Now that the Leafs have gone through the arbitration process with Jonathan Bernier they’ve earned the opportunity to utilize a second buyout window this summer. The fact that the Leafs made it through the first one without taking any action probably means we can expect the same thing this go around. The Leafs are presently sitting pretty when it comes to cap space, they have a little bit of wiggle room on players contracts still being available, thanks to the entry level slide rule. And they’ve already got the Gleason buyout as well as salary retained from Gunnarsson and Kessel floating around the organization as dead cap space that may deter them from adding more.
The choice seems fairly obvious, but it’s August and we have the time to over analyze every possible move the organization may make, so let’s dive a little deeper.
First, a background in the buyout clause in the CBA:
11.18 Ordinary Course Buy-Outs Outside the Regular Period. Clubs shall have the right to
exercise Ordinary Course Buy-Outs outside the regular period for Ordinary Course Buy-Outs in
accordance with Paragraph 13(c)(ii) of the SPC. Each Club shall be limited to no more than
three (3) such Buy-Outs outside the regular period over the term of this Agreement pursuant to
Paragraph 13 of the SPC. However, in the event that a Club has only one salary arbitration
hearing pursuant to Section 12.3(a) in a given League Year, such Club shall not be entitled to
exercise such an Ordinary Course Buy-Out outside the regular period. Moreover, a Club shall
not be entitled to exercise an Ordinary Course Buy-Out outside the regular period for: (i) any
Player who was not on the Club’s Reserve List as of the most recent Trade Deadline, or (ii) any
Player with an Averaged Amount less than $2,750,000. The dollar amount of $2,750,000 set
forth in this Section 11.18 shall be increased on an annual basis at the same percentage rate of
annual increase as the Average League Salary, with the first such increase occurring based upon
a comparison of the 2014/15 Average League Salary to the 2013/14 Average League Salary. By
way of example, if the Average League Salary for the 2014/15 League Year has increased by ten
(10) percent from the Average League Salary for the 2013/14 League Year, then the figure of
$2,750,000 stated in Section 11.18, shall be increased by ten (10) percent to $3,025,000.
So the significant change from the previous CBA is the player needs to be making more than the Average League Salary from the previous season. By my best guess using NHLNumbers.com the average league salary today is around $2.98M, so that limits the Leafs from buying out players like Matt Frattin for the sole purpose of getting an extra SPC back for a relatively cheap price. In fact, given how close my average salary approximation is to Stephane Robidas’ average annual cap hit, it’s entirely possible he might be under the average salary and could be excluded for being buyout eligible as well.
The other issue with thinking “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if we could buy out Robidas” is the fact that the player needs to be healthy, and given that Robidas was shut down in March for shoulder surgery, it’s entirely possible he hasn’t been medically cleared and can not be bought out.
Since the player had to be under contract with the Leafs at the last trade deadline, that really just leaves James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner, Joffrey Lupul, Dion Phaneuf and Tyler Bozak as candidates. I’m gonna assume there’s no interest in buying out the first three. Really just leaving Lupul, Bozak, and Phaneuf. I shared my thoughts earlier on buying out Lupul and Bozak and given my interest in seeing Phaneuf under Mike Babcock, I can’t say that I’m a fan of buying him out either at this point, since there’s no harm in waiting an extra season on any of them.
It’s also important to note that the Leafs only have the option to make three non-compliance buyouts during this CBA, and have used one on Tim Gleason already.
From the perspective of cap management this doesn’t seem like a great idea, but this comes down what you think of Bozak, Lupul, and Phaneuf. Are they players that can help this team turnaround? Do they have the potential to become assets? Are they harmless filler on a rebuilding team? OR are they part of a rotten core? Are they standing in the way of young players who should be allowed to develop in their spots?
Tell us the right answer in the comment section.