The NHL buyout window opened 24 hours after the Tampa Bay Lightning lifted the Stanley Cup on Wednesday night. Beginning late Thursday, NHL teams can swallow hard then spend millions of dollars on a player to not play for them anymore. Last offseason, the Pittsburgh Penguins used that buyout option on (trigger warning) Jack Johnson. This summer, there are plenty of big names also teetering.
And several players who could fit with the Pittsburgh Penguins on salvage deals.
Before you say the players on the buyout are old, or washed up, or just no good, remember that was Jeff Carter just four months ago, too. Carter was thought to be playing out the remaining days of his career, and the R-word (retirement) was used.
What a difference a new, fresh, and vibrant situation made for him, eh? Carter popped 15 goals in 23 games with the Penguins, regular season, and playoffs combined. The big center was perhaps the only consistent scoring threat in the Penguins’ Round One loss to the New York Islanders.
So, “Oh, he’s done” isn’t always true, and there will be bargain-basement contract opportunities for players who–with a new home–could definitely help the Pittsburgh Penguins.
No, James Neal is not one of those players though he is likely to be an Edmonton Oilers buyout-casualty this weekend. For Penguins fans who always pined for Neal’s return, his career has gone bone-dry. Neal scored 19 goals in 2019-20, but 11 of those came in a 15-game span. Removing that stretch, he’s scored just 20 goals combined in the last three seasons. Worse, he has had a few new homes, but he looks like a player who is done.
Dallas goalie Ben Bishop has been popping up on some potential buyout lists, but he won’t make our list, either. Bishop missed this season because of a torn meniscus and setback during rehab. If he does become a free agent or is exposed to the Kraken, expect Seattle to snatch him up or another team to show him plenty of respect (read: $$$$).
However, there are a few others who might be interesting reclamations. So, in no particular order:
Potential NHL Buyouts who could help Penguins
3. Martin Jones
Jones, 31, was once a highly sought goalie prospect whom the LA Kings wouldn’t trade to their rival San Jose Sharks. So, the Boston Bruins swooped in, acquired Jones for a hot minute, then flipped him to San Jose for a profit. Penguins fans may remember Martin Jones in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, too.
However, Jones’s career has hit the skids, along with a few more players in teal. In each of the last three seasons, Jones’ save percentage has been .896.
That’s below Matt Murray.
New voices, new surroundings, maybe a little better team would help Jones. A backup goalie for the Penguins with playoff wins. It makes sense if it is on the table. Jones has 32 playoff wins in just four playoff runs. That is well more than Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith combined (2).
2. Zach Parise
Call me crazy. There’s hockey left in Parise, who became a healthy scratch for the Minnesota Wild during the regular season and the playoffs.
He and Ryan Suter signed those ridiculous 13-year contracts nine years ago.
Former Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is thought to have kicked around either Suter or Parise in recent seasons. Now, former Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin, who is masterfully transforming Minnesota while also making the playoffs, must make the call on Parise.
Parise’s time appears to be up, but four more years is a lot to swallow. IF, if, if Minnesota buys out Parise, according to the buyout calculator on PuckPedia.com, they will get hammered in years two through four with cap hits above $6 million ($6.3 million, $7.1 million, and $7.1 million, respectively),
But that is Guerin’s problem.
Parise, 36, is a LW who scored 18 points (7-11-18) in 45 games this season. Should Seattle pluck a LW from the Penguins roster, Parise is something to consider on a minimum deal. Perhaps Carter bottled some of that water from the Fountain of Youth.
1. Paul Byron
A scrappy third or fourth-line LW who can chip in some offense and score a few in the playoffs? Byron won’t be the splash of the offseason, and he surely does not fit the Penguins’ need for size. Byron is only 5-foot-9, 163 pounds. But he’s got a scrappiness that could fit well with Mike Sullivan, who is firmly affixed behind the Penguins bench.
Injuries have hampered Byron, 32, over the last two seasons, but the Montreal Canadiens alternate captain played all 22 playoff games with six points (3-3-6).
Unknown: Erik Johnson
Johnson would be the top of my list, except he missed most of this season due to a concussion and concussion symptoms. He played just four games this season.
When healthy, he’s a legit top-four right-side defenseman with a top pair pedigree. It makes sense for the Colorado Avalanche to LTIR Johnson and use that money to sign their high-profile RFAs such as Cale Makar. However, Johnson’s NMC will force Colorado to burn a protected spot on Johnson.
Johnson is not currently on the injured list, which means he could show up on the NHL buyout list. He would be an ideal get for the Pittsburgh Penguins, if healthy, but he would be a good fit for many other teams, too.