Examining the Ottawa Senators’ Buyout Options

With the window open, the time is now for Melnyk to shed some salary.

With the Stanley Cup Finals behind us, a week has passed, meaning the buyout window is officially open. Starting on midnight of June 15th, the window goes until 5 pm on June 30th, giving teams 15 days to rid themselves of any toxic contracts. While the Sens have a short history of using this to their advantage, there’s a chance that could change this year.

For those unfamiliar with a buyout, its use is to diminish the amount you have to pay on a player’s contract, although in exchange the player is no longer on your roster, and you have to pay them over a period of time double the original length. The bought out player then becomes an unrestricted free agent, and can be signed to a new contract on any team. For full buyout rules you can visit this explainer article here, or the Buyout FAQ on CapFriendly.

Without further ado, here are four players with a chance to be bought out by the Sens this summer, going in order of most likely to least likely.

Marian Gaborik

Replacement value: $1,202,778

The situation: Recently acquired as part of the package to ship off Dion Phaneuf and Nate Thompson to LA, Gaborik is well past his 80-point prime from a decade ago. While he still could serve as an effective 4th line player, his contract value is a significantly higher than those standards would indicate. His actual salary has a steep decline in the final two seasons, going to $3.175 million and $3.075 million, although that could still be too much to handle for Melnyk’s wallet.

Buying out Gaborik would save the Sens over $3.5 million in total salary, although in exchange they’d be paying him $1.2 million from 2021-22 to 2023-24, when otherwise his contract would’ve expired by that point.

Is it worth it?: The replacement value for a bought out player, as formulated by Jonathan Willis at The Athletic (paywall), can be calculated by taking the total savings received, and dividing that by the current number of years left on the player’s contract. Using Gaborik as an example...

Replacement Value = Savings   / Years Remaining
         = $3,608,333 / 3 years
         = $1,202,778

If Gaborik’s skillset can be replaced by a player with a cap hit of around $1.2 million, then the buyout is deemed worth it. According to Matt Cane’s contract projection model, some UFA forwards around that area include Daniel Winnik, Jason Chimera and Nikolai Kulemin. All serving as bottom six forwards, this might be a suitable buyout for the Sens, especially if Melnyk’s looking to get some short-term financial relief.

Likelihood: Gaborik’s name has been floated around plenty as a potential buyout candidate, which is why he’s listed here as the most likely. While it may pain the organization to continue paying a player they’re not playing, they just retained salary on Dion Phaneuf, so the times could be changing.

Alex Burrows

Replacement value: $833,333

The situation: With only one year left on his contract, things haven’t been quite the same for Burrows since his first game post-trade. Of note is that because his contract was signed when Burrows was 35+ years old, the Sens receive no salary cap benefit if they choose to buy him out, although the salary relief stays the same. You can see the difference in the far right column on the breakdown above. The Sens would receive under a million in total savings, although it only requires the buyout to extend to the end of 2019-20.

Is it worth it?: With a replacement value of $833,333, it might just be worth it if the Sens don’t plan on playing Burrows next season. He even cleared waivers last season, so the organizational mentality may not be in his favour. Some potential replacements in that salary range include Jussi Jokinen, Jannik Hansen and Patrick Sharp.

Likelihood: Burrows seemed to fall out of favour with the coaches and management last year, so a buyout is definitely possible. With Max McCormick entering the one-way portion of his deal, and prospects such as Filip Chlapik and Colin White knocking at the door, having internal replacements on the ready could make this an easier move to stomach. However, with only one year left on Burrows’ contract, Dorion and co. may just decide that riding it out could be the better option.

Bobby Ryan

Replacement value: $1,833,333

The situation: Ah, Bobby Ryan. Although he’s never quite lived up to the expectations of the trade or his subsequent contract, he has still served to be an effective top six player. In the past two seasons however, with the exception of Playoff Bobby from 2017, his play has significantly trailed off. An unheralded amount of finger/wrist/hand injuries have put him off track, and at 31 years old, it’s looking less and less likely that we’ll see him return to decent shape.

With four years left on his expensive contract, a Ryan buyout would provide the Sens with the most savings (over $7 million!), but they’d have to continue paying him until 2025-26.

Is it worth it?: No, a Ryan buyout is very likely not worth it at this stage. As it currently stands, he’s Ottawa’s second best right winger behind Mark Stone, and even while playing part of the season injured, he managed to score at a 44-point pace. With a replacement value of $1,833,333, some UFA cost cohorts include Matt Calvert, Kyle Brodziak and Antoine Vermette.

Likelihood: It’s well-known that Dorion is trying to get out of Ryan’s contract, with plenty of speculation that he’d be tied into a trade involving Erik Karlsson. If a trade partner can’t be found, however, this could be their only other route out. Although a buyout is unlikely since he’s still an effective player, it’s still a possibility.

Craig Anderson

Replacement value: $1,583,333

The situation: Our final potential buyout candidate, Anderson struggled all throughout the 2017-18 season, after just signing his two-year extension earlier that summer. At 37 years old and coming off the worst season of his career, the team is left wondering whether their starting goalie will be able to bounce back. Like Burrows, Anderson’s contract was signed past his 35th birthday, meaning the Sens would receive no cap relief in a buyout situation. As a budget team, however, that’s probably not their biggest concern.

Is it worth it?: I guess this depends on whether or not you believe Anderson can bounce back to a respectable form. Goaltending has a tendency to be very variant from year to year, so it’s hard to tell how he’ll be able to recover from an .898 save percentage. His $1,583,333 replacement value is similar to the projected amount for UFA goalies Chad Johnson, Eddie Lack and Anton Khudobin.

Likelihood: Unless the Sens are able to pull the trigger on a trade for a starting goalie like Philipp Grubauer, it looks like Anderson is still the Sens’ guy for the 2018-19 season. It’s an unlikely buyout unless something else happens soon.

After such a disastrous season, it’s understandable to see a handful of players pop up as potential buyout candidates. Fourteen buyouts were accomplished last season, and 79 players have been bought out since the Sens’ last turn with Bobby Butler in 2012. The times are changing, however, and Melnyk’s frugal regime may see this option as a way for some short-term salary relief.

The fifteen-day window is open. Who do you think the Sens will buy out, if anyone?

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