Buying Out Shawn Horcoff

Jonathan Willis
January 27 2012 10:23AM

‘Time heals all wounds’ is a truism that’s typically related to deep personal hurt – the death of a loved one, infidelity, that sort of thing. Yet, it also works when it comes to bad contracts and the NHL, assuming the people handing out bad contracts have the ability to shell out money taken away from them.

Take, for instance, the Shawn Horcoff contract, often viewed as something of a millstone around the Oilers’ collective neck. At this point, it probably doesn’t matter.

Horcoff’s current six-year pact started its run in 2009-10. The deal is structured as follows:

Season Dollars Cap Hit
2009-10 $7.0 MM $5.5 MM
2010-11 $6.5 MM $5.5 MM
2011-12 $6.5 MM $5.5 MM
2012-13 $6.0 MM $5.5 MM
2013-14 $4.0 MM $5.5 MM
2014-15 $3.0 MM $5.5 MM

The Oilers took a little bit of heat for the structure of that deal – Horcoff earned $7.0 million that first year and by-and-large the media took that number and ran with it. It became such a theme that to this day you can talk to people that believe Horcoff has a contract that pays him $7.0 million every season.

Despite the bad press, the decreasing structure of the deal over time is one of the things that makes it easier for the Oilers to deal with now. For a team not up against the NHL salary cap, the last two seasons of that deal are even somewhat digestible – Horcoff’s certainly overpaid relative to contribution at $5.5 million, but if a team is paying an average of $3.5 million over the last two seasons and aren’t worried about the salary cap, he might be tradable.

Ultimately, whether the Oilers are able to trade Horcoff or not doesn’t matter a lot. They’re at the point now where they can get rid of him in a variety of ways – especially if one assumes that 2012-13 is already mostly a lost season where the team won’t spend to the cap. Via capgeek.com, here are the various buyout scenarios year-by-year:

Date of Buyout: June 2012 June 2013 June 2014 No buyout
2012-13 Cap Hit $0.944 MM $5.500 MM $5.500 MM $5.500 MM
2013-14 Cap Hit $2.944 MM $2.667 MM $5.500 MM $5.500 MM
2014-15 Cap Hit $3.944 MM $3.667 MM $3.500 MM $5.500 MM
2015-16 Cap Hit $1.44 MM $1.167 MM $1.000 MM ---
2016-17 Cap Hit $1.44 MM $1.167 MM --- ---
2017-18 Cap Hit $1.44 MM --- --- ---

The key year to remember is 2013-14, as Hall and Eberle will both start new contracts in that season. If the Oilers buyout Horcoff in the summer of 2013, they clear nearly $3.0 million in cap space in 2013-14, and almost $2.0 million in cap space in 2014-15. It still leaves money against the cap, but less than $2.5 million on average for the following four seasons – not a huge chunk of change in a $60+ million cap world.

There’s also a third scenario, beyond trade and buyout, available to the Oilers. The current collective bargaining agreement expires in September. In recent negotiations, we’ve seen the owners hammer player unions in other leagues – in basketball, for example, owners knocked the players’ share of revenues down from 57% to a range between 49% and 51% - a huge drop. It is expected that NHL owners will pursue similar concessions, and if they do one would imagine that current contracts would be rolled back, just as they were during the 2004-05 lockout.

Also of interest is a so-called ‘contract amnesty’ which might open up as part of CBA negotiations. I first read about the idea via Frank Seravalli, a beat writer in Philadelphia, who wrote regarding Chris Pronger:

The only thing that would make the Flyers' deadline decisions easier is an already assured, one-time contract amnesty that could very well come as the result of the upcoming CBA negotiations, which are set to start sometime around the Jan. 26-30 All-Star break.

If such an amnesty came about, the Oilers might be able to wipe away Horcoff’s contract for nothing this summer.

Regardless of scenario, it does seem clear that Horcoff’s contract, once considered an albatross, is unlikely to be a major impediment moving forward.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 Oilcruzer
January 27 2012, 08:12PM
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The horse has been beaten

The contract ain't great, whatever... This isn't Buffalo. Think of their problems. They have no cap room.

This team is moulding centres. Until that happens, you can't have #10 full time on line 3 and 4.

I dont see a need to move him. But he could be. Even Montreal took Gomez.

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#52 Eddie Shore
January 27 2012, 11:04PM
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Chris. wrote:

Does B-man know Horcoff is a near career 50% in the shootout and is an important part of one of the better PP's in the league?

I remember when Mario made his first comeback and there was a seperate Mario camera near the top of the TV screen...This will never happen again because it highlighted how even elite players can look pretty poor when watched too closely. (Same thing happens when people scout potential draft picks at a CHL game and then says stupid things like: We shouldn't draft Hopkins).

Three different NHL coaches in 4 years have all relied heavily on Horcoff... Is it possible he is a player?

An important part? Cmon man you're reaching...

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#53 Chris.
January 27 2012, 11:12PM
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Eddie Shore wrote:

An important part? Cmon man you're reaching...

Horcoff plays center on one of the most productive PP units in the entire league... How is what I said a reach? I didn't say he was the most important part (like the guy who runs the halfboards)... but Horcoff has been a legit contributer on the PP this season cycling the puck and planting himself in the blue paint.

Anyway I was mostly responding to B-man who thought Horcoff shouldn't be used on the shootout, the PP, or the PK, or even play 4th line minutes... Hyperbole to say the least.

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#54 Saytalk
January 27 2012, 11:24PM
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Every now and then, there is a small market team in the US looking to reach the cap floor by taking on contracts like this. They pay less in cash but get hit with more in cap space. It's perfect for teams like Nashville, Phoenix, Florida, etc.

Anyways, I hope management (whoever it is by the 2013 offseason) tries to trade him first before buying him out and taking that cap hit. By that time, we'll need all the cap space we can get for players on the roster, and not for players off of it.

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#55 madjam
January 28 2012, 08:44AM
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What about renewing his contract by one year at 1 million for 2015-16 . In essence , restructure his contract and frontload on first season of new contract . Thus , he would have the last 4 years of new contract for total of 4 years at slightly above hit of 3.5 million . He's still a valuable player . Trading him would be easier as well with the new contract . Structure new contract so as first year might even be 6-7 million , leaving only 7-8 million over last 3 seasons making him a valuable commodity to all teams after next season if they choose that route . As it stands now interest is minimal, if any, for the next 3 years . Is something like this even possible ?

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#56 j
January 28 2012, 09:01AM
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madjam wrote:

What about renewing his contract by one year at 1 million for 2015-16 . In essence , restructure his contract and frontload on first season of new contract . Thus , he would have the last 4 years of new contract for total of 4 years at slightly above hit of 3.5 million . He's still a valuable player . Trading him would be easier as well with the new contract . Structure new contract so as first year might even be 6-7 million , leaving only 7-8 million over last 3 seasons making him a valuable commodity to all teams after next season if they choose that route . As it stands now interest is minimal, if any, for the next 3 years . Is something like this even possible ?

The CBA prevents restructuring of current contracts otherwise teams would be doing it all the time i.e. "Gomez, you'd better accept $2M or I'm burying you in the minors". If the Oilers add a year to Horc's deal, it will not have any bearing on the current deal and will not effect the current cap hit. The 'added' year is really a new contract that begins 2015-16.

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#57 Smokey
January 28 2012, 09:13AM
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I would never tell Katz what to do, but if I was paying a guy to be a 70 point guy and hes a 30 point guy, and your two choices are too buy him out which restricts your cap for long time, or play him in the minors then I`d play him in the minors. Reason being if I can one or two players into the line-up who can produce, I could make up some of the money in the playoffs.

Its not Horcoff fault he was given a contract 3 years too long and 3 million to much. I`d a signed it to. But two more years of Horcoff in the line-up this team will wander in the wilderness like its done for the last 6, and our young nucleus will be re-upt at larger contracts.

If your following the Chicago team where you have a young core of players and depth forwards, then this team is not on course to be competative in the playoffs in a year or two. Management has to get rid of players who don`t produce, and when a guy is kept around at 5.5 mil, and eats up your cap then this management is lost.

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#58 madjam
January 28 2012, 09:45AM
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j wrote:

The CBA prevents restructuring of current contracts otherwise teams would be doing it all the time i.e. "Gomez, you'd better accept $2M or I'm burying you in the minors". If the Oilers add a year to Horc's deal, it will not have any bearing on the current deal and will not effect the current cap hit. The 'added' year is really a new contract that begins 2015-16.

I thought they restructured Gretzky's to pay him more ? Could you pay Horcoff most of whats left on his contract next season , and thus have little to pay him over last 2 years . Therefore , another club might take a big cap hit , but have to pay him little over last 2 years ? I'm beginning to think each club should have one "mulligan " for the purpose of bad contracts . Maybe in the next CBA ?

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#59 striker777
January 28 2012, 07:57PM
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Can we stop talking about Horkoff. It is what it is. He is staying and will eventually pass the "C" to the next generation, but the team has more pressing issues than discussing Horkoff. Move on!

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#60 pdentrem
January 29 2012, 01:12PM
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Horcoff needs to get better period. He had improved after getting a custom grind on his blades but he has been brainwashed that it is of no use by the team skate fixer. Can you say EGO. Horcoff could of bought 82 sets of blades or even gotten them for free and had new sharpened blades for every game. When he came to Ridley College, St Catharines Ontario, the difference between the old grind and the new grind was amazing. He simply failed to continue to use the better grind and stand up for himself. You would think that when a team forks out that kind of money that they would look for any way to improve and maintain their advantage. Just because the old boys says that it is what they say, does not mean that it is. Maybe the owners should have been more proactive on getting all the players PROPERLY sharpened blades and the benefits would be a better overall team.

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