Whether it’s George McPhee or someone else, the Capitals’ general manager this summer is going to need to decide whether or not to use the one remaining compliance buyout left over from last year’s lockout settlement.
Last summer McPhee used his first of two compliance buyouts on defenseman Jeff Schultz, agreeing to pay him $1 million this season and next.
This summer the Capitals have at least three buyout candidates – forward Brooks Laich [three years, $4.5 million cap hit] and defensemen Mike Green [one year, $6.083 million] and John Erskine [one year, $1.962 million] -- and can begin the process 48 hours after the final game of the Stanley Cup Final.
But there is a catch. In order for a player to be bought out by his NHL team he must first pass a team physical. Laich, who missed 31 games this season and underwent an adductor release on March 17, said Monday he failed his end-of-season physical.
Green revealed on Monday he has broken ribs.
However, according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and its players, a team has the right to ask a player to undergo another physical a few days prior to the buyout period. If the player is deemed physically able to perform he is eligible for a buyout. The player has the right to a second and third opinion, with the determination of that third opinion a binding one.
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Under the terms of compliance buyouts, the Caps would be required to pay Laich slightly less than $1.4 million a year for each of the next six years. Green would receive just under $2.1 million for each of the next two seasons, and Erskine would receive $666,667 in each of the next two seasons.
Laich, 30, said on Monday that he’s confident the adductor release he underwent last month will relieve him of the groin pain he has felt for two seasons and allow him to return to being the durable player who played in all 82 games in four of five seasons for the Caps from 2007-12.
“I believe now it’s physically impossible for it to happen in the same way it did before because there’s a piece missing now,” Laich said. “That thing has been completely altered. That’s why I’m very optimistic and hopeful that now it’s completely behind me and I can be Iron Man again.”
Laich said that before his surgery his mobility was extremely limited and it adversely affected his play. In 51 games this season he had eight goals and seven assists and was a minus-7.
“It was so debilitating and so limiting that I couldn’t do it,” Laich said. “The product on the ice was just so bad. We had conversations with George [McPhee] and with Adam [Oates] and I was like, ‘You guys have to pull the plug on me because at one point I’m going to hurt the team. When you see that I can’t help us and somebody else will be better served [playing], you pull the plug because I’m never going to give up.’”
Laich said he will continue to skate and rehab for the next five weeks and will relax for a few weeks in the beginning of June before starting with summer training. As for next season, Laich said he can’t wait to prove himself.
“My goal coming into next year?” he said. “Eighty-two games. Boom.”
Green, 28, received some criticism from Oates on Monday following a season in which he recorded nine goals and 38 points but was a minus-16, worst among Caps defensemen.
If the Caps elect to part ways with Green they likely would want to do so with a trade and not a compliance buyout.
Erskine, 33, has been limited by injury in each of the past three seasons, playing in just 28 games three seasons ago, 30 games last season and 37 games this season.
“He had knee surgery [last summer] and I felt like he was always chasing his tail a little bit this year,” Oates said. “And I’ve got to tell him that. But to me, he’s a valuable part.
“If he’s a healthy man, he’s an asset. Hopefully, he can have a good summer conditioning, where he can skate on it and get in shape and be in tip-top form.”