Tuesday’s initial buyout period in the NHL ended with three notable names hitting waivers, as San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones, Vancouver Canucks goalie Braden Holtby, and Edmonton Oilers forward James Neal were each waived for the purposes of buying out their contracts. The players will effectively hit the free agent market tomorrow, while their former clubs created some much-needed cap space, albeit at a long-term price.
Each respective team now has a little more wiggle room when the free agency period opens tomorrow, and that’s much needed considering the league is projected to have a flat salary cap for quite some time.
Sharks, Canucks, Oilers Gain Coveted Cap Space
Though the teams will reap the early benefits of more space, they will be paying out for years to come, as highlighted below:
- Jones had three years remaining on a six-year, $34.5 million deal that he signed in July 2017. The Sharks take a cumulative cap hit of $12 million over the next six years, ultimately saving about $5 million collectively.
- Holtby had one year remaining on a two-year, $8.6 million deal that he signed in October 2020. The Canucks take a cumulative cap hit of $2.4 million over the next two seasons, ultimately saving about $1.9 million collectively.
- Neal had two years remaining on a five-year, $28.75 million deal that he signed in July 2018. The Oilers take a cumulative cap hit of $7.66 million over the next four seasons, ultimately saving about $3.8 million collectively.
Though the distribution of the cap space/savings varies season-to-season, San Jose takes the biggest hit, as Jones’ cap hit won’t be off the books until the 2027-28 season gets underway. The largest dent comes in the 2023-24 season, which is about $2.9 million. From there it’s $1.66 million each of the next three seasons before it’s paid off.
Neal’s buyout will hit the cap for the next four seasons at just over $1.91 million per season, while Holtby’s will be off the books in two seasons, after a $500k hit in 2021-22, followed by $1.9 million the following year.
Moving On To Greener Pastures?
All three players will immediately become free agents once the buyouts are completed Wednesday morning, and can sign with any team of their choice. For some, a change of scenery may be just what the doctor ordered.
Jones has a career Goals-Allowed Average (GAA) of 2.60, and a save percentage of .908, though he managed just a 3.28 GAA and .896 save percentage in 34 games last season in San Jose. He has not surpassed a .90 save percentage since he finished .915 in the 2017-18 season.
Neal has 555 career points in 850 games, but recorded just 10 in 29 games last season with the Oilers. This was on the heels of a 31-point season in 2019-20, in just 55 games, so the 33-year-old will likely have an opportunity to continue playing elsewhere.
Holtby, meanwhile, has a career Goals-Allowed Average (GAA) of 2.58, and save percentage of .915, though he played just 21 games for the Canucks this season, compiling a 3.67 GAA and .889 save percentage. The last time he posted a save percentage above .900 was in 2018-19 (.911)
NHL teams still have another opportunity to buy out player contracts, as any team that has one or more arbitration cases filed are permitted to take action outside of the regular window. They have a 48-hour window that starts three days after settling the team’s final arbitration hearing — but for now, it’s on to free agency!
– Contract and Buyout info from capfriendly.com
A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.