John Grigg has a great piece looking at how much teams are spending on buyouts.
The most startling stat he reveals is that Alexei Yashin is the second-highest paid Islander, even though Yashin now plays in the KHL.
It just serves as a reminder that the NHL, as well as other sports leagues, can either save owners from themselves or give owners the ability to correct mistakes, but it has to be careful how it balances those two functions. The NHL buyout lets owners escape bad signings, but, as Grigg points out, it’s not a clean escape. Mistakes still linger on the books. Which is fine, in the sense that teams should think hard about a contract before they offer it to a player. The buyout lets teams off-the hook, with a penalty for the mistake. But the logic fails as we see less and less teams thinking about buyout implications as they sign free agents.
Sure, most teams now know to front-load contracts to lower the potential buyout price later on, but that only works if a player needs to be bought-out late in his contract. If a player needs to be bought out earlier, a team could be ruined for years. For whatever reason, though, teams just aren’t scared enough of the buyout penalty. At least, until they actually have to deal with it.
There is talk the next CBA will cap the number of years for which a player can be signed, which I think will be very good for the NHL GMs who still struggle with how to negotiate with unrestricted free agents. I would also strongly urge NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to strongly urge every team to have a lawyer and an accountant in the front office, looking over every contract and explaining in plain words just what the worst-case scenario is for a new contract.
The fact that Toronto will be giving up $1 million per season of cap space to Darcy Tucker for the next five years tells me that step is probably being skipped in a lot of front offices.