NHL Rumors: Buffalo Sabres and Amnesty Buyouts – Part II

Kevin Hoffman – US PRESSWIRE

A few weeks ago I discussed the Buffalo Sabres‘ situation in an amnesty buyout world if they were able to make them a part of the new CBA.

Now that the NHL and the NHLPA have come to a tentative agreement, each team has now been given the ability to make two amnesty – also called compliance – buyouts over the next two summers. The ability to make a second buyout will make certain players on the fringe of buyout more likely to be bought out and will likely deepen the free agent pool the next two summers with veteran names that may surprise you.

As far as the Sabres are concerned, many fans may be relieved to hear that two buyout makes the possibility of buying out the Ville Leino contract all the more likely. That is not to say it’s 100%, or even 50%, but with only one buyout it was probably closer to 10% at the maximum.

What having the second buyout does is allow the Sabres to get out from under the Leino contract purely for “it was a bad contract” reasons, and then another player for a more need-based reason.

Realistically, assuming no major trades or free agent acquisitions, the Sabres likely do not need to buy anyone out to field a competitive team in the 2013-14 season.

According to CapGeek, the Sabres have 14 players signed for 2013-14 with $48,812,500 in committed salary. The cap for next season will be $64.3 million. As it stands right now, the Sabres will only have three current NHL defenseman – Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff and Andrej Sekera – under contract for 2013-14. As bad as that may sound, the Sabres are actually in a great position concerning their blue line.

Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold, who make $4 million and $3 million respectively this season, will not make their current salaries in their next contract. The Sabres will likely have the ability to sign them to a discount if they wanted to bring them back. Adam Pardy ($2 million) is unlikely to be resigned unless he has a mind blowing 48 or 50 games depending on the NHL’s schedule.

Essentially this opens the door for the young guys that have been growing on the Rochester blue line. TJ Brennan, who likely will be with the Sabres this year given his somewhat odd contract situation, and Brayden McNabb top that list. Brennan is an restricted free agent next season, but should be a quick signing, and McNabb will be owed $900,000 at the NHL level next year. Assuming Brennan signs in the same neighborhood, that is $5 million in cap savings from Regehr and Leopold.

Also, expect either Mike Weber or Alexander Sulzer, or both, to be signed for less than a million dollars a season to round out the Sabres’ six defenseman.

Assuming the assumptions on salary for those that need to be signed next year are correct, the Sabres are looking at about $52 million in salary for 17 players ($53m for 18 if Weber and Sulzer are signed), with only two forwards and a goaltender to worry about.

Three forwards’ contracts are up next season: Cody Hodgson (RFA), John Scott (UFA) and Matt Ellis (UFA).

Hodgson will easily be the most expensive, probably signing a three to four year deal in the $3 million range per year, especially with Tyler Ennis‘ deal as a comparison. That leaves the Sabres with about $6 million to sign a forward and a goaltender, and one has to assume that Jhonas Enroth will not be making much more than his current $675,000 salary this season. So essentially the Sabres will have $5 million to sign a forward or two. That includes the $1.775 million that would be owed Mikhail Grigorenko if he were to make the team next year.

In other words: They will have plenty of cap space.

A Leino buyout would in the above situation would be just to be rid of the contract and would not serve any other purpose. Granted, the above analysis becomes moot if the Sabres were to make a trade or sign any – major- free agents next offseason.

Realistically, the Sabres may be one of the teams that have been discussed that would take on salary with the intentions of buying it out to sweeten a deal for a team that does not have the luxury to do so. Remember, when a team buys a player out they still are on the hook for two-thirds of their salary.

Also, any notion that the Sabres would like to buyout Christian Ehrhoff is completely off-base. Ehrhoff’s $4 million a year salary, despite his contract being contrived before the new CBA rules it would certainly not work under now, is a bargain for what he contributes. Looking around the NHL, he is approximately $3.5 million cheaper than Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, and that’s not to say he’s the player either of them are, but it could be a lot higher.

In conclusion, with the Sabres’ cap situation next season given the youth at defense that will surely get a crack at the lineup, it seems less likely that Leino will be bought out unless the Sabres’ front office just wants to put the contract behind them.

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