Amnesty Buyout Clause: Chance for Burke to make amends
With the NHL and NHLPA finally appearing to make some progress in negotiations for a new CBA,
word has leaked that the new CBA will include an Amnesty Buyout Clause. The buyout will reportedly allow each team to effectively rid themselves, somewhat, of an albatross-type contract, thereby easing the transition to a lower salary cap (reported to be 60 million). This buyout clause is generating a lot of discussion, as it would afford teams the opportunity to right a certain free agency, or trade acquisition ‘wrong’. Outlined below are some targets on who the Leafs could use their own buyout provision on.
Let’s start with last year’s example of a free agency mishap, Tim Connolly. Connolly was signed to a 2 year, 9 million dollar deal last season, but was for the most part very ineffective. In 70 games played, Connolly put up 36 points, and a -14, falling far short from being that stop-gap number one center the Leafs had hoped he could be. In fact, he spent many a night on the third and fourth lines. A bounce back season may yet prove some value out of the pivot, and on an expiring contract Tim may be better served as a ‘deadline’ type deal with a contending team looking for depth. While buying out Connolly would shore up some immediate cap space and purge the Leafs of another mediocre talent, the fact that his contract is up after the 2012-2013 season leads me to suggest that Brian Burke and company would be better off using their buyout clause on another player. Enter Mike Komisarek.
Everybody’s favourite whipping boy, Komisarek has been nominated by many in Leafs Nation as the perfect candidate for the buyout provision. Signed for 4.5 million for this year and next, Komisarek has often been an nothing more than an unmitigated disaster ever since signing his 5 year 22.5 million dollar deal. At the time, Komisarek was 27 and possessed truculence, belligerence, testosterone and pugnacity in no short supply, and he seemed like the prototypical Brian Burke player. Fast forward a few years later and it’s safe to say that Komo has yet to find his grove and seems to always be looking to ‘next year’ to establish himself in the blue and white. Whether due to being a step too slow, or gifting the opposition a tape-to-tape beauty, Komisarek’s roster spot – and cap space – could be filled up more efficiently. Realistically, Komisarek will be the player bought out, but there are a few other options that deserve some thought as well.
Breathe, and listen. Last year Grabovski inked a new deal for 27.5 million dollars (5.5 million per season) that would see him don the blue and white through the 2016-17 season. This year, is year 1 of that contract, and while it may seem absurd to use the buyout on a player they just resigned, it just may be the best idea. If the Salary Cap goes down to the widely reported 60 million mark, that would mean that Grabovski would be taking up nearly 11% of the Leafs’ cap. Last year Grabo netted 51 points in 74 games, and had 58 in 81 the year before. Decent numbers, but when you consider that Grabovski is being paid as a 1st line center, yet isn’t producing as one, you have to wonder if the Leafs may be better off using the buyout on Grabovski. When comparing Grabovski to other players making the same amount of dough, (B. Ryan, Kesler, Tavares, St.Louis, Perry, Getzlaf, Richards, Carter just to name a few) it is very apparent that he isn’t in the same offensive stratosphere as the above-mentioned talents. Grabo is a solid player with defensive abilities and some snarl in his game, but the price tag he carries with him is certainly a tad high. While I think the odds of Burke actually using the buyout clause on Grabovski are slim, it’s an option that warrants more than a passing conversation.
John Michael Liles
Another owner of a recently signed extension, (4 years 15.5 million), Liles is also a candidate for the buyout…I’m seeing a trend here. Liles came to the Leafs last offseason in a deal with the Colorado Avalanche and started off his first season in Blue and White rather successfully, putting up 21 points and a +2 in his first 34 games, putting him on pace for 67 points. Unfortunately, December 22nd, in a game vs the Sabres, Liles suffered a concussion that would result in him missing the next 18 games. When he returned, Liles was not the same player. In his final 32 games, Liles had 6 points and was a -16, leading to some speculation that his concussion was still bothering him. If Liles comes back and plays to the form before his injury, he will be an invaluable member of the team; however, if he is seriously affected by the concussion and can not return to form, then it may be worth looking at using the buyout clause on him. The readiness of Morgan Rielly and other puck-rushers in the pipeline could factor in, as well.
Make a trade with a team that has multiple options for a buyout
This option is particularly appealing to me, as there are several teams with multiple players worthy of a buyout. A team with multiple weighty contracts could package one of them with a prospect or pick to sweeten the deal. The Leafs, for example, as a trading partner could then amnesty clause that player and buy them out if they so choose. Crafty, I know. One team with such a problem is the Vancouver Canucks. They have Luongo signed for 5.33 through the 2022 season, Keith Ballard is signed at 4.2 million through the 2014-15 season, and David Booth is signed at 4.25 million through 2014-15 as well. All are underperforming considering their contracts, and would all be prime candidates for the buyout provision. Naturally, a deal with the above names could escalate into a multi-player affair, and the Leafs could just keep the player they receive, but it’s an interesting option to say the least. In particular from the Canucks’ perspective, a team rife with talent but perhaps in need of a roster shakeup.
Since the NHL and NHLPA currently don’t have an agreement, we can’t know for certain whether a buyout clause will in fact happen. That said, the fact that we sit here debating player buyouts, potential trades and the like is certainly more positive and appealing than HRR or pensions.
Who would you erase with the buyout?