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Pens unlikely to use compliance buyouts, says Rutherford

Jun 16, 2014, 11:29 AM EDT

Marc-Andre Fleury AP

Pittsburgh is one of 19 NHL teams that didn’t use a compliance buyout last summer and, according to new GM Jim Rutherford, the Pens aren’t likely to use one this summer either.

“I do not expect to use them,” Rutherford said on Sunday, per the Post-Gazette.

Rutherford, who took the GM gig 10 days ago, inherited a cap situation that, at first glance, might be aided by a buyout. The Pens have just 14 players under contract next season at $55 million, meaning they have roughly $15 million — depending on next year’s ceiling — to fill out the remaining roster spots. While Rutherford could save some space by bringing up players on their entry-level deals — Derrick Pouliot, Brian Dumoulin and Scott Harrington are all candidates on defense — the Pens have, at the time of writing, just seven forwards under contract for next season.

Thing is, the buyout isn’t much of an option for Pittsburgh.

Only players signed on or before Sept. 15, 2012 qualify to be bought out, meaning seven guys — Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, Craig Adams, Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi and Jeff Zatkoff — aren’t eligible. (Note: this isn’t saying a guy like Malkin was a buyout candidate; it’s just worth noting he and the six others are ineligible.)

James Neal is buyout eligible, but Pittsburgh isn’t going to do that. Paul Martin‘s eligible as well, but, given the Pens could be losing the services of veteran defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, Martin isn’t going anywhere.

Which brings us to Marc-Andre Fleury.

Fleury has one year left on his seven-year, $35.5 million deal — a $5 million cap hit — and holds a limited no-movement clause. If the Pens were to buy him out, they’d pay him $1.9 million this year and the next while clearing all $5 million off their cap (per CapGeek).

The problem, of course, is the move would leave Pittsburgh extremely thin in net (Zatkoff is the only ‘tender under contract for next season) and while there are capable replacements available in free agency, they’d, y’know, still need to be paid.

It’s hard to speculate how much actual cap space the Pens would save by buying out Fleury and signing, say, Ryan Miller or Jonas Hiller… and it’s also hard to speculate how much of an upgrade it would give them in goal.

  1. ravanator - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    This is a great story. Pens front office is in shambles and the team is in salary cap hell. So fun watching this franchise drift even further into irrelevancy. Cheers!


    • 6superbowls - Jun 16, 2014 at 12:44 PM


    • adamdep211rukus211 - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:58 PM

      We got a jealous hater here who is mad their team can’t place number one in the division, or one and two the last 5 years. Sorry your team blows and you don’t have sid

  2. claysbar - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    For the little you would save with buying out Fleury and signing a veteran tender, stick with the evil you know.

    • drewsylvania - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:21 PM

      Wouldn’t Ryan Miller be a clear upgrade?

      • 19to77 - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:31 PM

        I seem to recall the Blues thinking so.

      • hockeyflow33 - Jun 16, 2014 at 2:13 PM

        Fleury won you a Cup

  3. stcrowe - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    If they have two buyouts but don’t plan to use them, I wonder if they can trade for players from other teams that have used up their buyouts for the sole purpose of buying them out. I am sure that win-win trades can be negotiated for that purpose, unless there is a rule against it.

    • pjblake2redwings - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      I dont think you can buy out players new to your team since the new CBA.

      • i1theinternet - Jun 16, 2014 at 4:56 PM


        “…there is no defined rule preventing the team from trading a player to a team with compliance buyout slots available for the purpose of a compliance buyout.”

        stcrowe, you should submit your resume to Mr. Garth Snow.

      • killerpgh - Jun 16, 2014 at 4:57 PM

        I never saw anything saying you can’t use compliance buyouts on players not on you team before the new CBA was signed. I remember reading team “A” can’t trade player to team “B” to have have team “B” buyout him out and than resign with team “A”. That makes sense. Buy teams should be “punished” for not having any horrible contracts that they need to buyout. If a teams is willing to give up a pick/player to have another team use a compliance buyout I see no reason why the league would have an issue with that.

  4. runhigh24 - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    Why would they buy out Fleury and replace him with other goalies who have playoff struggles? And also, they actually have about $55 million committed to the cap with about $60 million in salary obligations.

    • Mike Halford - Jun 16, 2014 at 12:14 PM

      Correct. I thought it would be closer to $60M with potential bonuses for guys on ELCs but the math may have been a bit off by $3-4M. Going with the $55 seems more appropriate, so changes have been made.

  5. storminator16 - Jun 16, 2014 at 12:12 PM

    “”James Neal” is buyout eligible.”

    Odd, folks in the media keep throwing the word buyout around lately but always forget the fact the guys mentioned are “tradeable”. Same thing with Mike Richards. There are a few teams that would take that contract off LA’s hands. I won’t be surprised if only 2 players are bought out this off season. Not even sure why “buyout” and “James Neal” could ever be said in the same sentence.

    • petersteelewannabe - Jun 16, 2014 at 2:38 PM

      Because James Neal, while being an extremely talented scorer, is also an extremely harmful turd at times-an embarrassment to the organization and exemplifies everything Mario claims to want out of the game? And, much like Matt Cooke, the longer he wears a Pens uniform the more Mario looks like a hypocrite?

      • storminator16 - Jun 16, 2014 at 3:13 PM

        Still, most other team’s would love to take James Neal’s contract off the Pens hands. I can find much more about the Pens to be embarrassed about.

        Paging Joey.

      • storminator16 - Jun 16, 2014 at 3:14 PM

        And I’m embarrassed about my inability to proofread. Such is life.

      • petersteelewannabe - Jun 16, 2014 at 4:59 PM

        You are right, they could trade him without wasting a buyout and the cash that goes along with it..

  6. hockey412 - Jun 16, 2014 at 12:14 PM

    No way Fleury gets bought out, he performed fine this year. I’d imagine they’d give him next year to really see what he can do. The other players that ‘could’ be bought out also have trade value. To bad you can’t trade buyouts for draft picks.

    • stakex - Jun 16, 2014 at 12:39 PM

      Not really. He single handedly made the Columbus series more exciting than it should have been, and had at least six soft goals over the last four games against the Rangers. Obviously the Pens scoring problems were the bigger issue in that series, but it doesn’t help when you have a leaky goaltender behind you.

      This has been the problem with Fleury over the years. The bar is set lower for him than any other starting goalie. If Quick, Lundqvist or Rask played the way Fleury did in this years playoffs it would have been considered a disastrous performance. When it comes to Fleury though? It was fine.

      • hockey412 - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:21 PM

        That’s ridiculous – watching the way the Pens played in any of the losing games to Columbus or NYR, you’d be NUTS to say it was ‘single-handedly’ Fleury’s fault. He did let in a few soft goals, but he also made more much needed saves at huge moments. Many of the goals were also hugely due to a complete inability to clear the front of the net by the defense, or turnovers, etc. He held them in as much as I’d expect a goalie to do – he’s not ‘elite’, and never was, but it wasn’t a meltdown, it was “fine”.

        Fleury’s save percentage and GAA were both better than Quick, by the way – and Quick also had some troubling moments. If they can trade him or buy him out and bring in Lundqvist, or Quick, or Rask, fine – so be it (but something tells me it won’t happen). But to buy the guy out who is performing about as well as he did the year they won the cup with absolutely no back-up plan, all because he’s not ‘elite’, is more than a little silly.

      • chanceoffleury - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:09 PM

        But that’s the thing about Fleury. He is not Lundqvist, Rask, or Quick. It is so unfair to hold Fleury to the same standard as Rask or Lundqvist. Lundqvist and Rask are the 2 highest paid goalies in the entire league. After Ryan Miller signs his contract, and possibly Hiller too, Fleury will rank 15/16th in terms of starting goalie cap hits. Fleury is held to an impossible standard by being thrown in with those guys. Comparing him to the Luongo and Howard and Mason is more appropriate in terms of what you’re getting for your money.

        Fleury had a rough 2 years, but he was back this year. In Game 4 of Columbus people ignore that Fleury carried that team on his back after the first 10 minutes. The only reason there was even a lead to blow was because of how well he played in the 50 minutes before that. Had he put in the same effort his teammates did, that game would have been over midway through the 2nd period. Same to the Rangers series. Scoring 3 goals in 3 games to close out a series you’re up 3-1 in can’t fall back on the goaltender. YOU HAVE TO FIND A WAY TO SCORE. Period. point blank. end of story. And your goaltender should be the last person you’re looking to to help you out with that. Bylsma had already lost the room by that series, so as soon as the series came down to a game 7 mental battle it was over. The Pens themselves didn’t seem very enthused to make some sort of miraculous comeback. It was just sorta going through the motions type of play and if it worked that’s great and if it didn’t they’d just go through the “other” motions of disappointing exit interviews a few days later.

        Besides, they would have probably lost to the Kings anyway so it’s a moot point. They were an adequate team, but like I’ve said before: I didn’t truly view them as a top tier contender this year. They were what they were, and that was a good team that was most likely gonna lose to a team that was simply better built and coached than them. Whether it be Chicago or LA they would have most likely ended up with a pretty cut and dry series win against the Pens. They were just better, nothing more nothing less. And it doesn’t mean they’ll be better next year or the year after, either. The Pens are still not that far gone from where they need to be to win a Cup. Chicago is going to experience “The Glorious Adventures of Pat Brisson Wreaking Havoc on Your Stanley Cup Core” next summer when Toews and Kane’s new contracts kick in. And oh trust me, Hawks fans, it’s as fun as it sounds. Saad and Seabrook getting new contracts soon after will be fun games as well. It’ll probably help level the waters a little bit. LA is a different story, they seem to just be chugging right along with no major roadblocks in sight. You’re just gonna have to hope somebody else finds a way to lock up that beast before you get to them in the playoffs….

  7. tross16 - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    Buyout flower and sign miller it’s not that complicated they also need to free up cap space because they have no depth or any d at all

    • hockey412 - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:39 PM

      Did you send this to Rutherford? If not, you should – sounds like a clear-cut recipe for quick success…he’ll be pleased to know someone figured it all out and it’s not that complicated.

  8. pitpenguinsrulez - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    Stick with Fleury there are no better upgrades available. I’d bring in Brodeur as a solid number 2. I’d said last summer that Fleury had one more chance with me and that if he blew it he has to go, well one year later he’s done just fine. Keep him but sign him to like a 2-3 yr extension which is time for Jarry to develop a bit more.

  9. navyeoddavee9 - Jun 16, 2014 at 3:07 PM


  10. adamdep211rukus211 - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:53 PM

    So far, I don’t like Rutherford style. Neal needs to be bought out for sure. Let his cherry picking ass score 30 goals somewhere else. Only reason he has the points he does is from playing with sid and Malkin. Without them he wouldn’t be close. Plus we need gritty players.someone will over pay for him and we could get two decent gritty forwards to add depth. Cmon Rutherford,get it done. He better also find away to keep niskanen,it’s the GM job to figure it out. Someone above said pens are in shambles…… Yea they just keep winning the division, they are in Such, get real and quit hating

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