Internet speculation though it may be, it was pretty hard to see them doing something like that with one buyout to their names. Again, they had their own problems to deal with, before they even thought about taking on someone else's.

Now, with two bullets instead of one, that becomes very feasible indeed.

If the Leafs, for example, buy out Komisarek and still talk to Tampa about taking on Lecavalier's deal for the express purpose of doing the same with him, then why wouldn't they do it? The same goes for Montreal and Gomez, then DiPietro, or however you want to slice it.

The problem with this is that while the provision is almost certainly designed to get teams who gave bad contracts to not-so-good players out from under the thumb of their cap hits, it does exactly that to a now-unfortunate extent. The number of teams that had to get cap-compliant before, in an effort to squeeze under the $60-million limbo bar (or whatever the ceiling ends up being at the end of these negotiations) wasn't all that big, but now some others might be willing to say "screw it" and '86' some troublesome contracts they otherwise wouldn't have put too much thought into.

Yeah, it costs them a good amount of cash bit up front, but it also saves money and gives them added flexibility down the road.

The thing is, with one amnesty buyout, even if it's for a player with one year remaining on his deal, a team might consider that it's only one year and find other ways to get cap-compliant — which would certainly be helped by the fact that player salaries will be rolled back somewhat artificially.

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(Let's just say the cap is $60 million, down from the current $70.2 million: That's a 14.5 percent drop, and you can expect similar downward movement in most players salaries to go with it. On what would have been, say, a $5 million deal under the old lockout, that drops to less than $4.3 for the same player.)

But with two, that gives you something to think about. That can make a very serious dent in your cap number and allow you to get rid of a not-great Jay Bouwmeester deal in addition to that Matt Stajan buyout you were mulling over, and that you otherwise might not have.

What really intrigues me, though, are guys who are useful players on big-money, long-term deals.

For example, if I'm Chicago, I really kick around the idea of buying out Marian Hossa for like $21 million instead of paying him slightly more than that for the next three seasons. Same for Johan Franzen. Same for Christian Ehrhoff. The idea that you could get something for those guys from another team is dampened considerably by the fact that no one's going to want to take on their deals with the cap coming down.

The good thing about those deals being in place is that it punishes teams, in a way, for giving out bad contracts. They were so eager to give out the money and the term that they didn't stop to consider whether it was actually a good idea to sign a 31-year-old guy to an 11-year-deal (it wasn't). Now they're being let off the hook in a big way, and in fact, it screws the players because that buyout money comes out of their share of hockey-related revenues, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Teams can make problem contracts just go away in relatively short order, and I can't see why they wouldn't jump all over the opportunity now.

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