Before the 2013-2014 NHL season began there were 15 players bought out. 15 players paid to play for anyone but the team that held their previous contract. Not exactly where you want to be as a professional athlete, but it also gave the players the opportunity to show their former teams just what they would be missing.
So, did the 15 players stick it to their former clubs? Or did they make the GM’s look great? Let’s take a look at the buyouts, with a pass or fail for the GM.
Chicago Blackhawks (Stan Bowman) – GM Decision Grade: PASS
The Hawks utilized both of their amnesty buyouts when they bought out Steve Montador and Rostislav Olesz. Both of Stan Bowman’s buyouts are in the group of 7 players who haven’t played another NHL game, so it’s safe to say his cap casualties were a good decision. Montador has played 11 games for Zagreb Medvescak in the KHL, recording 3 assists, 33 PIMS and sitting -5. Rostislav Olesz played 5 games for the Albany Devils, scoring 1 goal and 3 assists before heading to the Swiss National League A to play with Bern, where he has suited up for 16 games while scoring 3 goals and 3 assists.
Detroit Red Wings (Ken Holland) – GM Decision Grade: PASS
Holland sacrificed defender Carlo Colaiacovo with one of his buyouts to get Detroit cap compliant and, while Colaiacovo wouldn’t have hurt the Wings, it’s worked out in his favor. The ex-Wing signed with the St Louis Blues and has played 10 games, chipping in 2 assists, 8 PIMS and sporting a +1 rating while being a non-factor for the Western Conference power.
Minnesota Wild (Chuck Fletcher) – GM Decision Grade: FAIL
Wild GM Chuck Fletcher saw fit to buy out one of his defencemen with an amnesty, and it hasn’t gone as well as planned. Gilbert’s +/- is better (-4) and he’d currently be sitting 2nd in Wild defense scoring behind only Ryan Suter if he was still in green. Gilbert has 2 goals and 16 assists for the lowly Florida Panthers this year for his most productive offensive season since 2010-2011 with the Edmonton Oilers. Can anyone say Dany Heatley?
Montreal Canadiens (Marc Bergevin) – GM Decision Grade: PASS
Bergevin was licking his lips when the amnesty buyout was brought up in negotiations. It was just what the doctor ordered for a team with Scott Gomez’s contract on the books. He wasted no time, buying out Gomez before the start of the lockout-shortened season. This year Gomez played 21 games for the Florida Panthers, recording 1 goal and 4 assists while being a -8. Tomas Kaberle hasn’t played an NHL game since being richly terminated by the Habs. He went home to the Czech Extraliga to play for Kladno, where he has notched 3 goals and 18 assists in 38 games. The makeup of the Canadiens blueline, and Kaberle’s inflated salary, made this an easy decision for Bergevin and despite Kaberle’s good season in Europe it’s still a pass.
New Jersey Devils (Lou Lamoriello) – GM Decision Grade: PASS
The Devils bought out Johan Hedberg with one of their amnesty’s with a move that was definitely not a headline maker. With Brodeur and Schneider in the cage for New Jersey there was no need for Johan Hedberg. Since being paid to leave, Hedberg hasn’t played another game of hockey.
New York Islanders (Garth Snow) – GM Decision Grade: PASS
With a stroke of a pen the Mad Mike Millbury days finally game to an end on Long Island. The Islanders were long trying to rid themselves of one of the worst contracts in NHL history and the amnesty buyout gave them that chance. The Islanders, and owner Charles Wang, are notoriously stingy when it comes to the checkbook, so it makes this move that more powerful. You know a contract, and player, was bad when a team who won’t pay people big money to play for them will pay them millions of dollars to leave. DiPietro has played in 5 games for the Charlotte Checkers in the AHL with a goals against of 5.18 and a save percentage of 84.6%, all but putting the final nail in the coffin of a disappointing career.
New York Rangers (Glen Sather) – GM Decision Grade: PASS
After burying Wade Redden’s massive contract in the American League for two years Sather got the chance to rid himself of the veteran defender before the 2012-2013 season. Redden struggled to find consistency and success while playing for St Louis and Boston in the shortened season and has yet to play a game of hockey in 2013-2014.
Philadelphia Flyers (Paul Holmgren) – GM Decision Grade: PASS
Paul Holmgren is notorious for handing out big paydays to players of all walks of life. The amnesty buyout gave him a chance to save his job. His prize signing of Ilya Bryzgalov was cut loose just two years into a hefty contract and has gone 3-7-3 with a 3.25 goals against and a 90.4 save percentage with the Edmonton Oilers this season. Daniel Briere was the next casualty for Holmgren and the Broad Street Bullies. Briere has played 36 games for the Montreal Canadiens, scoring 7 goals and adding 6 assists in a largely disappointing campaign for the clutch playoff performer.
Tampa Bay Lightning (Steve Yzerman) – GM Decision Grade: PASS
When Steve Yzerman bought out Vincent Lecavalier it shocked everyone, even those who knew it had to be done. Lecavalier was the face of the franchise for years and led them to a Stanley Cup, but the length and cost of his contract was too much for a new GM trying to build a winner in Tampa. With his best days behind him, Lecavalier signed with Philadelphia where he has since suited up for 37 games while adding 10 goals, 9 assists and 25 penalty minutes. This became Steven Stamkos’ team very quickly.
Toronto Maple Leafs (Dave Nonis) – GM Decision Grade: PASS
Nonis had more than two options to pursue with his amnesty buyouts, but it came down to Mike Komisarek and Mikhail Grabovski. Komisarek took it graciously and has played 15 games for Carolina this year, failing to record a point. Grabovski, on the other hand, left Toronto in the blaze of a fiery tantrum directed towards head coach Randy Carlyle and, at the beginning of the year, looked to be making a fool of GM Dave Nonis. After scoring 13 points in 13 games, the dust has settled and Grabovski has 20 in his last 34. Mikhail Grabovski just wasn’t made to play in a Randy Carlyle system, nor was he paid the salary of a 3rd line center, which is where he sat on the depth chart behind Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak.
Washington Capitals (George McPhee) – GM Decision Grade: FAIL
In hindsight I’m sure McPhee would love a do-over on his decision to buyout Jeff Schultz. With an overrated net, the defensive minded Schultz would have been a welcome member on the blueline this season for Washington, while forward Martin Erat would be a welcome member on the buyout list. McPhee bought out Schultz($2.75M) over Erat($4.5M). Even though Schultz hasn’t played an NHL game this year (41 GP for Manchester in the AHL), I’m sure the Capitals GM would rather have the defensive defender back on his roster, for what would have been the final year on his contract.
Most GM’s got a passing grade, with only Minnesota and Washington failing to really cash in on the opportunity to buy a player out. In total there were 15 players that became a casualty of a dropping salary cap. That’s all for now, thanks for reading!