Leafs may buyout Liles this weekend
The Toronto Maple Leafs could make puck moving defenceman John-Michael Liles their third buyout of the summer this weekend. Already this offseason Maple Leafs General Manager Dave Nonis has bought out two contracts that his predecessor Brian Burke signed, in Mike Komisarek and Mikhail Grabovski.
Because the Maple Leafs settled a pending arbitration hearing with Mark Fraser earlier this ewek, they'll be able to take advantage of a second buyout window for three days. That window opened today and will close early on Sunday morning.
The Maple Leafs currently have a tick under seven million dollars in salary cap space remaining and have to lockup two key pieces in defenceman Cody Franson and centreman Nazem Kadri. Both players enjoyed percentage driven breakout offensive campaigns for the surprising Maple Leafs during the lockout shortened 2013 NHL season, giving them a significant amount of leverage despite their restricted status.
A potential Liles buyout would be a "normal course" buyout, meaning the cost of such a buyout would count against Toronto's salary cap through the 2018-19 NHL season. The buyout penalty would be meager for the next two seasons before ballooning to $2.375 million for the 2015-16 season. The Pension Plan Puppets blog has an excellent breakdown of the specifics from earlier in the week.
Liles` current contract carries a $3.875 million dollar cap-hit through the 2015-16 season and an ordinary course buyout of his contract would result in $3 million in additional salary cap space for this upcoming season. That $3 million represents significant savings for a team in the sort of bind that the Leafs are, though as Cam Charron explained at TheLeafsNation.com on Friday - paying a player like Liles to play for another club probably isn't the best allocation of resources.
On Wednesday Bruce Garrioch suggested that Liles was on the trade block but that Nonis' efforts to move the American defender had met "with no success." Meanwhile former Maple Leafs radio reporter Howard Berger suggests that a Liles buyout, which would have to occur before Sunday afternoon, is all but inevitable:
Looks like #Leafs will use a non-compliance buy-out on John-Michael Liles, though I'm not convinced team can ever have too many defensemen.— Howard Berger (@Berger_BYTES) August 2, 2013