With the Stanley Cup Finals complete, the NHL’s compliance buyout window will officially open on Monday and run through June 30.
As a refresher, following the 2012-13 NHL lockout, teams were granted up to two compliance buyouts to be used during the 2013 and 2014 off-seasons.
The compliance buyout allows teams to terminate contracts (provided they were signed before Sept. 15, 2012) and not have them count against the salary cap.
The player who has his contract bought out is paid two-thirds of his remaining salary (provided he is at least 26-years-old) over twice its remaining length. The player also becomes an unrestricted free agent and is free to sign with any of the 29 other teams.
Only four teams – the Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs- have already maxed out and exercised their two compliance buyouts, while ten other teams have used one.
The Capitals have one compliance buyout remaining, after using one last summer to part ways with defenseman Jeff Schultz (who eventually signed with the Los Angeles Kings and raised the Stanley Cup on Friday in L.A.).
Among the high-profile candidates to have their contracts bought out are Brad Richards of the New York Rangers, Mike Richards of the Kings and Ville Leino of the Buffalo Sabres.
According to the New York Post, “it is close to inevitable” that the Rangers will use their final compliance buyout on Brad Richards, who has an annual $6.67 million salary cap hit through the 2019-20 season.
Richards, 34, had 20 goals and 51 points in 82 games this season, but was relegated to fourth line duty during the Stanley Cup Finals. It marked the second straight postseason in which the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner played limited minutes in a fourth line role (Richards was also a healthy scratch for two games during the 2013 playoffs).
Mike Richards is another buyout possibility, as the Kings may look to unload his salary in an effort to re-sign unrestricted free agent Marian Gaborik. Richards has six years remaining on the 12-year, $69 million deal he originally signed with the Flyers in 2008. A Richards buyout would cost the Kings $19.33 million over the next 12 years, according to www.capgeek.com.
Richards had 11 goals and 41 points in 82 games during the regular-season, before chipping in with three goals and 10 points in 26 playoff games. With Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar playing top-six minutes for L.A., Richards has essentially been relegated to a very well-paid third or fourth liner.
Ville Leino has failed to live up to expectations since signing a six-year $27 million deal with the Sabres in 2011 and General Manager Tim Murray told WGR Radio in Buffalo last week that “there’s a strong possibility” that they’ll buy out the remaining three years on Leino’s deal.
Leino has been held to two goals and 21 points in 66 games combined over the past two seasons and has a salary cap hit of $4.5 million for each of the next three seasons.