NHL NEWS: Montreal places Scott Gomez on waivers

For those of you that missed it, some interesting developments have taken place in the last few days.  One of the most interesting components of the newly signed CBA was that each team gets two “amnesty” buyouts to use over the next two offseasons, for use on players only with contracts exceeding an annual cap hit of $3m.  They can use both, just one, or none.  This was designed so that teams can get out of contracts that are taking up valuable cap space, in light of the cap ceiling being lowered to $64.3m from next season.  As opposed to a normal buyout, whilst they still have to pay the player a certain amount of his contract, these two buyouts will not count against the cap.

This is a godsend to teams like the New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens, who have taken on horrendous contracts in the form of defenceman Wade Redden and forward Scott Gomez respectively.  Wade Redden was a highly capable NHL defender for 11 seasons before he signed in New York in 2008 for 6 years at $6.5m per year.  He had two mediocre seasons, and eventually the Rangers decided to “bury him” in the minor leagues – whereby he would go and play for their AHL team, whilst still receiving his full salary, but his cap hit would no longer count against the team.  Paying a guy $6.5m per year to not play in the NHL isn’t exactly a desirable situation.

With Scott Gomez, again it was the NY Rangers who signed him to a long, expensive contract: $7.35m per year for 7 years.  Gomez was a very good player, and even did pretty good in his first year of the contract, but faded a little in the second year, when he was then traded to Montreal in exchange for, among other players, Ryan McDonagh – who is (unfortunately for Montreal) looking like a potential star d-man in the league.  He performed adequately in his first year as a Hab, though certainly not worth the money he was getting.  In 2010 however, things fell off a cliff for the veteran.  He only posted 7 goals the entire season, although his playmaking remained ok-ish.  It got even worse last year, as he only posted 2 goals.  Going back to February 2011 – the previous season – Gomez went on a personal 60 game goal-less streak, earning him much scorn from Habs fans.  $7.35m per year for a guy who gets you less than 10 goals over 2 seasons?  Not good enough.

Back to the present, and both teams are in awkward situations.  Both teams are obviously going to use an amnesty buyout on each of these players, but can’t do it until this shortened season is over.  With buyouts, it is against league rules to buy out a player whilst he is injured.  So, the Rangers and the Habs both send their cap-monsters home for the season, with full pay (and subsequent cap-hit to the teams), with the clear purpose of making sure the players aren’t injured when it comes the time for them to be bought out.  The NHLPA obviously takes issue with this, as teams are preventing players from playing.

Subsequently, the NHL and the NHLPA have agreed that one of the two amnesty buyouts may be used this week before the season starts, but the cap hit remains just for this season and then clears (though money must still be paid to the players beyond this season).  Essentially a win-win for player and team: player gets released from bad contract, whilst still collecting a lot of money, and will likely get picked up by another team (so essentially earning two salaries), whilst the team gets to be relieved of the contract, freeing up cap-space and a contract spot (teams are only allowed a max of 50 contracts).  Gomez (and reportedly Redden too) has now been placed on unconditional waivers, and if no team claims him (they won’t) by mid-day today then the team can enact the buyout.

Many have stated how Gomez won’t get signed by another team, but I disagree.  Whilst his scoring has dried up completely the last two seasons, I would put some of that down to hilariously bad luck.  He’s still a dominant possession player against middling competition, plus he’s still only 33, and a team without much centre depth could use a guy like that.  Wade Redden is a little tougher to see getting signed as he hasn’t played in the NHL for two years and he is 35.  Saying that, he has played well and by most accounts acted professionally down in the AHL, and a team looking for a depth defenceman could do far worse than sign Redden to a cheap contract.

People must remember – the contract does not define the player.  Opponents of Shawn Horcoff would do well to remember that.  Yes, guys might have bad contracts – but it doesn’t make them less capable of playing in the NHL.  I can easily see these two getting signed by other teams, and good on them if they do.

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