Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Cup pals Lecavalier, Richards both buyouts?
By Pierre LeBrun
It is ironic that two of the highest-profile players talked about being potential buyouts were both paramount to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2004 Stanley Cup triumph.
Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards await word on their respective situations as the compliance buyout window opens Wednesday at 11 p.m. ET.
Any player bought out during this window would see his cap hit completely wiped clean. It’s a transition measure in the new collective bargaining agreement for this summer and next summer only, and only two buyouts per team are allowed.
Lecavalier, 33, still has seven years left on his deal, which carries a $7.73 million annual cap hit for Tampa. Richards, also 33, also has seven years left on his deal with the Rangers at a $6.67 million annual cap hit.
The decision that faces both the Rangers and Lightning: If they don’t use the compliance buyout provision before the end of July 4, do they risk either player getting injured next season and not be able to buy him out next summer?
The other factor to consider is the "recapture" rule in the new CBA, which hammers teams with cap charges on players with these types of front-loaded contracts if they retire before the end of the deal.
Neither player's camp had heard officially either way as of Wednesday afternoon, with Pat Morris of Newport Sports telling ESPN.com he had yet to get a definite answer from the Rangers. In a text, Richards told ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang at 9 p.m. ET that he had not heard from the Rangers. Ditto for Lecavalier’s agent, Kent Hughes, who nevertheless understands the situation Tampa is in.
"We understand that the contract is a difficult one in a declining environment and potentially difficult with rule changes that have been instituted in the new CBA, and we understand that Tampa has the right to extricate itself from that contract through the amnesty buyout provision," Hughes told ESPN.com. "We’ve had a conversation, but we haven’t been told one way or another that they intend to do so. We expect that if they are going to, we’ll know in the very, very near future."
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly sent out a memo Monday morning to all 30 teams warning them to play it by the book regarding buyouts and trades. The N.Y. Post this week reported that Tampa and Toronto had talked about a potential Lecavalier deal in which the Leafs would get another asset in exchange for using its financial muscle to absorb the buyout on Lecavalier, which then in turn could re-sign in Tampa at a cheaper rate after he becomes a free agent (players who are bought out can't rejoin their own teams for a year). The Leafs deny the report. Daly's memo specifically warned clubs that the trade/buyout/reacquire scenario would be deemed a circumvention of the CBA.
Looking to move Miller?
Ryan Miller's future remains up in the air. Will he be a Sabre next season or be dealt elsewhere?
He has one year left on his deal at $6.25 million, which suggests this is the summer when Buffalo has to fish or cut bait with him. If it's going to deal him, it'll get more now than at the trade deadline next season.
Miller told ESPN.com via email Wednesday that he did not know what was going on and was just focused on what he could control.
"I just have to prepare myself to be a starting goalie and an Olympian," Miller said. "I want to challenge myself to raise my game back to the highest level. Everything else is out of my control."
Ray Emery, an unrestricted free agent on July 5, is a name that surfaced among Philadelphia media speculating on what the Flyers might do to sign a goalie to share the crease with Steve Mason now that they’ve decided to buy out Ilya Bryzgalov.
Emery, should he not re-sign in Chicago, would certainly make sense given his past relationship with Flyers GM Paul Holmgren, and a source confirmed Wednesday that Emery is among the names on Holmgren’s radar. Emery’s agent, J.P. Barry of CAA Sports, was expected to touch base with the Blackhawks over the next day or so to figure out what their intentions are for the veteran goalie, who was terrific in forming a one-two punch with Corey Crawford this season.
Meanwhile, another name that was thrown out Tuesday by some Philly scribes was that of Tim Thomas. The polarizing 39-year-old becomes a UFA on July 5 after skipping out on the final year of his deal with Boston. (His rights were dealt to the Islanders last season.)
The question is, what are Thomas’ intentions?
"Until I hear otherwise, he’s status quo," Thomas’ agent Bill Zito said Wednesday.
Which means he remains undecided, although clearly he’s going to need to decide soon if he intends to come back since goalie jobs will be scarce in a matter of weeks.
Here’s hoping Thomas returns -- how could that not be fun?
Bobrovsky looking for deal
Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky remains unsigned by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Ongoing talks between the goalie’s agent Paul Theofanous and the club have not closed the gap yet.
"I’m supposed to meet with Theofanous today, but there’s nothing new to report right now," Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen told ESPN.com on Wednesday afternoon. "It’s a work in progress. We’re hoping to get it done."
Adding to the challenge for Kekalainen is that Bobrovsky reportedly has a lucrative offer on the table from the KHL’s St. Petersburg SKA club, which is owned by KHL president Alexander Medvedev. Not that Kekalainen is trying to compete with that offer.
"It’s a rich company that sponsors SKA, and Medvedev is a powerful man," Kekalainen said. "And I respect their league and their process there. But we don’t negotiate against the KHL. We based our negotiations on the comparables in the NHL."
This and that
• The Kings and pending UFA blueliner Rob Scuderi continue to talk, but there's still no deal at this point. "Talks are ongoing prior to July 5, and no final decision has been made," Scuderi’s agent Steve Bartlett said Wednesday. "The Kings have shown strong interest in having him return."
• Devils GM Lou Lamoriello and David Clarkson’s agent Pat Morris of Newport Sports chatted Tuesday, although no offers were exchanged.
• Jonathan Bernier’s agent, Pat Brisson of CAA Sports, says he expects to talk contract with the Maple Leafs at the draft this weekend.
• Contract talks are also underway between Matt Cooke's camp, led by Pat Morris, and the Pittsburgh Penguins.