Could the NHL Compliance Buyout redefine the term Rent-A-Player? The latest CBA allows NHL teams two player buyouts before the beginning of the 2013-14 NHL season. The buyouts will not count toward the salary cap. Could this cause the rich NHL teams to acquire a bad contract before the deadline with the intentions of buying it out this summer?
It is far fetched to believe an NHL organization would use their buyout(s) on a player(s) they acquire after the leeway was granted. Nor is it even clear if they would be allowed to. However, according the Capgeek.com on the page titled "how do buyouts work?" there is nothing stating a compliance buyout is restricted to the organization that held the contract before the agreement was made.
What does this mean? An NHL organization with lots of money can trade for a big contract and then buy it out this summer if they believe the player will give them a better chance to win the Stanley Cup this Spring. Doing so would be quite costly, but the idea might be tempting to any team with deep pockets and a desire to win the Stanley Cup.
There are certainly teams around the league that would be more than willing to trade away a big contract. Finding a taker won't be easy. Only a handful of NHL franchises would be likely to explore going down this road, if any. It would take a franchise with lots of money and some cap space to consider another big salary on its roster this season. Rather than speculate on who may be interested I can suggest you have a look at Forbes NHL Valuations and Capgeek to draw your own conclusions. There are six teams of the original variety that could theoretically afford to make such a deal. It should be noted that making a deal like this could be frowned upon by the NHL, which is very clear about its teams operating on as level a playing field as possible in regards to using financial status as a competitive advantage.
The possibility also exists that a team already willing to exercise its compliance buyout this summer could acquire a contract that covers one of its intended buyouts and call it a wash. Sort of like a two for one deal that makes you stronger for the playoffs. This possibility seems a little more realistic from a public backlash perspective. What makes this tempting is the thought that one more big contract could provide an organization with the missing piece it needs to go on a long playoff run, which in some markets brings in millions of dollars in revenues.
Regardless of how it plays out, this trade deadline should be different than most. The April 3rd cut off date to make trades occurs much closer to the end of the season than usual. GM's may want to start trading early so their new acquisitions can get adequate playing time in their lineup before the playoffs star.