As part of the new CBA, NHL teams will get to buy out two players if they choose to do so this summer.
Many people are already speculating that the Montreal Canadiens will use it to buy out Scott Gomez and Tomas Kaberle. While they are normally worthy players to be bought out, it would be a mistake to do so this summer.
Yes, I know the Habs have already announced that Gomez will not play this season and will be bought out in the summer. But in reality, that’s probably not the best move. Gomez is signed for only one more year after this year. Same with Kaberle.
While buying them out will bring immediate cap relief, it’s not a good long-term solution. The Habs should be looking at players who they should have off the books for more than one season.
Top candidates right now are Tomas Plekanec, Rene Bourque and Eric Cole. Here are some pros and cons for each.
Rene Bourque. Pros to buying him out: He sucks. He has no heart. He doesn’t hit. He doesn’t play defence. He’s not a playmaker.
Cons: He’s a former 25-plus goal scorer and has a pretty good cap hit. Even if he doesn’t work out for the Habs, those reasons might give another team the idea that they can reform him back to a power forward.
Erik Cole: Pros to buying him out: He’s thinking about retiring anyway because he doesn’t like the new CBA. He’s older. He has a no-trade clause. Signed for two more years.
Cons: He’s key to bringing this team back to respectability. He’s a leader. He meshes well with our top line.
Plekanec: Pros to buying him out: Overpaid. Now a second line centre, and could be third line centre in a year or two. Doesn’t make guys around him better. No trade clause.
Cons: Our best defensive centre. Can score (five straight 20-goal seasons). Brings depth to the lineup.
All these guys are signed for at least two more seasons after this one. Both Pleks and Bourque are signed for three. Getting rid of one or two of these contracts will bring longer term cap relief. Both Gomez and Kaberle are gone after next season anyways. So why waste an amnesty buyout on someone who has one year left in the contract?
Plus, the Habs would be getting rid of those pesky no-trade contracts. If they don’t get rid of them now, they’ll be stuck with those deals for several years with limited options.
Just say if the Habs bought out Cole and Pleks instead of Kaberle and Gomez. In a year, they’d be without Gomez, Kaberle, Cole and Plekanec. That’s a savings of close to $21 million in cap space. That’s pretty good. That savings would allow them to be big players on the free agent market and go after guys like Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Jarome Iginla.
Or even better, the summer of 2014: Here’s a quick list of the top free agents: Evgeni Malkin, Marian Gaborik, Thomas Vanek, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Pavel Datsyuk, Paul Stastny, Dion Phaneuf, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Phil Kessel, Patrice Bergeron, Kris Letang, and Dustin Brown. And I didn’t even get into the goalies (Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Miller and Jaroslav Halak will all be free agents).
Wouldn’t it be better to clear the cap space and make a run at one or two of those guys? Sure, most of them will get re-signed before they even get a whiff of free agency, but a couple of them will decide to test the market. And not every team will be able to re-sign them, since the salary cap limit is coming done.
Imagine if the Habs could make a run for Thornton and Bergeron in two years. Or if they were able to get Letang and Phaneuf to replace Andrei Markov and Tomas Kaberle.
That’s why it’s imperative to clear the space while they can. They have a good opportunity. Even if they do buy out Gomez, they can still use the other buyout to get rid of a longer-term problem.
The Habs need to take advantage of this opportunity while they can.