Amnesty Buyout: Are the Habs the Most Desperate Team?


By Joce, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

As the NHL and the NHLPA hinge closer to finally reaching an agreement, several issues go beyond the rest of this season. Those issues are, however, key to the way teams need to manage their assets and none is more pressing than the rumoured salary cap going down to $60 million as requested by the ownership group, and implemented on time for the 2013-14 season.


PENTICTON, BC — This is the reason why the NHL is pushing to implement a one-time amnesty buyout and while the players would be given their money, not a penny would not count against the teams’ cap hit for this one contract. The players are not disputing the need for such buyout, the issue they’re arguing is whether this money should be tallied in the hockey related revenues (HRR) or not.

But which teams across the league are the most desperate to get help in order to reach the desired $60 million cap in due time? All is based on the number of players and the amounts committed to those players for next season. In order to give us a better idea, I took the figures from and tallied some numbers of my own, and you will see that the results are somewhat surprising.

Note that this is not a pure science as teams can trade, use regular buyouts (in addition to the amnesty) and some players may choose to retire due to injuries or other reasons. I took the cap hit already committed for 2013-14, the number of players signed, and went with an arbitrary 21-player roster, and topped the teams with players at $500,000 per season to get to the Minimum Cap hit, although most contracts are much higher than that. It does however give us a bit of an even picture between teams. When discussing the maximum savings, I took the bought out cap hit and subtracted $500,000 for the player taking his place. Of course, if the player replacing him makes more, the savings will be less. That wouldn’t be complete without knowing which players on each team are becoming free agents that year, restricted and/or unrestricted. And to finalize the exercise, I have put a few possible names and the teams’ savings in the event of an amnesty buyout.

Without further ado:


Surprisingly, the Habs represent the most desperate team in need of the amnesty buyout as shown on the figures above. The team has 16 players under contract for the 2013-14 season and that’s not counting P.K. Subban who at this time, has yet to sign his new contract, and restricted free agent David Desharnais, who should be due for a substantial raise over the $850,000 he’s making this year.

The obvious amnesty buyout is Scott Gomez, whose contract expires after the 2013-14 season. Although his cap hit sits at $7.36 million, his actual salary will be $4.5 million and Geoff Molson would have to fork out two-thirds of that. As there is no way a team would trade for him, this is the logical solution as it would free up a maximum of $6.86 million under the cap. It is possible that the Canadiens might have to make another move, either by trade or by regular buyout, in order to get more comfortable under the cap. Don’t count out one of Tomas Kaberle, Rene Bourque or Andrei Markov (depending on his health) to be traded or bought out.


The Lighting find themselves in a peculiar situation. With only 15 players under contract and without any key free agents lost as UFA or RFA needing to be resigned, they are over the estimated $60 million salary cap when the roster is at 21 players.

Unlike in Montreal, there is no clear-cut player which could or should be bought out through amnesty. Some reporters have suggested that Vincent Lecavalier could be one and while the Lightning would save a maximum $7.23 million in cap hit, no owner in their right mind, as rich as they might be, would pay him two-thirds of the $45 million remaining on his contract. in addition, Lecavalier is a very popular figure in the Bay area. Ryan Malone ($4M max savings) and Mattias Ohlund ($3.11M max savings) are the two most logical options in Tampa Bay.


The Flyers were the first ones I was thinking of before doing this exercise and while not in a great position, they are not into a huge pile of trouble either. In addition, GM Paul Holmgren has shown time and time again that he’s not afraid to make tough decisions in order to resolve what he feels are the team’s issues. They are however scheduled to lose one of their key defensemen, which could explain why they tried to go after Shea Weber last summer.

A lot of the decisions will be based on whether or not Chris Pronger can return to play. Pronger, who signed an over-35 long term deal, takes $4.92 million of the team’s cap and it is my understanding that he will even if he was to retire. The only relief, especially for a team with a rich owner, is that by placing him on the LTIR, the Flyers can go over the cap by the same amount as Pronger’s cap hit for as long as he’s out. Still though, they might have to buy someone else out. The names that come to mind are Daniel Brière ($6M max savings) and Andrej Meszaros ($3.5M max savings). As rich as they might be, it would be surprising to see them buyout Ilya Bryzgalov, who will have $34.5 million remaining on his contract.


The Bruins are not in as bad of shape as I originally thought. They will need to make a move, maybe two, but it shouldn’t be too hard to do, especially that Nathan Horton could come off the books as he is scheduled to become a UFA at that time and so is Andrew Ference.

It looks more and more like center Marc Savard’s career could be in jeopardy. Buying him out would result in a $3.5 million maximum savings for the team. Trading a salary for assets would put Boston in a very good position.


The Canucks are in more trouble (if we call it that) than its ranking is showing, due to the fact that one of their best defenseman is scheduled to become a UFA and that they only have 13 players under contract for the 2013-14 season.

Of course, trading Roberto Luongo’s $5.33 million cap hit will help, but if they get NHL ready players in return, the impact on the cap will be minimal. They do however have other possibilities for the amnesty buyout, regular buyout and/or through trades. Through buyout, the two most logical possibilities might be David Booth ($3.75M max savings) or Keith Ballard ($3.7M max savings). Those two players should, however, have enough market value to be traded instead if need be.


It’s deja-vu all over again for the Blackhawks, who went through a similar situation after winning the Stanley Cup. Having said that, with no impact player scheduled to become free agents and with 17 players under contract, their situation isn’t quite as dramatic as it was back in the summer of 2010.

For that reason, it is doubtful that the Hawks would choose the amnesty buyout, or any buyout for that matter. It is more likely that they would look at trading assets such as Niklas Hjalmarsson ($3.5M cap hit), Johnny Oduya ($3.38M cap hit) or Dave Bolland ($3.375M cap hit) instead.


Not only is the Sharks’ window of opportunity with the group of players in place closing slowly, they also only have 14 players under contract for the 2013-14 season. In addition, one of their best forwards in Ryane Clowe is scheduled to become a UFA that summer.

Would the Sharks dare buyout one of their top salaried players in Joe Thornton ($6.5M max savings), Patrick Marleau ($6.4M max savings) or Dan Boyle ($6.17M max savings)? It is unlikely as they would all have some trade value. Having said that, Thornton and Marleau have a NMC attached to their contracts while Boyle can name eight teams to which he will not accept a trade to, and they would have to agree to wave it to accommodate a trade. This could make for some interesting negotiations between the player(s) and management.


The Penguins have done a good job securing their top players to long term deals and in many cases, at a discount price. Having said that, they only have 15 players under contract for 2013-14. Not having any key player scheduled to become free agents is a good thing, but there are few dollars to get quality supporting cast to help the Crosby, Malkin and company.

Paul Martin ($4.5M max savings) is not living up to expectations in Pittsburgh and he is the most likely candidate to either be bought out under the amnesty window, or traded if a team shows interest in him. Another but not as likely candidate to find another home would be Chris Kunitz ($3.725M cap hit), but definitely not in a buyout as his market value should still be excellent.

Here’s the status of the other 22 teams in the league, using the same criteria:

Looking at the teams above, not many are likely to use the one-time amnesty buyout but a few teams might chose to do so. The Rangers will most probably buyout Wade Redden ($6M max savings) and the Sabres could very well consider their options with Ville Leino ($4M max savings). The Calgary Flames have two players who are not quite living up to expectations in Jay Bouwmeester ($6.18M max savings) and Matt Stajan ($3M max savings) but it would be shocking if they bought them out.

This exercise shows us the reason why not every NHL owner is in favour of this amnesty buyout, which will only serve a few of them. It also demonstrates that some teams have been better than others at preparing for this lockout, although recently appointed GM Marc Bergevin in Montreal really has inherited the mess left behind by his predecessor Pierre Gauthier. Either way, we should see many of the top eight teams making moves to better position themselves to comply with the newly established salary cap figures taking effect on time for the 2013-14 season and that alone should be quite entertaining.

En français: Rachat Amnistie: les Canadiens l’équipe la plus désespérée?

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J.D. Lagrange
J.D. is a Senior writer for All Habs as well as Associate-Editor for the French version Le Magazine All Habs, while one of three Administrators of the fan forum Les Fantômes du Forum. He has created the handle Habsterix as a fictional character for the sole purpose of the internet. It is based on the cartoon Asterix of Gaule and his magic potion is his passion for the Montreal Canadiens. How old is he? His close friends will tell you that he’s so old, his back goes out more than he does! He was born when Béliveau lifted the Cup and remembers the days when seeing the Habs winning was not a wish, it was an expectation. For him, writing is a hobby, not a profession. Having moved to beautiful British Columbia in 1992 from his home town of Sherbrooke, Quebec, he started writing mostly in French to keep up his grammar, until non-bilingual BC friends pushed him into starting his own English Blog. His wife will say that he can be stubborn, but she will be the first to recognise that he has great sense of humour. He is always happy to share with you readers his point of views on different topics, and while it is expected that people won’t always agree, respect of opinions and of others is his mission statement. || J.D. est Rédacteur-Adjoint sur Le Magazine All Habs et il est un Rédacteur Principal sur le site anglophone All Habs, tout en étant un des trois Administrateurs du forum de discussion Les Fantômes du Forum. Il a créé le pseudonyme Habstérix comme caractère fictif pour l’internet. Celui-ci est basé sur Astérix de Gaule et sa potion magique est sa passion pour les Canadiens de Montréal. Lorsqu’il est né, Jean Béliveau soulevait la Coupe Stanley et il se rappelle des jours où gagner n’était pas un espoir, mais une attente. Pour lui, écrire est un passe-temps, pas une profession. Ayant déménagé dans la superbe Colombie-Britannique en 1992 en provenance de sa ville natale de Sherbrooke, Québec, il a commencé à écrire en français pour garder sa grammaire, jusqu’à ce que ses amis anglophones ne réussissent à le convaincre d’avoir son blog en anglais. Son épouse vous dira qu’il est têtu, mais elle sera la première à reconnaître son grand sens de l’humour. Il est toujours fier de partager avec vous, lecteurs et lectrices, ses points de vue sur différents sujets, et quoi que les gens ne s’entendent pas toujours sur ceux-ci, le respect des opinions et des autres est son énoncé de mission.


  1. Notes for TBL, BOS:

    Ohlund from my understanding, is set to retire due to his ruined knees and there goes his cap hit. As per Savard, he is on LTIR so his salary doesn’t count against the cap either.

    • It is indeed possible that Ohlund might retire. Even at that, they’ll likely have to make another move if the salary cap is set at around $60M. I’ve used very, very conservative numbers here, choosing $500,000 as replacement salary every player short of the 21 player roster. 23 players per roster is the maximum and if we look at every team’s roster individually, most lower end players make more than that.

  2. Isn’t this year’s cap still at $70M and whatever new cap comes out of the CBA will be instituted next season? And as the players share drops, won’t their salaries drop relatively?

    • This year’s cap stays as it was supposed to be, as you mention. Next year’s cap is being negotiated as we speak. The owners insist on a $60M cap. The players, in one of their counter-proposals, suggested $67M but have apparently since moved much closer to the owners’ demand of $60M.

      This means that for the 2013-14 season, the cap will be negotiated, an arbitrary amount agreed by both the NHL and the NHLPA, not based on revenues. Whatever happens after remains to be seen.

  3. In a new turn of events, it is being reported that there could be two compliances buyouts per team which wouldn’t count against the cap. I’m not so sure why as not many teams in my opinion would need one, let alone two of them…

    Ah the joy of CBA negotiations. Can we please have some NHL hockey now?

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