Back in September I took a look at the notion of an amnesty clause in the NHL. The NBA adopted one with a fair amount of success and now — aren’t I clever? — it appears that the NHL will in fact have two (TWO!) under the framework of this new CBA.
The details are somewhat vague at this point, but it appears that each team will be granted two amnesty clauses. One in 2013 and one for 2013-14. You get a delete button two years in a row, free to use.
The system is one that has many interesting implications. Those of you who read the first iteration of this list will recall that many teams don’t really have any current use for this clause. Tight budget teams like Phoenix, Winnipeg or Ottawa don’t really have a clear use for the clause.
The flipside to that is they are automatically much more attractive trading partners. Teams with an excess of bad deals could be forced to throw in valuable picks and prospects to these much more stable franchises after their amnesty clauses have been used up. It could be possible that players need to be on the books today to be eligible for an amnesty clause, but it is unclear at this time.
Roster flexibility is an incredibly valuable asset to have. It would be nice to think that GMs have learned that from the last era of NHL contracts.
As such, let’s take a look at who we could see on the free agent list in a matter of days.
Anaheim Ducks They fall under the heading of teams that don’t need to amnesty anyone. Their long term deals were all signed immediately after last season and going back on them wouldn’t qualify as best practices for running an NHL team. They are very much a buyer during this period.
Boston Bruins Marc Savard is, unfortunately the obvious choice during this amnesty period. His playing career, by his own admission, likely won’t be salvaged at this point, and he is still under contract for another four seasons.
That being said, given Tim Thomas’ current playing situation — as in, he’s not going to — it makes more sense for the Bruins to amnesty Thomas and his larger cap hit in 2013, and getting to Savard in 2013-2014.
Buffalo Sabres It isn’t a ringing endorsement of their 2012 offseason, but the Sabres number one amnesty target has to be Ville Leino who was a massive disappointment in year one. As a guy signed through 2017 who has shown nothing in your uniform to this point, Leino should feel vulnerable.
A year from now? It could be their other big acquisition, Christian Ehrhoff. Ehrhoff had a middling 2011-12 and left much to be desired. He will be 31 in July and another mediocre year won’t make that contract look any better.
Calgary Flames Matt Stajan is the much-maligned name on Calgary’s roster who could do with a change of scenery. His deal is obviously down to its final two years, but the sooner the Flames sever that tie, the better for both parties.
In a year, take your pick. Contracts they’ve given out to Alex Tanguay, Jiri Hudler and Dennis Wideman which raised eyebrows at the time will look even worse under a constrained cap.
Carolina Hurricanes Tuomo Ruutu is a serviceable player, but given his current injury status and lengthy contract, he is an obvious amnesty option for the Zombie Whalers. He isn’t expected to be available until April and hip injuries aren’t the easiest recovery.
Beyond Ruutu it’s tough to find a target as their big contracts are tied to the team’s identity. The Staal brothers, Jeff Skinner, Tim Gleason and Cam Ward have all been identified as franchise pieces. I can’t imagine a scenario where one gets amnestied.
Chicago Blackhawks Marian Hossa is signed into the next decade at a cap hit of over $5 million. He’s still an elite scorer but that tag at his age is too much to justify for most franchises.
Rostislav Olesz won’t be able to hide in the AHL anymore and at a hit of $3.125 million for almost literally nothing, he may be a more prudent use of the amnesty clause in 2013. Get another solid year out of Hossa first.
Colorado Avalance The Avs have an obscene amount of cap space ($16 million) which renders the clause largely useless. I suggested David Jones as a potential candidate in the first version of this given his prolific injury concerns, but when you’re this far away from the ceiling it really doesn’t matter.
Columbus Blue Jackets Columbus is also in double digit cap space which is a great luxury to have. That being said, James Wisniewski is owed $5.5 million through 2017 which is a lot of money. Similarly, as someone who isn’t on the Jack Johnson bandwagon, I can safely say I don’t like his $4.3 million commitment through 2018. However, he is in the running to be captain so it’s unlikely he evaporates.
Had Ryan Murray been available this season, one of those defensemen would have been a much more palatable amnesty option than they are currently. If you can amnesty a buyout, making the memory of Mike Commodore go away would be a good thing.
Dallas Stars I made it clear that I wasn’t a fan of the extension they gave Kari Lethonen — $30 million over six years for a horrifically injury prone goalie is a nightmare — however, he isn’t going anywhere… yet.
They’re $16 million from the cap so it’s not an imperative move, though I will say that having 35 year old Stephane Robidas’ $3.3 million, no-trade clause come off the books wouldn’t be the worst thing for the Stars.
Detroit Red Wings Johan Franzen is the obvious choice here given his age and his contract which continues through to 2020. A $3.95 million cap hit isn’t totally unsustainable, but the length of the deal is cause for concern.
If the Red Wings feel particularly strong about Franzen in their uniform this season, perhaps Todd Bertuzzi becomes an option. Getting his deal off the books would place them around $10 million in cap space and give them ample room to bring in an upgrade over the fading power forward.
Edmonton Oilers Shawn Horcoff makes way too much money for what he brings and ought to be dealt with accordingly. He simply doesn’t bring enough value to this young roster to justify his status as its highest paid player.
Nick Schultz would also be an option as he is a guy whose role is not entirely clear on the team. Especially now that this is a team that has Justin Schultz.
Florida Panthers Normally I’d say a team that is a comfortable $16 million from the cap ceiling isn’t one that has to worry about the amnesty clause. However, this is also one that has roughly $12 million committed to Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski in the year 2013.
Brian Campbell had a good season last year, but still makes way too much money. Ed Jovanovski simply can’t compete at a high enough level anymore.
Los Angeles Kings The Kings’ large contracts are primarily tied up in core pieces and many of the obvious ‘excess’ types of players will be off the books by the time the cap shrinks down next season. They aren’t in terribly dire straits despite what some would have you believe.
If we were to throw a name out there it would likely be Justin Williams or Willie Mitchell as they are aging players with a franchise that has a deep pipeline of talent coming up.
Minnesota Wild While the Wild appear to be in win-now mode suddenly, a quick scan of their roster makes it pretty clear that Dany Heatley is obscenely overpaid for a guy whose best years are squarely in the rearview.
The Wild are a little too close for comfort to the cap ceiling, and step one has to be ditching Heatley and his $7.5 million AAV.
Montreal Canadiens The guy who invented didgomezscore.com ought to get on top of hasgomezbeenamnestied.com because removing Scott Gomez from their roster ought to be the first thing on the minds of Habs brass. A party may even be in order.
Beyond Gomez the next logical dismissal in 2013-2014 — in my mind — is Rene Bourque, who owns a no-trade clause, a $3.3 million AAV and a contract that expires in 2016.
Nashville Predators They’re $15 million away from the cap and are notorious for not only being frugal, but getting great deals on contracts. I have absolutely no qualms with any of the players or deals on their roster. Fight it out amongst yourselves.
New Jersey Devils I’m looking squarely at the Devils blueline here as Anton Volchenkov appears to have seriously outrun his value as a top pairing defenseman. Not only is he frequently injured, his level of play has dipped significantly since his time in Ottawa.
With this in mind, Henrik Tallinder’s blood clot issues may actually force the Devils’ hand and force them to erase his $3.8 million cap hit. Also, I appreciate that Bryce Salvador had a fun run in the 2012 playoffs BUT at 36 years old and three more years, I have a hard time justifying his existence at $3.3 million under a salary cap.
New York Islanders 1) Rick DiPietro. 2) Alexei Yashin. (If buyouts are eligible to be erased)
New York Rangers Wade Redden.
Ottawa Senators The Senators count themselves as one of the teams who don’t really need to worry about the amnesty clause. With $18 million in cap space (!) assuming it’s possible to take on a bad deal or two, they could be a real player in the trade market.
Either way, they’re in solid shape cap-wise.
Philadelphia Flyers The first contract off the books in Philly will be Chris Pronger’s deal. He still hasn’t been cleared to play hockey and at a $4.9 million AAV, the space he frees up will be welcomed with open arms.
The 2013 shortened season will be Ilya Bryzgalov’s opportunity to justify his roster spot. If he doesn’t he’ll be out the door with the 2013-14 buyout. There’s a reason Ed Snider’s franchise advocated this clause. They need it.
Phoenix Coyotes Unless they make a deal for a poor contract to help a team out I don’t foresee any reality wherein the Phoenix Coyotes need to use either of their amnesty clauses.
Pittsburgh Penguins For a team loaded with so many name brand players, the Penguins are remarkably under control cap-wise. The only player on their roster whose price tag strikes me as excessive for what he brings is Paul Martin. The Penguins have used many high draft picks on defensive prospects in years past and they will be knocking on the door soon.
At $5 million a year, the Penguins can spend their money more wisely elsewhere.
San Jose Sharks The Sharks are very top heavy with their salaries which creates an interesting conundrum. Many of the salaries they would benefit most by ditching are actually integral to the current roster.
Martin Havlat at a $5 million AAV through 2015 is high for a player whose best years are behind him in addition to the standard injury concerns. Similarly, Patrick Marleau and his $6.9 million AAV have fallen out of favor in San Jose and could be a move to look in to.
St. Louis Blues The Blues have a great roster set up currently AND they’ll be adding Jaden Schwartz as well as (presumably) Vladimir Tarasenko. They are in great shape going forward. With a good prospect base, they could also be a trade candidate, assuming that’s a valid course of action.
Tampa Bay Lightning Mattias Ohlund may never play in the NHL again after surgery on both knees just before last season. With a no-movement clause as well as a $3.6 million AAV, Ohlund is a tough burden to haul through 2016.
Another candidate for the amnesty is Ryan Malone. He is a serviceable forward who provides value up front, but he doesn’t provide $4.5 million worth of value in addition to a limited no-trade clause. If Ohlund is amnestied in 2013, Malone could be the guy to go next season.
Toronto Maple Leafs Mike Komisarek still commands a $4.5 million AAV over the next two seasons, and is the obvious choice to go.
Many will argue that Tim Connolly or Matthew Lombardi are worth a cut, but given that both are in the last year of their deals, amnestying either one would not make sense for this roster.
Vancouver Canucks Keith Ballard’s time in Vancouver has been terrible for both parties, he has been in Alain Vigneault’s doghouse from day one, and a $4.2 million AAV is too much to justify.
Beyond Ballard, any amnesty usage would be a tough sell for the contracts that would warrant it.
Washington Capitals Mike Green has outlasted his value as an solid offensive defenseman at a $6 million AAV. He has played 81 games over the last two seasons and only mustered 31 points in that time. John Carlson had 32 points in 82 games as an NHL sophomore at roughly half the cost.
Another candidate may be Joel Ward who posted 18 points last season and commands a $3 million AAV through 2015. He’s hardly a bargain bin deal.
Winnipeg Jets The Jets are $12 million away from the cap ceiling which doesn’t make the amnesty clause an imperative move. The bulk of their current salaries are spread between Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd, Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien and Ondrej Pavelec. These five have been identified as franchise players and are unlikely to be moved.
If Olli Jokinen has a particularly poor season, he could be an amnesty target next season at $4.5 million per year. That being said, I like Jokinen as a fit in Winnipeg and expect him to be a good pickup.
Now that we’ve laid it out (again) a few things are clear.
If amnesty eligibility isn’t contingent on belonging to a team before the CBA was signed there are boundless possibilities for roster movement. Teams desperate for flexibility will be looking to sweeten deals with prospects and picks. Hastily signed contracts could radically shift the balance of power in the league, depending on who is available to pick up the contracts.
Similarly, we are on the cusp of a second free agency period which could be huge for several teams. Players like Dany Heatley or Ville Leino could be available on the cheap and provide good production in an effort to secure better deals next season.
The amnesty clause not only serves to trim the fat from several NHL rosters, but also provide avenues for teams to bulk up for the 48 game sprint into the postseason.
Who’s your favorite team? Who should they amnesty?