The temporarily suspended season in the National Hockey League has left fans and pundits with a ton of questions about what the future will hold and at or near the top of that list of questions area number of questions regarding what will happen to the league's salary cap for the 2020 - 2021 NHL regular season. The expectation is that, rather than going up as it would have under normal circumstances, the salary cap will either remain stagnant or go down which means that NHL general managers will need to employ cost cutting measures.
There has been some speculation that the NHL could provide teams with compliance buyouts moving forward but thus far there has been no indication from the NHL itself that this will come to pass. Traditional buyouts will still an option however and there are some obvious buyout candidates in the NHL right now, especially given the cap struggles that teams may face in the upcoming offseason. Here are 3 players I believe are likely targets for a buyout sooner rather than later.
#1 David Backes.
The writing was on the wall for Backes in Boston after yet another concussion sidelined him and the subsequent trade to Anaheim made it clear that the Bruins considered him to be more liability than asset by the time his tenure there came to an end. The Ducks have a ton invested in their existing roster coming into next season and there's no question, despite what they may say, that the team is in rebuild mode. They have recently shed veteran players like Corey Perry and no doubt the future will include more of the same, whether Backes finishes out his contract or is bought out remains to be seen.
#2 Loui Eriksson.
Even if you hate the Vancouver Canucks you almost have to feel sorry for their fans given just how much of a disaster Loui Eriksson has been for their team. Signed after an extremely productive season with the Boston Bruins Eriksson has never even come close to living up to his contract, scoring 37 total goals during 4 seasons with the Canucks, this after putting up 30 in his final season with the Bruins. A buyout of Eriksson would free up case space over the long term, opening up significant space when players like Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson are due new contracts, and it would frankly be a mercy for the fan base.
#3 Henrik Lundqvist.
Now I know I'm going to catch a lot of hate for this one, and no doubt most of all from Rangers' fans, but Lundqvist is a buyout candidate. The veteran netminder, somewhat shockingly, fell all the way down to third on the Rangers depth chart this season after both Alexander Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin passed him on the teams depth chart. A buyout would not only free up some cap space for the Rangers but would also allow them to re-sign Georgiev, who will be a restricted free agent at the season, and keep a young goaltending tandem that looked strong at the NHL level. The move would not go over well emotionally but it would be a ruthless business decision from the rebuilding Rangers, something they showed they were capable of doing this season when they effectively out Lundqvist on the sidelines. Lundqvist could play out the final year of his contract and retire as a Ranger this season, which makes this the most unlikely of the 3 in my estimation, but don't rule out a buyout as a possibility.