Everyone’s favourite topic of discussion that rarely happens, buyouts are just one way for a general manager of an NHL team to admit that they made a mistake and need a way to get rid of it.
With some general managers learning their lesson and not signing any older players to a significant contract with term, there are still some contracts lying around from yesteryear. A symbol of the time when GMs did not really care for the future cap situation of the team, and thought that 30 was the prime athletic age.
In the 2016 offseason, a summer full of bad contracts given out like a concert promoter giving away flyers to a horrible show, these contracts might be thrown out before they’re expired.
Milan Lucic and Andrew Ladd are some examples of the reckoning, but no contract effects the Vancouver Canucks’ future plans like none other than Loui Eriksson.
What was deemed a failure from the beginning, the ex-Boston Bruin winger signed to a six-year $36-million ($6-million AAV) contract. He was coming off a 30-goal, 63-point season with the Bruins, but turning 31-years-old just a few weeks after the contract signing, his game was not heading in the right direction for that amount of cap.
Since then, Ericsson has never had more than 11 goals or 29 points in a single season with the Canucks, and has never contributed more than below-average play when it comes to on-ice shot attempt and expected goal metrics.
Now they are stuck with an aging player for three more years that is deemed useless by the coaching staff and have only one clear option heading into what hopes to be a forward-looking 2019-20 season — buyout.
With three more years left on his current contract, the buyout would span over six years and would include a total savings of $1,666,667. Meaning that the Canucks would be left with a $5,555,556-size hole in the cap situation with Eriksson gone for the first two years, then it gets slightly better.
Moving into just a $3,555,556 cap hit in what would be the last year of his deal, slightly over half of the actual cap hit that Ericsson carries. But because of the buyout, for three more years after the original contract would be finished, there would be a $555,556 hit on the cap.
Essentially, the only real savings that the Canucks would see from an Eriksson buyout would be in the 2021-22 season — saving close to $2.5-million on the cap. That would be very good timing for the Canucks, since that year would be the first year of a potential Elias Pettersson post-ELC contract.
The unfortunate part would be that for the next two seasons, the Canucks would be essentially paying the same amount of cap dollars for Eriksson, with or without him in the lineup.
That hole on the wing would need to be replaced by another player, so even if that player made $700,000 the cost of not having Eriksson would be greater than just sticking to his original contract.
If the Canucks waited a year, and did this process in the summer of 2020, the savings would look similar.
Still with that massive carry-over into the 2020-21 season, the buyout cap hit would only be $333,333 less than Eriksson’s cap hit without the buyout.
It shortens the length of effect, finishing in 2024 instead of 2025, but that is really the only positive to gain from delaying the buyout by a full year.
What would really make sense is to wait until that crucial 2021 offseason to pull the trigger and set a 36-year-old Loui Eriksson free.
In this hypothetical scenario, the cap hit would be $4-million for what would have been the final year of his deal, while carrying over for just one more single season a cap hit of $1-million.
The true value in a potential buyout like this would be the opportunity Eriksson’s absence could give to one of the younger forwards. His ice-time — albeit limited — could be given to someone that would have more of a future with this team and could further build the future core of this team.
If the Canucks value their young assets, seeing their potential development in the NHL could be slightly better than seeing an aging one slowly deteriorate into a shadow of what he once was.
The future of Loui Eriksson in Vancouver is not a pleasant one, the management must be proactive in handling his contract and what his roster spot or cap dollars could go towards.