Here's why the Canucks aren't buying out Eriksson's regrettable contract

Jul 16 2019, 3:16 am

Loui Eriksson got paid today.

The veteran forward received his $4 million signing bonus, meaning that he has ‘earned’ $27 million of the $36 million owed to him from the regrettable contract Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning signed him to in 2016.

He’s still got three years left on his deal, and the Canucks would love to find him a new home.

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Cap trouble

The Canucks find themselves in an unfamiliar position heading into next season.

They’re a much-improved team – one that could even challenge for a playoff spot. But after entering the offseason with boatloads of cap space, Benning has spent it, and then some.

Part of that was out of his control, of course, as Roberto Luongo’s cap recapture penalty will take up $3.03 million worth of cap space.

But Benning was able to spend a lot of money on his own this offseason, trading for JT Miller and his $5.25 million cap hit, re-signing Alex Edler ($6M), and adding Tyler Myers ($6M), Jordie Benn ($2M), and Micheal Ferland ($3.5M) in free agency.

He also bought out the final year of Ryan Spooner’s contract, which will count $1.03 million against the cap in each of the next two seasons.

Benning will find a way to get Brock Boeser re-signed, of course, but when that happens the team will be capped out – possibly over the cap and forced to shed salary.

With everyone healthy (Antoine Roussel will start the season on IR), the Canucks project to be at $74.47 million of the $81.5 million cap, with Boeser’s contract still to come.

That doesn’t leave much room for Boeser, who is in line for something north of $7 million per season.

The Canucks have an overabundance of NHL forwards at the moment, and they’d surely love to ditch one to get some breathing room.

There’s nobody that Benning would love to jettison more than Eriksson, the Canucks’ highest-paid forward, who doesn’t figure much into the team’s future plans.

Just one problem — nobody wants him.

Eriksson will celebrate his 34th birthday this week, which doesn’t give much hope that he can resurrect his career in Vancouver, or elsewhere for that matter. The former 30-goal scorer notched just 11 goals last season, appearing in 81 games in a variety of roles for head coach Travis Green.

Why they haven’t bought him out

Eriksson could theoretically block a trade to another team because he has a full no-trade clause, butĀ given his comments about Green this offseason, you’d think he’d be willing to go just about anywhere else.

Benning can send him to the AHL, but league rules stipulate that teams can only save a maximum of $1.025 million off their cap in that situation.

Overpaid players that teams no longer have use for typically get bought out, but because of the way Eriksson’s contract is structured, that’s unlikely.

Here’s what the remaining three years of his contract look like (figures courtesy of CapFriendly):

Season Clause Cap hit Signing bonus Base salary Total salary
2019-20 NTC $6 million $4 million $1 million $5 million
2020-21 Modified NTC $6 million $3 million $1 million $4 million
2021-22 Modified NTC $6 million $1 million $3 million $4 million

Eriksson receives most of his money through yearly signing bonuses, so his contract is basically buyout proof – at least right now.Ā That’s because signing bonuses can’t be bought out, only base salary can.

Eriksson receives $4 million in signing bonus money next season, but just $1 million in base salary. In 2020-21, his signing bonus drops to $3 million, to go with $1 million in base salary.

Those numbers flip in the final year of his deal though, when he’ll earn just a $1 million signing bonus to go with $3 million in base salary.

Buying out Eriksson next summer would save the Canucks less than $500,000 against their cap in 2020-21 – which is less than they can save by burying him in the minors, so that’s not happening.

Here’s a look at that scenario:

An Eriksson buyout could become palatable in the summer of 2021 though.

At that moment, the Canucks could buy out Eriksson’s contract for $2 million – rather than pay the $3 million base salary he would otherwise be owed. Instead of $6 million counting against their cap, the Canucks would be dinged $4 million in 2021-22, plus another $1 million in 2022-23.

buyout loui eriksson canucks

After his next signing bonus is paid out next summer, Eriksson will be owed just $5 million spread out over two years. Though his cap hit will still be $6 million, that won’t bother a non-cap team.

The problem? Nobody will be lining up for Eriksson at any dollar value if he’s no better than a fourth-line forward. And given the team trading for him knows they’d be doing the Canucks a huge favour, there’s no way Benning is offloading him for free.

The Canucks will probably have to face reality with Eriksson and let him play out the next two years of his deal. If he legitimately can’t earn a spot on their roster, then they’ll probably have to bury him in Utica for two years, then buy him out in 2021.

The lesson in all this? Don’t sign 30+ forwards to six-year contracts.

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