With the Stanley Cup Final nearing its conclusion, it’s a good time to look at the top buyout candidates from the NHL’s Central Division.
With the NHL salary cap projected to go up only marginally, clubs may resort to using the buyout option on existing contracts as a means of cap relief. The buyout window opens shortly after the end of the Stanley Cup Final and lasts until June 30, and the 32 NHL clubs likely have already made decisions on which players to buyout.
Here is a look at the eight Central Division clubs and who each of them may choose:
The Coyotes are pretty much a joke of an organization that doesn’t seem to be interested in being competitive and will likely be moving from Arizona soon. They continue to be a dumping ground for bad contracts, which was the case with Kassian, who was dealt from Edmonton along with three draft picks to clear the last two years of his contract. The 32-year-old winger had two goals in 51 games, and a buyout would clear half of his $3.2 million salary, but the Coyotes will not spend it on anyone and probably value the cap hit as more valuable to get to the cap floor.
The Hawks have to put together a group of players to support presumptive top overall pick Connor Bedard and will have nearly $40 million of cap space to work with. The main focus for GM Kyle Davidson may be just to get to the cap floor next season, but allowing young players to develop at the NHL level should also be a consideration. Zaitsev was dumped from Ottawa along with a second-and-fourth round picks for future considerations last February and a buyout would clear almost half of his $4.5 million salary.
After playing 21 games in the regular season and subbing in during the Avs Stanley Cup run in 2022, Francouz played only 16 games, forcing Alexandar Georgiev to play more than 60 games. A buyout would clear more than half of his $2 million salary, which could be used to find a backup capable of playing more games.
The Stars potentially have deadline acquisitions in Max Domi or Evgenii Dadonov they may want to re-sign, but have only $7.3 million in cap space. Faksa, who scored only 11 goals last season, has two years remaining at an AAV of $3.25 million. A buyout would clear nearly $3 million in cap space in year one, and result in cap hits of $1.625 million in year two, and $1.125 in years three and four.
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“The Flower” at 38 years old led the Wild with 24 wins, but split time with Filip Gustavsson and was outplayed by the youngster in the regular season and the playoffs. Gustavsson is an arbitration-eligible RFA and could get a big raise, and with over $14 million in dead cap from buyouts, GM Bill Guerin might have to buy out the future Hall-of-Famer, which would clear $2.3 million next season.
The new administration of Barry Trotz may want to give some players a second chance, but Johansen has been extremely underproductive for an $8 million player, scoring only 28 points in 55 games last season. A buyout of the last two years would save $5.3 million in cap space in each of the next two seasons.
St. Louis Blues
The 33-year-old blueliner suffered a hip injury before the season and came back in February, playing 20 games and registering two points. With a buyout of Scandella’s last year, the Blues would clear $2 million of his $3.275 million salary next season.
The Jets appear to be on a rebuilding path with a number of players potentially being traded before entering the final year of their deal. Wheeler is still an effective forward at 36 years old (55 points last season), but his $8.25 million salary may be impossible to find a home for. A buyout would clear $5.5 million in cap space and more importantly save Winnipeg $2.75 million in salary.