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Predicting Who Could Hit The Buyout Market — And Who The Capitals Could Target



Winnipeg Jets right wing Blake Wheeler watches the movement of the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Arizona Coyotes Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

With the Vegas Golden Knights winning the Stanley Cup on Tuesday, the NHL offseason is officially underway.

But before free agency opens July 1, before the NHL draft begins on June 28, the league’s buyout period is set to open. Starting Friday, NHL teams will have until June 30 to buyout a player’s contract, which lowers a contract’s salary cap hit over a period of time.

As rumors fly that the Capitals may look to utilize a buyout themselves, many others around the league could find themselves on the free agent market.

With the Capitals still looking to remain competitive, there are a handful of players who, if bought out, the team could look at targeting. Here’s a look at some of them.

Blake Wheeler, RW, Winnipeg Jets

It’s only a matter of time before Vezina-finalist Connor Hellebuyck and top-line center Pierre-Luc Dubois are on their way out of Winnipeg, meaning that the Jets could put the wheels in motion on a rebuild sooner rather than later.

Wheeler, 37 at the start of the season, is unlikely to be in the team’s future plans. He has one season left on his current contract, but stretching his remaining wages — nearly $8.25 million in base salary — would go a long way in providing Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff with a near-blank canvas as quickly as possible.

A buyout of Wheeler’s contract, according to CapFriendly, would result in a $2.75 million cap hit each of the next two seasons, saving the team one-third of his remaining wages.

The Capitals have one of the league’s oldest teams, and a Wheeler signing would make the squad even older. But Wheeler’s age has done little to slow him down, tallying 55 or more points in three of the last four seasons.

A Wheeler signing may be a bit out of the Capitals price range, but the team would be able to create an open roster spot and some additional cap space if they were to buyout Anthony Mantha.

Kailer Yamamoto, RW, Edmonton Oilers

Losing in the second round to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Edmonton Oilers have ended their seasons in disappointing fashion in back-to-back years. As things currently stand, there isn’t much they can do to change that.

“We have cap challenges,” Oilers general manager Ken Holland told The Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman Wednesday. “We have to make some decisions. I’m not going to tell you that we can make the team better, but we’ve got to try to keep the team as good as we can. Maybe make it a wee bit different.”

Yamamoto’s remaining contract — one year with a $3.2 million base salary — isn’t much, but taking it off the books — especially at a one-third value buyout — would give Edmonton just a bit more flexibility this offseason.

The Capitals could create a spot for Yamamoto by buying out Mantha, and he would likely be much cheaper than Wheeler. With that, however, is a drop in production, with Yamamoto hovering around the mid-20s in points per season in three of the last four seasons.

Mikael Granlund, C, Pittsburgh Penguins

It’s safe to say that Granlund, a trade deadline pickup, did not work out in Pittsburgh.

The Penguins acquired Granlund, 31, for their final push toward a playoff spot. In 21 games, Granlund tallied five points (one goal, four assists) and the team narrowly missed the playoffs.

With new general manager Kyle Dubas running the show in Pittsburgh, and with Granlund carrying a $5 million cap hit in each of the next two seasons, it might just be time for the two parties to part ways.

With Nicklas Backstrom’s recent hip procedure and Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s reported desire to leave Washington, the Capitals have some uncertainty at the center position. Granlund, an 11-year NHL veteran, is only one year removed from a 64-point season in Nashville, and could bring some needed experience up the middle to the nation’s capital — as long as the price is right.

Joel Armia, RW, Montreal Canadiens

Since signing his current contract with the Canadiens in 2021, Armia has played in only 103 of 164 possible regular season games. Combined with Armia’s 42 total points out of the past three seasons, his current cap hit seems like quite the overpay.

Armia has a $3.4 million cap hit in each of the next two seasons before hitting free agency in 2025. If the Canadiens were to buy him out, it would only cost them $33,333 this coming season and a total of $3,933,332 over the next four, according to CapFriendly.

If the price is right, Armia could bring a veteran presence to one of the Capitals’ bottom lines, which are likely to look fairly different next season.

Jared Serre covers the Washington Capitals for Washington Hockey Now. He is a graduate of West Virginia University.