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Could There Be Another Surprise Sharks’ Buyout This Year?



Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

The buyout period runs from Jun. 16 through Jun. 30, but I’m not sure a buyout makes sense for the San Jose Sharks this summer.

But maybe there will be a surprise buyout from GM Mike Grier, like when he bought out Rudolfs Balcers last off-season?

Balcers, 25, did not look like a likely buyout candidate after the 2021-22 campaign. He was still considered a winger with some upside and had just one year at $1.55 million left on his contract.

But Balcers was under 26, meaning the Sharks only owed him one-third of his remaining salary in a buyout, instead of the normal two thirds.

Consequently, San Jose was dinged just an $8,334 cap hit in 2022-23 and a $308,334 hit in 2023-24.

Besides that, Balcers didn’t fit with Grier’s vision of the Sharks, and teams weren’t exactly knocking down San Jose’s door to acquire him, especially at that salary. He passed through waivers unclaimed, became a UFA, and eventually signed a one-year veteran’s minimum agreement with the Florida Panthers.

Is there a Balcers-like buyout candidate this off-season for the San Jose Sharks? Or what about the usual suspects like Marc-Edouard Vlasic or Kevin Labanc?

First, the Sharks don’t have a likely 25-or-under contract to buy out at a discount. I don’t see them buying out Luke Kunin, Mario Ferraro, Henry Thrun, or Nikolai Knyzhov, just some of the younger players that they have under contract.

But there are three Sharks, all 26 or over, who have just one season left in their deals and who could be buyout candidates.

Labanc, Oskar Lindblom, and Radim Simek, for various reasons, have not fulfilled the expectations of their original contracts.

Here’s how a buyout would look for each, per Puckpedia:

Both Lindblom and Simek, like Balcers, don’t have a lot of money left, so their cap hits wouldn’t be too pernicious in either 2023-24 or 2024-25.

A Labanc buyout would offer almost a $4 million cap savings in 2023-24, though there would be an almost $2 million cap hit in 2024-25.

Of course, what’s the point of going through these gymnastics to create cap space when you’re more likely than not to be in the cellar next year?

Well, that didn’t stop them from buying out Balcers last summer.

Anyway, there are also reasons to keep Labanc, Lindblom, and Simek.

Labanc has legitimate offensive talent, and on an expiring contract, he could be sought-after during the next Trade Deadline. Lindblom was just signed last off-season, and despite a disappointing campaign, is just 26 and not that far away from his best hockey. Simek, when healthy, fits the in-your-face style that Grier seems to favor.

My guess is there won’t be a buyout from this group.

What about the Sharks’ longer-term contracts?

Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, and Erik Karlsson, with some finessing, are all tradable assets, so there’s no sense in buying them out.

That leaves ever-popular buyout candidate Vlasic, whose play was much-improved this past season, but still not up to his $7 million per year sticker price.

This one still hurts too much.

With three years left in Vlasic’s current contract, a buyout would mean double that, six seasons of cap punishment. And while the cap savings would be huge in 2023-24 (over $5.5 million), the savings wouldn’t be nearly as significant in 2024-25 and 2025-26. Then you’re charged a steady $1.69 million in each of the following three years.

So a buyout here doesn’t make sense either, especially where the Sharks are in their competitive cycle.

Last off-season, I advocated a Vlasic buyout, but that was under the premise that the Sharks were trying to win now, after extending Hertl, and needed to create as much cap space as soon as possible to field a more competitive roster. But the organizational mandate appears to have changed after Grier’s hiring, as Brent Burns and Timo Meier trades for mostly futures, and the possible pending Karlsson deal, suggest.

REPORT: Karlsson, Sharks Will ‘Try To Get a Trade Done’

So that $5.5 million cap savings in 2023-24 on a Vlasic buyout isn’t going to mean a whole lot to a rebuilding San Jose Sharks.

Wait ‘til next year?

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