5 Players that the Leafs Could Buy Out Next Week

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Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY SPORTS

Thanks to the oddities of the NHL Rulebook, the Toronto Maple Leafs now have an opportunity to shed some contracts. Their arbitration-eligible players have now all been settled with, which means a second “buyout window”, lasting 48 hours, will open up on Monday. Seeing as the Leafs have less than $60,000 in cap space at this exact moment and a lot of potential rookie bonuses to deal with that can’t be thrown under Nathan Horton’s LTIR, this may be a good way for the team to optimize their cap situation for the next two seasons ahead.

General Fanager explains the second buyout rule here:

For teams with one or more arbitration filings in an offseason, an additional 48 hour buyout window is available starting on the third day after the team’s last arbitration filing is awarded or settled. For this buyout window, there is a minimum AAV requirement on the player being bought out that varies annually. The estimated minimum for the 2015 offseason is $2,985,625. In addition to meeting this minimum AAV, the player must have been on the team’s reserve list for the previous year to qualify for this buyout window. Teams can execute a maximum of 3 buyouts in this additional buyout window over the course of the entire CBA term.

With that considered, let’s look at our test subjects:

Joffrey Lupul

16/17 17/18 18/19 19/20
Before Buyout 5250000 5250000    
After Buyout 1500000 3000000 1500000 1500000
Savings 3750000 2250000 -1500000 -1500000

The case in favour of a buyout: From the sounds of it, the Leafs have no real interest in having Lupul play for them again. They think he’s done, he thinks he can play, and this could be a massive stalemate. I doubt anybody wants to trade for a broken man on the bad side of 30. The easiest way to get rid of that problem? Cut him loose.

The case against a buyout: Toronto is so, so close to being out of the woods in terms of bad contracts, save for Phil Kessel’s salary retention. By buying out Lupul, they’d have him on the books for two additional years. If you’re a believer in this team, you know that they could start doing damage in that timeframe, and every dollar is going to help once lottery chasing turns into trophy chasing.

Brooks Laich

16/17 17/18
Before Buyout 4500000 0
After Buyout 1833333 1333333
Savings 2666667 -1333333

The case in favour of a buyout: That’s a loooooooot of cap space coming off this year. $2.7 million pays off Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and Nikita Zaitsev’s rookie bonuses, for example. Minimizing those is the name of the game, and if they’re going to hit next year’s cap anyway, you’re paying them off ahead of time at a 2 to 1 ratio.

The case against a buyout: The Leafs seem to like the idea of Laich being around as a locker room presence and a mentor to the kids. Is that worth a temporary cap gain, especially for someone who will have to be replaced in the lineup anyway? That remains to be seen.

Milan Michalek

16/17 17/18
Before Buyout 4000000 0
After Buyout 1333333 1333333
Savings 2666667 -1333333

The case in favour of a buyout: The exact same situation applies here. While Michalek’s pre-buyout cap hit is $500,000 lower, the structure means that his buyout hit is lowered too and is the exact same in 2017/18. Again, you remove significant worry regarding next year’s bonus overage by making a move like this.

The case against a buyout: There’s not really a ton here. Michalek is only a couple of years removed from being a useful forward, but even then, he was a shadow of himself. He’s 31 and more than a little broken down, so he’s a risk even towards the minimum salary, let alone at $4 million. I guess Leafs fans will have to have less reason to buy Czech Republic tickets at the World Cup? Even then, everyone loves Jagr.

Colin Greening

16/17 17/18
Before Buyout 2650000 0
After Buyout 516666 1066666
Savings 2133334 -1066666

The case in favour of a buyout: Greening’s contract structure is even more awkward, meaning that despite having an even lower hit than Michalek, you still save nearly 75% of the deal in year one and only add a million in year two. In both of their cases, too, it’s worth remembering that Toronto has a huge logjam at left wing, to the point where there might be ECHL players that you could argue could play on the Leafs in a pinch.

The case against a buyout: The Leafs aren’t great this year, but they’re decent enough and the Atlantic Division is pretty bad. They’re not just going to start dumping prospects for old guys to squeeze into the playoffs, but they’re also going to try to win a bunch of hockey games if they can. Colin Greening is a very solid defensive forward who improved the possession and efficiency rates of many of his linemates in Toronto and in Ottawa. His percentage driven breakout year with the Sens may have put too much expectation on him, but since being written off as a one-year wonder, he’s been perhaps underused as a depth forward who plays garbage minutes. The Leafs might feel otherwise, seeing a player who can contribute if they’re good or get a pick in a trade down the road if they aren’t. Is a pick worth more than the space, though?

Stephane Robidas

16/17 17/18
Before Buyout 3000000 0
After Buyout 3000000 0
Savings 0 0

The case in favour of a buyout: The Leafs wouldn’t save any cap dollars with a buyout, but hey would gain a roster spot. If there are still a few entry-level deals, or, you know, backup goalies left to sign, it would be nice to make sure the team stays under 50 contracts. They’re at 47 right now, which is manageable, but can evaporate quickly, which could even inhibit them in a quantity for quality trade down the road.

The case against a buyout: Because Robidas is injured, he’d have to approve of any buyout. If this was a “good soldier” situation, then I’m sure he’d do it, but there’s $1 million in real cash at stake for him here. With his career likely done, he’s likely not going to throw away seven figures to do a favour for a group that weren’t even the ones who signed him. 

BONUS: Jared Cowen

Cowen 16/17 17/18
Before Buyout 3100000 0
After Buyout -650000 750000
Savings 3750000 -750000

The case in favour of a buyout: Speaking of career likely done players, there’s still this elephant hanging around the room. Cowen’s buyout process is independent of the second window, as it’s in the hands of an arbitrator. If it gets approved, the Leafs probably don’t have to shed any of these guys. If they get denied, they’ll wish they did. Nobody is expecting an answer by Wednesday at midnight, so for now, all anyone can do is stare and blink at all the cap space at stake.

The case against a buyout: There is none. The Leafs have already attempted to buy him out and now need to wait for confirmation that they were allowed to do it. The argument is that he was deemed fit to play when he was shut down for the year, whereas Cowen argues that the surgery he underwent between the public shutdown and the buyout might force him away from the game.

If I did It…

All things considered, I’d be buying out Milan Michalek for the $2.66M gained this year and I’d hold pat on the rest. Throw Lupul on waivers, I guess put feelers on how Robidas would feel about walking away entirely, let Laich and Greening play while hoping the Cowen buyout goes through. If it does, they’d save a total of $6.41 million; more than enough to sign a backup goalie and cover most if not all of Matthews, Nylander, Maner, and Zaitsev’s rookie bonuses at a combined cost of just over $2 million next year; a good return on investment.

  • Trevor5555

    i wouldnt buy out any of the one year deals (laich, michalek, greening) because the second years of them would be more than if we just took the cap overage charges from the bonuses. also they are more assets that we could trade for picks (if they do well, which is a big if). Laich and Michalek are #respected #leaders who some GM’s might pay for if they can put up decent points

    Leafs may have to live with Lupuls contract because the cap hit is so large.

    I like the idea of gaining a roster spot for robidas but only if they have to, otherwise i dont think the leafs want to draw more attention to him.

  • Kanuunankuula

    Michalek is house hunting in Toronto, He was talked into waiving his no trade by Lou and coach
    Babcock. I think he is staying in Toronto and I hope he has a great year.
    However 4 million is a lot to pay for dressing room leadership. It’s something nice to say about
    a forward that can’t score. So I agree with buying
    out Brooks Laitch
    Looks like Greening salary is less than estimated minimum for a buy out.Like Michalek, Greenings a big boy and management does not want the team pushed around
    If management determines that Lupul will not be playing for the Leafs then they may as well buy him out.
    Maybe we will get a new back up goalie next week

  • Capt.Jay

    The issue with buying out players has another positive side. The obvious is the cap space, but a veteran that has been bought now leaves a spot open on the roster for one of our many rookies.

  • Kanuunankuula

    Why do we need to worry about rookie bonuses? With Laich. Greening and Michalek coming off the books at the end of the season, surely any overage penalties can be easily absorbed next year? The team will also be losing salary in the shape of whoever gets picked by Las Vegas. Overage penalties are only an issue when you don’t have expendable contracts coming to an end. Surely this doesn’t apply here?

  • Stan Smith

    I would rather we don’t eat crow on these deals and just let them play out.

    There is no REAL need to buy out Laich, Greening or Michalek when they will be off the books at season end. Why add the cap hit next year?

    Greening and Laich in my opinion probably deserve spots on the roster; Greening really surprised with his play in particular after the trade.

    Robidas adds no value in buying him out and would make the organization look extremely horrible (NHLers pay attention) because they made him agree to sit out the remaining two years, wouldn’t save cap by doing so and they can afford to pay him.

    Lupul is a case we can look at next year, I’d prefer to not have him on the books for another 4 years! Ahem, Nonis (Tim Gleason).

  • Mitch92

    Sportsnet published an article that supports the idea of playing Michalek in a top six role, perhaps alongside Nylander and Smugly. The article also stated that Babcock has not been in contact with Michalek to discuss his possible usage this season so there are no guarantees that he will even don the Leaf this season.

    Personally I think Lupul will be bought out and Greening, Laich and Michalek will start the season with the Leafs. Those are the three players who I think Babcock likes and envisions a use for. They can all slot into bottom six roles with the ability to play up in case of injury.

    With all the young talent the Leafs have at their disposal it will be interesting to see who gets shut out of the line-up due to numbers. They have a long list of available rookies who have shown that they are ready for full time NHL action including Nylander, Leivo, Smugly, Brown, Marner, Soshnikov and Hyman and that is just the forwards. With veterans JVR, Bozak, Kadri and Komarov in the mix the fight for jobs will be fierce.

  • magesticRAGE

    I would buy out Michálek and seek to trade Laich at the deadline. Only Laich’s leadership is needed, not Michálek’s. There’s enough veteran leadership on the team, and buying out Michálek would free up a spot for a Leivo or Rychel.
    There’s no savings in buying out Robidias, let him get paid.
    Allow the Lupul saga play out, buying him out will eat up cap space when a lot of current rookies will need new deals. Buying him out in 17/18 makes more sense.
    Greening is the most useful of the bunch, would like to extend him a couple years.

  • Trevor5555

    My moves would be trade Michalek and Greening for conditional picks ala Bernier, buyout Laich and Cowan(pending decesion)freeing up 13.3 million. Sign Vesey for 925k + 2M and sign Enroth for 1.6M.

    Then we have about 9 millon in cap space to cover 7.4 million in bonuses but more importantly we have room for guys like Hyman, Soshnikov, Brown etc. to play in the NHL.

    3rd line of Vesey – Bozak – Brown has a lot of promise.

    • Mitch92

      I would not get my hopes up too high on signing Jimmy Vesey. The acquisition of Kerby Rychel tells me that the Leafs are not pinning their hopes on signing Vesey.

  • DCDC

    Even though Michalek was rumoured to be house hunting he definitely makes the most sense. Will be interesting to see how they manage the cap this year, I think Pridham will prove his worth.