There’s nothing quite like someone paying you to go away. Sure, being traded probably hurts and it’s no doubt a blow to your ego when you’re sent to the minors or placed on waivers, but when a team decides that it’s better to just give you money to stop playing for them, that’s gotta hurt.
The good thing is that sometimes these bought out players are able to repair their careers with another organization.
And when we say “repair” we mean “collect an NHL paycheque for a few more years” and then quietly go away.
We’ll start with Darcy Tucker because he’s still being paid by the Leafs despite retiring in October 2010. Tucker was a member of the famed “Muskoka Five” along with Mats Sundin, Bryan McCabe, Pavel Kubina and Tomas Kaberle. The five were all given no-trade clauses and relatively large contracts by former Leafs general manager John Ferguson Jr. When it came time to break up the five, Tucker refused to waive his no trade clause, and in July of 2008 Tucker’s contract was bought out.
He ended up signing a two-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche where he played until he retired. Tucker was paid $2.25 million a year with the Avs, which meant he actually collected more money per season in Colorado thanks to the $1 million he’s raking in from the Leafs until 2014.
Jay McKee signed a four-year, $16 million contract with the St. Louis Blues in 2006. After suffering several injuries during his time with the team, the final year of his contract was bought out. McKee decided that since he was making $1.33 million from St. Louis for the next two years, he could afford to take a pay cut on his next contract. He signed a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins in July 2009 worth $800,000. McKee played one year with the Penguins before leaving the NHL. He has not ruled out a return in the future but we doubt that’s going to happen.
Andrew Raycroft was another Maple Leafs buyout. He was signed to a three-year contract worth an average of $2 million per season in Toronto, but he had the final year of his contract bought out just days after Tucker was cut from the team. Raycroft then signed a one-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche that saw him make $500,000. He then played for the Vancouver Canucks and is currently the back-up goaltender in Dallas.
Last summer Tim Kennedy’s one-year contract worth $1 million was bought out by the Buffalo Sabres. He went on to sign with the New York Rangers where he was paid $550,000. He was later waived by the Rangers and sent to the AHL before being traded to the Florida Panthers. Okay… this isn’t exactly a success story.
However, it is possible for a player who’s had his contract bought out to continue playing in the NHL. Many times it’s not the player’s abilities that are the problem, it’s the contract itself. You’ll see a lot of players take paycuts with a new team after a buyout and that may well happen with the players who were bought out today.
Or they’ll become Alexei Yashin.