There is a current misconception floating around that the Penguins will be going into the 2015-16 season and moving forward in 'salary cap hell.' This is generally untrue, due to two circumstances:
- Significant salary coming off the books (assumed) in Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff being unrestricted free agents and looking at potential big paydays
- More play for the kids on entry level contracts. Letting Martin and Ehrhoff walk opens the door for full-time play from Derrick Pouliot, Olli Maatta returning to the lineup, as well as the availability of roster spots for Scott Harrington and Brian Dumoulin. Throw in the potential for seeing Kasperi Kapanen and Oskar Sundqvist making the team and you're looking at even less money in the starting lineup.
Even with both of these reasons clearing salary, it still makes more sense for the Penguins to buy out the remainder of the contract of Rob Scuderi, to clear even more cap space, as well as open roster space for the young players moving forward.
Scuderi's contract carries a $3.375 million cap hit for two more seasons.
Buying him out would cost the Penguins money against the cap for four years, but it's something that can be done, with the combination of playing the kids on the ELC's.
Scuderi's Buyout Costs
If the Penguins were to buy out Rob Scuderi, it would cost the Penguins against the salary cap, the following amounts for the next four seasons, using the standard 2/3 the dollars remaining on the deal for double the number of years left on the contract:
War on Ice has a user-friendly buyout calculator that can be accessed for every player to determine the amount of cost again the salary cap, should a team decide to buy out the contract of a player. Here is the breakdown as follows:
Seeing what the buyout would cost the Penguins, and whether it's something feasible they can do are two different conversations. Lets take a look at the ramifications if they decided to do it, and where it would leave the Penguins in regard to the salary cap.
Implications of a Buyout
For me, the most common sense way to look at the scenario is to compare how the defense looks now (as well as its respective cap hit) and what it would look like in the future if they pursued a buyout:
|Current Defense Makeup (When Healthy)||Cap Hit|
Now, if we look forward at what the Penguins defense would/could look like, including the dead money cap hit from the buyout, in comparison to the current:
|Potential Future Defense Makeup||Cap Hit|
|Ian Cole (with RFA pay increase)||$1,250,000|
|Rob Scuderi Buyout AAV||$1,290,000|
Comparing the two scenarios, including a buyout, as well as Ehrhoff and Martin coming off the books, the Penguins could potentially save almost $8 million on the cap going into next season. Of course, the cap hit from the buyout would increase an extra $700,000 for the 2016-17 season, before dropping to $900,000 for two years. The salaries of players like Maatta and Harrington will obviously increase when they come to the end of their ELC's. I wouldn't expect Ben Lovejoy to remain on the team after next season. When you have skilled and talented players on Entry Level Contracts, you need to utilize and play them to provide yourself a little relief to construct the rest of your roster.
I feel that the flexibility the Penguins have with the young defensemen and their ELC's, they can afford to buy out Scuderi's contract, and have the dead money on the blue line. The difference in savings between letting Martin and Ehrhoff walk will give them more money to spend to bolster the forward depth, or give them flexibility to make trades, whichever they could/would want to do.
The one true variable that we don't have the answer to is whether the Penguins would buy out Scuderi. His veteran presence on the team speaks for itself. Also, the Penguins do not come off as a team that makes 'bad faith' kind of moves. However, the current management regime did not sign this contract, Ray Shero did.
Time will tell whether the Penguins think about doing it and actually do it, but I think there is more flexibility to do it than there may initially appear to be, due to the perception that the Penguins are in 'salary cap hell.'