So how many folks actually got demoted to the AHL last season?

No, I mean besides anyone who has been traded to Columbus. Fans are often quick to dismiss a player’s role on a team, and suggest that the player be sent to an AHL affiliate in order to free the NHL team of the cap hit. Fans of teams in larger markets are assuredly the biggest offenders, and it makes sense – their teams are the ones that can afford it.

I have put together a list of all the players with one-way SPC deals, a minimum of 82 games played in the NHL, and who were demoted to their club’s respective AHL affiliate. I’ve also checked, in cases where the AHL stay is brief, to make sure that none of these players were simply on a conditioning stint.

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Some of these names are familiar, and others may surprise you, while omissions may be the subject of some debate. Jay Rosehill, for example, was on a one-way deal last year ($600k, either in the NHL or AHL), but saw limited action, and was sent down briefly to make roster space (and a little cap space) for other players to come up. He doesn’t meet the criteria of 82 NHL games however (he’s only played 72), and so wasn’t included. Nevertheless, the Leafs’ willingness to send him down is a sign that the team isn’t afraid to flex financial muscle if the need arises.

Here are all the players that met this criteria in the 2011-12 NHL season. Naturally, all figures are in millions of dollars.

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*Antero Nittymaki was injured, and briefly assigned to the AHL for a conditioning stint. After playing 8 games with the Sharks’ affiliate, he was placed on waivers and went unclaimed, so continued to play in the AHL.

** Mark Fraser was traded from New Jersey to Toronto, and was kept the in AHL by both teams.

†Crystobal Huet is a notable exemption to this list, but he is considered to be "loaned" to a team in France.

The first thing I think is important to notice here is that there were only five players in the entire league last season that earned multi-million dollar contracts and wound up relegated to a minor league club for more than half the year. Rostislav Olesz in Chicago, Sean Avery and Wade Redden in New York, Jeff Finger in Toronto, and Steven Reinprecht in Vancouver.

Sean Avery, of course, is in a category of his own, as he was not only only put on NHL waivers and left unclaimed, but was also left off the Conneticut Whales’ clear day roster as well. After proclaiming on TV that he had thrown his skates into the Hudson River and was retiring from hockey, his agent contradicted that, and said that his future is ‘up in the air’.

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So, lunacy aside, there were only four players that saved their team significant cap space. There were another three playres that saved their respective teams between one and two million on the cap, but let’s face it: this is a relatively uncommon practice in the NHL, and we as fans need to get used to it – especially because this kind of cap loophole may not be available in the next CBA.

Below is a table that shows every team in the league, ordered from highest payroll to lowest, and how many players they bought out: 

Can you spot the trend here? It’s the reason that the NHL and NHLPA will likely want to get rid of this feature of the current CBA. None of the lowest-spending teams can afford to bury players, and it gives an unfair advantage to the wealthier teams. The NHL wants parity, the NHLPA wants players to maintain NHL jobs. Of course, maybe the PA doesn’t care, so long as its players (and their replacements) are well paid, but that’s another debate.

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  • MessyEH!

    This is interesting, In the new CBA, I wonder if some sort of amesty buyout could be put forward by guys like these. if another team wishes to sign them for less money.

    ie) If a team wanted to bring in Wade Redden, and pay him $1 million for the duration of his contract, then the Rangers would only need to pay him 5 million and no cap hit to the Rangers.

    This would allow burried guys to try and get back into the NHL.

    just my 2 cents.

  • Reality Check to the head

    I know that Edmonton had no one that fit into this model this year, however, the team does actually have the cash flow (presently) to do this. I point to the Sheldon Souray fiasco. That being said, the bigger point is that teams in smalled markets are not apt to do this on a regular basis. And yes I agree, this a gap in finances that should be closed.

  • MessyEH!

    Wow. Not being a Leaf fan I never really looked at Fingers stats before he got his big contract. Not sure if there’s been a more unjustifiable contract.

  • Ben

    I’ve always thought that it was garbage that teams like the Rangers were able to bury a terrible contract in the AHL without suffering the cap hit. They signed Redden to that horrible deal they should have to deal with the consequences of that decision.

  • Ben

    Cool list. The Rangers are big time spenders eh?

    One thing tho i did note – Steven Reinprecht should have the same ** as Mark Fraser. Early in the year he was traded from Florida to Vancouver & stayed buried in the AHL.

  • Who owns the freakin’ Rangers? They can afford to be close to cap spenders AND bury almost $14M in the minors.

    I still fail to see why Feaster would trade a pick to Buffalo just to get rid of Kotalik, when he could’ve just been left in the minors. Pretty sure Buffalo just shipped Kotalik right off to Europe. Flames tried it, and Kotalik refused to go.

    Ales Kotalik is a cancer. Just like Avery. Just like Redden. Just like… well, maybe there is a reason some of those billion dollar contracts are sitting in the minors.