Buying Out Shawn Horcoff

‘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.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    We could trade horcoff. A team going for the floor would want a contract worth more than it pays. Plus horcoff is a good player contrary to poular belief.

  • @ Time Travelling Sean:

    There isn’t a young center on the team that can fill Horcoff’s role with the same level of defensive ability.

    However, on the free agent market I very much doubt Horcoff would get a contract with a $5.5 million cap hit – I’d suggest it would be in the $2.5 million range, similar to Pahlsson’s deal.

  • Chris.

    This amnesty option sounds amazing. The guy provides a lot to the team just costs too much. I don’t believe it would ever come to buyout. Picking up a cap hit $1.5mm higher than the salary in 2013-14 and $2.5 mm higher in 2014-2015 does wonders for a low budget cap floor team.

  • misfit

    The Oilers could pull a move like the Rangers did with Redden and send him to the minors and lose the entire cap hit during the season. They’d still carry it in the offseason, but with teams being allowed to exceed the cap by 10% (I think it’s 10% anyway) during that time, it shouldn’t hurt them too much.

    Either way, it’s been proven time and time again that a team with a creative GM and an ownder with deep pockets can get around having a bad contract or two.

    If amnesty is an option with the new CBA, I would have to think the Oilers wouldn’t hesitate and take it with regards to Horcoff.

      • misfit

        This is what I was able to gather from capgeek:

        KNOWN CLAUSES: NMC (through 2012-13); NTC (for 2013-14, starting July 1, 2013, player can provide list of 10 teams to which he will accept a trade); no NMC/NTC for 2014-15.

        So basically, there’s nothing stopping them from sending him to the minors after next season. And really, there’s no reason to consider it before then anyway.

  • GSP

    An interesting suggestion I heard the other day is including him in a trade for Jeff Carter if they have interest in Carter. It is said Columbus will have a hard time trading him due to length of the contract..but maybe Oilers willing to take it on if can rid themselves of Horcoff’s next 3 years.

  • Bob Cobb

    Well Calgary is in the win now business of acquiring aging overrpaid players in an effort to make the playoffs, man that sounds familiar. Call Feaster and offer up Horcoff with the tag line interesting trades considered. I bet the Oilers could get a couple Stampede tickets, a shooter tutor and a new set of tire’s for the Zamboni for Horcoff, on second thought Tambellini may have to throw in a pick or prospect.

  • No way we can afford long term deals with RNH, Hall, Eberle and our lottery pick this year with Horcoff on the books.

    If Horc would have signed for 2 million less he would be on this team until the very end. Not his fault…you have to go after the money.

    • Time Travelling Sean

      Horcoff’s contract will be off the books by teh time the 2012 1st comes off the books, whether he plays in the NHL this fall or not.

      It’s not even close to a big enough problem to stop the Oilers from re-signing any of the other three.

      Doesn’t seem like a good idea to buy Horcoff out at those buyout rates. You only saves 2-3 mil against the cap in 2013/14 and 2014/15 when you “need” the money, you still have to replace him, and are you really going to do that much better replacing him with that 2-3 mil than just keeping him? Enough so to justify hindering your cap with buy out hits beyond those 2 years? I don’t think so.

      • Buke

        Exactly correct Jimmer, It is one thing to buy him out but you have to replace his roster spot. If you are saving only two to three Million in cap space, the person coming in will easily chew that space up so there is no real net gain.

        Where the hole in Horcoff’s contract is; according to cap geek; is the expiration of his No Movement Clause at the end of the 2012/13 season. He then has a NMC starting again in 2014. That gives the Oilers a year to pull a Wade Redden and bury him in the minors and his cap hit is exactly zero. Sure Katz still has to pay him $7M but he would have to pay him $4.67M for that buy out year anyways. By sending him to the minors, it only cost Katz an additional $2.33M for the full $5.5M in cap space.

      • Exactly. Jimmer’s comment is indicative of the knee jerk reaction that this contract creates.

        Horc is not a 5.5 million dollar player. We all know this. He also isn’t the useless bag of turds that many people suggest as well. He is a useful player who becomes less useful each successive year.

        The oil can bury him or trade him. Buying him out is a possibility but I doubt it will ever come to that.

  • Amnesty would be nice, but assuming that doesn’t happen, a June 2013 buyout looks like our best long-term option.

    Poor Horc. A cup with the Oilers isn’t in the cards for him. Then again, many would argue that a cup with the Oilers isn’t in the cards for any player.