Buyouts strengthen depth of free-agent pool

Thursday, 07.04.2013 / 10:00 PM
Dan Rosen  - Senior Writer

The compliance buyouts still are rolling in and constantly changing the landscape of what teams can expect the unrestricted free agent market to look like when it opens at noon ET on Friday.

The compliance buyout window closed at 5 p.m. ET Thursday, and it is abundantly clear the market will be deeper with defensemen because of these buyouts.

There were eight veteran blueliners who otherwise wouldn't be an unrestricted free agent Friday if not for the compliance buyout available to all 30 NHL teams.

Jeff Schultz cleared unconditional waivers Wednesday, giving the Washington Capitals the ability to use a compliance buyout on the little-used defenseman, who has played 399 games in seven seasons.

The Minnesota Wild confirmed they put Tom Gilbert on unconditional waivers with the intent of using one of their two compliance buyouts on him. Gilbert, like all other compliance buyouts, would become an unrestricted free agent.

Keith Ballard (Vancouver Canucks) and Carlo Colaiacovo (Detroit Red Wings) were placed on unconditional waivers Wednesday, and Ballard on Thursday agreed to terms with the Wild.

Steve Montador (Chicago Blackhawks), Tomas Kaberle (Montreal Canadiens) and Mike Komisarek (Toronto Maple Leafs) are other defensemen who will become UFAs because of compliance buyouts.

Though none of the bought-out defensemen are considered top-two, or even top-four, players right now, they have added to what was expected to be a thin free-agent market for blueliners.

Andrew Ference (Boston Bruins) and Rob Scuderi (Los Angeles Kings) headline the defensemen expected to be available Friday. Combined, Ference and Scuderi have won the Stanley Cup three times and appeared in the Stanley Cup Final five times. They're good buys for any team, especially contenders that need veteran help.

Ryan Whitney (Edmonton Oilers), Marek Zidlicky (New Jersey Devils), Ron Hainsey (Winnipeg Jets), Toni Lydman (Anaheim Ducks), Douglas Murray (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Michal Rozsival (Chicago Blackhawks) are some of the other top defensemen likely to be available.

Rozsival is an example of a player who can reignite his career with the right fit. He platooned with Sheldon Brookbank as the Blackhawks' sixth defenseman for most of the 2012-13 season but was elevated to their No. 5 in the playoffs and went on to win the Stanley Cup for the first time.

The forward market shrunk by one Tuesday when Vincent Lecavalier agreed to a five-year, $22.5 million contract with the Flyers, but Nathan Gerbe adds to the it, bought out by the Buffalo Sabres. Gerbe, who had one year left on a contract that carries a $1.45 million salary-cap charge, reportedly was put on unconditional waivers Wednesday.

Darren Dreger of TSN reported Wednesday that forward Sergei Kostitsyn was put on unconditional waivers, so should the Nashville Predators use a compliance buyout on him, that would put another skilled forward on the market.

Ilya Bryzgalov and Rick DiPietro are the goalies who have been issued a compliance buyout, with Johan Hedberg of the New Jersey Devils to join them. The Flyers will pay Bryzgalov $23 million over the next 14 years to stay out of their crease, and the Islanders have to pay DiPietro $24 million for the next 16 years to not play for them.

Hedberg is 40 years old and strictly a backup at this stage of his career. There are younger goalies with potential No. 1 ability -- Bryzgalov, Evgeni Nabokov, Ray Emery and Jose Theodore -- ready to hit the market.

It's hard to say now if DiPietro can be a No. 1 in the NHL, but the 31-year-old has been given a clean bill of health and hasn't put too many miles on his goalie skates over the past five seasons.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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