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Buyout period will be quiet for the Penguins

Pittsburgh has never used a buyout in the history of the salary cap, and won’t figure to this summer either

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Florida Panthers Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

We’re about to start the first stage of the off-season. The buyout period, per CapFriendly, will begin on Friday and runs through June 30th. NHL teams use buyouts to get rid of under-performing and over-paid players. However, there is a salary cap penalty for doing so.

For example, using a totally random player, say Carl Hagelin, here’s what happens if the Penguins wanted to buy him out this week.

Hagelin’s cap hit on the Pens would go from $4.0 million in 2018-19 if he stays on the roster down to just over $1.5 million, giving an extra $2.5 million for Pittsburgh to replace him with another player. However the penalty would be having a $1.2 million cap hit the following season in 2019-20, whereas if the Pens just let Hagelin play out his contract he would be a free agent next summer and count $0 against any future salary caps.

For this reason of future penalties, the Penguins are one of the few teams that has never used a buyout since they have come into the NHL along with the salary cap in 2005.

Hagelin was listed here by The Score as the most likely player to get bought out, but it doesn’t seem that likely. Hagelin is compensated perhaps more than fairly for what he brings to the table (especially for goals and assists) but he does also add speed, penalty killing and has been a good possession player; he’s certainly no drag on the team even if his salary should ideally be a little less in a cap world.

A better buyout option for the Pens is probably under-performing defenseman Matt Hunwick who had a tough first year in Pittsburgh in 2017-18. From CapFriendly again, here’s the numbers on what a Hunwick buyout would mean for future salary cap figures.

It would be really beneficial and save the Pens $1.7 million next season to buy Hunwick out. Looking only at the short-term, that’s great! But, big picture having dead cap space for four years on a player who isn’t around is far from ideal and eating $708k in 2020-21 and 2021-22 is not something the Pens should be interested in doing.

A better bet for Hunwick is somehow a trade, perhaps for a similar type of player/contract for a fresh start, or a hope that year two goes better than year one.

The good news is that the Pens really don’t have any “bad” contracts at this point, so they can avoid any buyouts and concentrate on using the available money they have left to attempt to improve the roster and compete for a championship again next year.

One way to improve might be to pick the buyout pile to see if any names can help. There will be a familiar one out there.

At 37 maybe time has passed Paul Martin by. However, perhaps at the same time he could add some veteran leadership to a 3rd pair that does need more warm bodies and depth. Could be an interesting idea to at least consider.

Martin only played 14 games in San Jose last year and battled injury, but his small sample still showed a guy who can keep the puck moving in the right direction.

Something to consider, there might be something of value or at least interest out there on a bounceback. Maybe there’s a better case than Martin to add, but if there’s any movement by the Pens with buying out players it will more likely be adding someone rather than taking a future penalty to buy a player out.