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Applying the NBA’s “amnesty” clause to the NHL

Nov 28, 2011, 3:38 PM EST

Roberto Luongo Getty Images

Not sure if you heard, but the NBA lockout is all but officially over. The league and the players tentatively agreed to a season-saving CBA over the weekend.

With the NHL’s labor agreement set to expire on Sep. 15, 2012, it’s worth noting one of the clauses in the new NBA CBA that’s getting some attention. Could the NHL do something similar?

From the New York Times:

The league calls it the “amnesty” clause. General managers call it a get-out-of-jail-free card. It will be available starting Dec. 9, when the N.B.A. reopens for business.

Under the amnesty provision, each team can waive one player and remove him from the salary cap — creating room to sign another player and potentially saving millions in luxury-tax penalties.

The money does not disappear. The player must still be paid. But the provision could give a few teams some relief and put an extra jolt in the free-agent market.

Amnesty players will go through waivers, like any other player. However, teams that make claims will also enter bids. The highest bidder will get the player and pay that amount (with the balance paid by the team that cut him).

So let’s say the NHL had an amnesty clause. Now suppose the Canucks decided Cory Schneider was the goalie of the future in Vancouver. The Canucks could waive Roberto Luongo and his $5.3-million annual cap hit would be off the books forever.

Now enter the Columbus Blue Jackets, who like Luongo but not for what he’s making. The Jackets could bid 60 cents on the dollar and, assuming nobody outbid them, they’d get Luongo, with the Canucks responsible for the salary shortfall (but not cap hit.)

Not saying that would be a good move for the Canucks – just illustrating the possibility. There are plenty of bad contracts out there. Imagine if your team was allowed to ditch its worst one.

  1. govtminion - Nov 28, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    I doubt anyone would be happier than Wade Redden, because it’s the only way back to the NHL for him at this point.

    Beyond that, I sure can think of a few other players who would get a good hard look with such a clause… Steve Mason? Tomas Kaberle? Half a dozen different Caps?

    I like it, but it would definitely need to have some strict rules in place so that teams don’t pull something like putting, say, Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract out to pasture, paying him the full amount, but bringing him right back in with a lower cap number.

  2. phillyphever - Nov 28, 2011 at 4:04 PM

    Please let this be true. I don’t mind Pronger the player, but that contract needs to get off the books asap.

    • bowens3181 - Nov 28, 2011 at 5:17 PM

      Are you kidding me? Having one of the top defensemen (when healthy) in the NHL for under 5M per season is the definition of a bargain…
      The biggest beneficiaries of an amnesty clause would be teams like Montreal (Gomez) or Ottawa (Gonchar).
      If the Flyers were to waive someone using the amnesty clause there is no chance that it would be Pronger. I hate to say it but it would definitely be Laperriere, whose playing career is clearly over, but who remains on the cap because if he officially retires then his 35+ contract kicks in and his cap would count till the end of his countract.

      • phillyphever - Nov 28, 2011 at 5:24 PM

        Here’s the problem: Pronger’s CLEARLY on the decline, and not justified of that contract (especially the remaining 5 years left on it). If it was only 2 more years, I would be fine with it. But, not 5 years at that price. Face it, Homer blew it on that signing. He should have given him 4 years instead of 7.

  3. elvispocomo - Nov 28, 2011 at 4:18 PM

    I’m not super fond of the idea, as it gives GMs an easy out after having signed someone to an overszealous contract. It puts some responsibility on the players also to accept the consequences of asking for more if they don’t think they can uphold their end of the deal. Why not sign more reasonable contracts that give a player leeway to underperform and not hurt the team but if they play to potential is a good deal for the teams? And the teams that have players that do so would be more successful as a result.

    NMCs would have to be considered if it’s setup on the waiver system, so teams might not be able to utilize it anyways unless it overreaches a signed part of a player’s contract. Then there’s the over 35 rule, (almost) like Pronger, etc, etc, so I’m really not sure how it’d work.

  4. kingjoe1 - Nov 28, 2011 at 6:05 PM

    say goodbye to Chris Pronger. He is good, but he got old fast and he is on the books until well after doomsday.

  5. govtminion - Nov 28, 2011 at 6:10 PM

    OH! I know!

    Rick ‘Balsa’ DiPietro!!! You can’t tell me the Isles wouldn’t jump at the chance to drop that contract!

    • hockeyfan1701 - Nov 28, 2011 at 6:16 PM

      If the CBA went in place with this at 12:01 the Islanders would move on this at 12:01:01

  6. greatminnesotasportsmind - Nov 28, 2011 at 6:25 PM

    Pierre-Marc Bouchard without a doubt!!

  7. mianfr - Nov 28, 2011 at 6:42 PM

    Guys, someone has to want this player for the amnesty thing to matter… Putting Wade Redden out to pasture does nothing because he has no cap hit in the minors. The Rangers would probably get rid of someone like Wojtek Wolski (possibly Dubinsky?) under this structure.

    Likewise, the Islanders would find as many takers for DiPietro now as they would under that scenario… Except they’d be more hurt because someone can swoop in, offer the veteran minimum, and the Islanders are now essentially paying $3.6M or so to… have $3.6M of cap, which if filled would equate to $7.2M of actual money.

    And remember that time when they needed a new arena and that cost money? I can’t remember the specifics, but it was sometime between 1990 and today that it came up.

    Hockey just has too many men per roster for it to work. It’s fine in basketball because there are only 12 men getting an even better salary cap, so there’s much more room for finagling. Plus their owners aren’t very smart and would offer real money for really mediocre players, as they have always done.

  8. taytay099 - Nov 29, 2011 at 12:16 AM

    Scott Gomez.

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