‘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:
|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.