Buyouts, Potential, and “Good Enough”
Before the lackluster opening of free agency, the big hullabaloo was that the Buffalo Sabres bought out Nathan Gerbe. There were…mixed feelings all around.
Well, personally I think the hullabaloo is that the Sabres re-vamped social media presence hasn’t said Word One about that, but I’ll leave that up to 3rd Man In to address if he sees fit, as it’s more his forte. But make no mistake, the fact that a roster player has been bought out and the official Sabres site and social media outlet have said nothing about it is both bull and shit.
I digress. I don’t know if there is some sort of standard way a team should handle buying out a player politically, either with the player or with the public. I don’t really care either. Nor do I honestly care that Gerbe got bought out. He was a good story, one that we wanted to watch succeed despite the odds. Pardon the pun, but the 5′ 5″ player was a microcosm of the Buffalo Sports Mentality as a whole.
My guilty pleasure is that I loved how disrespected he was around the league. I secretly got a kick out of the fact that referees bullied him and slammed him into the boards. Because he already played with a chip on his shoulder, and I was positive he’d turn that extra motivation into what he needed to break in to the Top 6. In the end, though, the Sabres did not have their version of Martin St. Louis.
The fan backlash to this buyout was two pronged. First, there were fans that idolized Gerbe’s heart and effort. A lot of these same fans then immediately shrugged about Matt Ellis getting signed to a two way deal. I’ll just let that resonate and speak for itself.
The second prong of distaste was because the Sabres bought out this guy instead of [player someone can't stand]. How could Drew Stafford, for instance, continue to take a paycheck since he is the worst thing to ever put on a blue and gold sweater? And how could they buy out Gerbe and leave Ville Leino out there? Surely since the Flyers bought out Briere and Bryznotgonnaworkhereanymore, it seems that the Sabres are yet again disappointing by holding on to their under-performers.
Well Gerbe wasn’t bought out with one of the two allotted Get Out of Cap Space Free buyouts. His buyout ensures that a fraction of his salary counts against the Sabres cap for the next two seasons. If this same option were used against Stafford, the Sabres would have a cap hit of $1.33 million over the next four years (more than Patrick Kaleta costs in cap space). A normal buyout spent on Leino would be even worse. Then you’re filling up your salary cap and not even getting their disappointing 8, 10, or 20 goal seasons.
So why not use the compliance buyouts against those two? My question to you is why bother? The Sabres currently have just over $15 million in salary cap space. They aren’t going to be bumping up against the cap any time soon (especially with Darcy Regier’s lack of free agent signings). Right now the team is in full rebuilding mode, and they are likely going to be fielding a lot of young kids and perennial AHL players next season, so having a couple of 20 goal scorers like Stafford and Leino is not a bad idea. From Terry Pegula’s point of view, what makes the difference between buying them out without a cap hit and having them sit as a healthy scratch if they can’t get their crap together?
Since the Sabres are nowhere near the league salary cap, it makes no difference. They’ll be able to use their compliance buyouts next summer, so there is no hurry.
Evaluate the Gerbe buyout in a bubble. There’s no sense comparing it to potentially buying out Stafford or Leino or Myers or anyone else. The fact of the matter is when Stafford signed that 4 year, $16 million contract, a lot of people said it was “good enough” for a player who was on the cusp of becoming a game changer. Now his contract is “good enough” that it doesn’t warrant a compliance buyout, and just big enough that an ordinary buyout sets the team back.
Just as Gerbe’s buyout shows that “good enough” is not good enough, consider the same for other cap hits.