Photo Credit: Jerome Miron / USA TODAY Sports
For reasons that appear to be rather complicated, the Toronto Maple Leafs have not used a buyout on the contract of defenseman Jared Cowen, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie:
As I speculated on @OverDrive1050 tonight, Jared Cowen has not been bought out by TOR in the 1st buyout window, which is now closed.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) July 1, 2016
The club shut Cowen down in late February after acquiring him from the Ottawa Senators and it was thought that they did so for the purpose of buying him out. That may not have been the case though as Cowen was apparently dealing with a hip injury, according to McKenzie. Nonetheless Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello was explicit about the club’s intention to do so by July 1 at the time.
If Cowen isn’t medically cleared then he can’t be bought out.
Because Cowen is 25-years-old – or more importantly, under the age of 26 – the Maple Leafs have the ability to to duck two-thirds of the cost of the last year of his contract in a buyout. The savings would be enormous. The former Senators defenseman has one year and $4.5 million in salary remaining on his deal and the cost of buying him out would be just $1.5 million in total.
Also because of a weird quirk, buying out Cowen would actually result in a -$650,000 cap hit for next season. In other words, buying out Cowen’s deal would actually save the Leafs space against the salary next season before the club would have a $750,000 hit to deal with in 2017-18.
We’ll see how this plays out. Toronto has three players that could file for players elected arbitration – Frank Corrado, Martin Marincin and Peter Holland – and only one of those players needs to file to provide the Maple Leafs with a second buyout window. If he’s cleared by then, that’s something you’d imagine the club would pursue.
Otherwise this seems like it could result in a big and unintended additional cost for the deep-pocketed Maple Leafs.
UPDATE: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman has added some additional context, which is crucial considering how odd this situation is. According to Friedman the NHL and NHLPA began a arbitration case this week to determine whether or not Cowen could be bought out and no decision is immediately expected in the matter.
Friedman notes that Cowen had been cleared to play in the American League in February, but opted to have surgery – on a doctor’s recommendation, though presumably not a Maple Leafs doctor – on his own after leaving the club. The question of Cowen’s health, then, will be left for an arbitrator to determine.
Cowen stands to lose $3 million in salary if he’s bought out, while the Maple Leafs stand to lose a big whack of cap space if Cowen is determined unfit for a buyout to be processed. Considering those stakes, one can understand why a third party might be required to sort this out.