The lockout is just about over with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement on the verge of ratification. And with this new CBA, we have compliance buyouts in order to get those big-market teams under the cap and some of those terrible contracts off the books. If you aren’t familiar with how a compliance buyout works, then head on over to the THW flagship site where Overtime founder Mike Colligan breaks it down in layman’s terms.
Now that you’re fully familiar with the subject matter, here are the ‘Top 10 Players Likely to Receive a NHL Compliance Buyout’.
Just missed the cut: Scottie Upshall, Derek Morris, Paul Martin, Jeff Schultz, Ville Leino
10. Michael Frolik, Forward, Chicago Blackhawks
As a player born in Kladno, Czech Republic, there was only one common comparison in Frolik’s draft year: Jaromir Jagr. Yet, under lofty expectations, the former 10th-overall pick burst onto the scene with consecutive 20-goal campaigns on some pretty mediocre Florida Panthers teams. So when Cats GM Dale Tallon decided to trade the then -slumping 22-year-old a year later, it seemed like a perfect match– the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks needed help up front after their infamous cap purge, and Frolik simply oozed with potential.
Fast forward two years and Tallon looks pretty darn intelligent. Frolik struggled last season, totaling only five goals in 63 games after scoring only three in 28 in 2011. For those keeping score at home, that’s eight total markers over 91 regular season contests. And he was traded because he only scored eight over his final 52 games in South Florida.
After this season, Frolik will carry a $2.33 million cap hit while only making $1.9 million in real dollars, yet it’s hard to argue his worth in either terms. In his age 25 season, Frolik could rebound, or he might not. The Blackhawks have enough top-six forwards on the roster and pipeline to make him an expensive luxury up front; plus he probably won’t get the minutes he needs to thrive in this league. If GM Stan Bowman doesn’t ship him out of town to save cap space, expect him to get a pink slip during the following offseason in order to make room for a player who actually fits a third or fourth-line role.
9. Eric Belanger, Forward, Edmonton Oilers
When the Edmonton Oilers signed the veteran Belanger, they likely had hopes he would solidify their bottom-six forwards. The journeyman pivot had been put in nearly every situation over his 10-year career and seemed like a nice piece to offset their incredibly talented but raw forward core. Nevertheless, the pact between Belanger and the Oilers never seemed to jell.
Despite scoring double-digit goals while adding acceptable two-way play over his previous eight years, Belanger struggled on both sides of the puck, knocking in a career-low four goals. And when the team is fully healthy, he often found himself as the fourth center on the depth chart. To no one’s surprise, the Sherbrooke, Quebec native was rumored to request a trade following the season.
Can the Oilers get something for a 35-year-old checking-line center on the decline? He’s set to make only $1.2 million in actual dollars but carries a hefty $1.75 million cap hit– a number that seems a bit high when the Oilers have RFAs like Sam Gagner, Theo Peckham, and Magnus Paajarvi to worry about following the shortened season.
8. Keith Ballard, Defenseman, Vancouver Canucks
During the 2010 NHL Draft, the Vancouver Canucks took a giant step towards contention by trading a haul for Keith Ballard. The former University of Minnesota captain made strides in his time with the Florida Panthers, establishing himself as a hard-nosed, two-way defenseman, capable of clearing the crease and taking out anyone in his path (including his own goalie).
In Florida he was a top-pairing d-man, but he was expected to settle into Vancouver somewhere under Alexander Edler and Kevin Bieksa. In Vancouver, he’s struggled to stay on the ice and lost most of his offensive flair– Ballard has totaled only 14 points through 102 regular season games with the ‘Nucks following 28 points over his last 82 with the Panthers. He also played in all 82 regular season games through four of his first five NHL seasons, but hasn’t eclipsed 70 in either year in Vancouver.
Following this season, the Canucks will vehemently try to keep the aforementioned Edler in blue and green, which will take up valuable cap space. Barring a miraculous comeback, Ballard’s $4.2 million through 2015 is a no-brainer to get bought out.
7. Matt Stajan, Forward, Calgary Flames
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Matt Stajan has been downright terrible since joining the Calgary Flames. When asked, Kent Wilson of Flames Nation had this to say on the matter:
The Flames don’t have any pressing cap concerns going into next season and even if they are to exercise a buy-out, it’s more than likely they’ll use it on Matt Stajan, who has been a disaster in Calgary.
The Flames would probably like to erase every part of the Dion Phaneuf blockbuster, and Stajan’s exodus would do just that. After this season, he is set to make a hefty, and unnecessary, $3.5 million in real and cap dollars. Cut.
6. Mike Komisarek, Defenseman, Toronto Maple Leafs
If Komisarek played for anyone outside of Bryan Burke, then chances are he would have been shipped out of Toronto a year ago. But Burke loves him some American-born players, and more importantly some truculence.
Regardless, if Komisarek has another year like last year — where literally every advanced metric says he stinks — then he might not get to play his fourth season in blue and white. At 6’4″, he remains a bruising defender, but one who continues to decline and adds close to nothing on the offensive side of the puck.
Komisarek remains one of Burke’s guys, but should the Leafs endure another losing season, chances are some of these mistakes will need to be amended. At $4.5 million a season, most blue lines can do better for their money.
5. Shawn Horcoff, Forward, Edmonton Oilers
Oh no! Two Oilers on this list? Well, to be fair, this buyout would hypothetically take place during the second buyout window in the 2014-2015 offseason, eliminating his final year in blue and gold (Ed. note: should read copper).
As the team captain, Horcoff has served a mentor to the young core of players. He’s been a valuable supplementary player, but his salary is in no way justified. When inked, Horcoff was the first-line center of a team that just made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. He looked like one of the better playmakers in the league, with a bright future. And years later, the vision is still there, but the skills-set declined substantially.
Buying out his final year of $5.5 million cap hit would free up space to re-sign RFAs Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz, both of who, I’m willing to bet, sign extensions well before their entry-level deals expire. Out with the old guard, in with the new.
4. Scott Gomez, Forward, Montreal Canadiens
The most obvious pick to THW head honcho Bruce Hollindrake and anyone living in Montreal, Scott Gomez should get a compliance buyout the day they become available. The love/hate relationship between Gomez and the fans (mostly hate) would then come to a much-needed end as he would then pass the baton to the team’s next whipping boy.
Before last season, Gomez’s worth was somewhat arguable. He slumped at times but also helped the Canadiens make the playoffs and advance to an unlikely appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals. Gomez also looked like one of the better playmakers in the league before last year, honing his keen eye for threading the needle. But a 25-game goal-less drought that saw him notch his first tally on February 9th, placed him into the blogosphere’s folklore as a player much worse than his skills actually showed.
Whether the hatred for Gomez is warranted or unwarranted, his $7.36 million cap hit is way more than anyone should pay for a second/third line center. Furthermore, the only reason why he’s low on this list is because the other three guys can’t even take a regular shift in the league.
3. Rostislav Olesz, Forward, Chicago Blackhawks
That’s how long it took for the Chicago Blackhawks to demote Olesz to the AHL and forget about him. Over that span he took six shots on net, three minor penalties, registered seven hits and blocked a shot. In other words, he wasn’t remotely memorable, and the ‘Hawks clearly felt he wasn’t an NHL player.
Down in the AHL, Olesz played well enough for a 27-year-old, scoring 17 goals and 41 points in 50 games. But it’s hard to believe his $3.125 million cap hit won’t be bought out for the cap-fluxed Blackhawks as they continue to revamp their lineup. Maybe he catches on as a plug for another club, or as every Eastern European is predicted to do: goes to the KHL.
2. Wade Redden, Defenseman, New York Rangers
What are the New York Rangers supposed to do with Wade Redden?
Demoted two years ago, Redden hasn’t remotely been a part of the team’s plans, spending the last 119 games with the Connecticut Whale of the AHL. To his credit, the veteran has proven to be a positive influence to the youngsters down on the farm, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s taking up $6.5 million a year in cap space.
Expect the Rangers to get rid of him as soon as physically possible.
1. Rick DiPietro, Goalie, New York Islanders
The only thing standing in the way of a DiPietro buyout is the collective pride of Garth Snow and Charles Wang. Well that, or the fact that he might not make it through this season in order to get bought out in the offseason.
If applicable, DiPi has the worst contract in hockey and is the best candidate to receive a complaince buyout. For those keeping score at home, his $4.5 million cap hit is on the books through 2021!
**All images courtesy of US Presswire**