The Ballad of Bobby Butler Comes to an End

As has been reported by news-starved hockey outlets all over Canada, Ottawa bought out Bobby Butler a couple of days ago.

From The6thSens post on the topic:

“The Senators will pay Butler $200,000 per season in real money but according to Capgeek, the cap hit on a potential Butler buyout will be $50,000 in the first year of the deal and $200,000 in the second. (Note: Steve Lloyd has reported that the Butler’s cap hit will actually be $75,000 in the first year of his deal and I’m not sure what accounts for the discrepancy. Nor am I interested in going through the CBA to find out the reasoning, if true, since that $25,000 difference is inconsequential to this team’s cap situation.)”

Inconsequential is right. $25,000 is as inconsequential to this team’s cap situation as $200,000, or $2,000,000. If Bobby’s buy-out somehow had a cap hit of 10 times his full salary, it would be inconsequential to this team’s cap situation. They’re currently about $20MM under the cap, spending less than all but the New York Islanders and Phoenix Coyotes. They’re being outspent by financial juggernauts like Nashville, Florida, Anaheim and Columbus, with no players left to re-sign, no quality UFAs left on the market, and no room in the forward ranks for new players.

So, let me be straight here: I’m not complaining about having a potentially competitive team who is spending less money than most. That’s great. I’m not advocating a $114MM offer sheet to PK Subban. (Strokes chin thoughtfully for a moment, vomits in wastebasket.) But that still doesn’t make this buy-out make much sense.

Butler had 37 points in 94 games, a 0.39 PPG average, which ain’t great and ain’t terrible neither. His Relative CORSI for the season wasn’t bad (3.5), though it was terrible in the playoffs (-22.1). In a nutshell, he’s a young player (25) who doesn’t cost much, has okay possession numbers, has okay point production, and has room to grow.

So…exactly the type of player a rebuilding club might want to keep around, if only for depth?

I know Butler spent his share of time in the press box last year, and the team probably didn’t want to pay him 15 grand per game to watch hockey (though paying him $400K over two years to get absolutely nothing has got to sting), but I also think Ottawa got through most of last year relatively unscathed on the injury front. They go into this year with players like Alfredsson (gods willing), Latendresse, Michalek, Spezza, and Peter Fucking Regin in their top six. Some or all of them could be missing for long stretches. And the message management sends is that they’d rather go in with an $800,000 Regin who hasn’t played hockey in about two years than pay Butler money they clearly have in the event that maybe, just maybe, they’re going to need someone who’s played some NHL games to put the puck in the net somewhere down the line.

I’m okay with the team not spending as much money as the big clubs. It’s the economics of the league, and I’ll take smart management and prospect development over whatever it is exactly that Brian Burke does any day. But I’m also okay with inexpensive depth. What exactly is a team this far below the cap floor doing buying young players out?

As far as I can tell, there are two potential subtexts to this thing: Murray has something expensive planned, or Melnyk is hoping for at least one season of high-sales/low-payroll to maximize his return on a team which, he insists, loses money.

I’ve taken issue with Melnyk’s math in the past, but even if it’s true that he needs to run a bargain basement franchise just to make a few bucks, I wonder if there’s a point at which fans start to look at the team’s bottom line and strategy and become less forgiving of cost-savings measures. Butler’s not a game changer, and the odds were long on him making a sustained impact on this lineup. But the point is that the team could afford, both in terms of cap space and revenues, to take a wait-and-see approach to his development. A tough season–one in which he received about three minutes less ice time per game–is not unheard of. If the team presumably saw enough potential to sign him to that deal in the first place, I’m curious to know what changed. Shitty exit interview?

If this is purely about the dollars and cents, then it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Not because I liked Butler so much. But because I wonder if this move implies an era of cost-cutting and the challenging hockey that comes with it.

In any case, good thing we didn’t name this blog the Ballad of Bobby Butler. May your legend live on, you wonderfully-named, collegian shooting star.

5 thoughts on “The Ballad of Bobby Butler Comes to an End

  1. 100% fine with cost-cutting. I’m cheap as hell myself and I respect, nay LOVE an owner who is dirt-cheap. The players will either take a paycut to stay here or will be viewed as greedheads or malcontents. :p

  2. I dont know what to make of this………..I am not a fan of stingy owners, but we dont have any room up front anyways so i guess i am ok with this? It would be nice to bring in an all-star impact player and spend some of that coin, the eastern conference is looking scary (ie Tampa Bay, Carolina, Pittsburgh, Philly, New York rags, Boston) These teams are gonna be hard to compete with given we lost a lot of toughness this offseason.

  3. Pingback: Senator News: July 31st | eyeonthesens

  4. I had thought this was more-or-less a counting contracts thing. The Sens with Butler had 49 contracts; allowed a max of 50. So with enough young guns on the horizon, he’s the most expendable. Gives the Sens more wiggle room.

    • Have to side with Alex here. I dont really know if the same owner who pushed to sign 48 year old Alex Kovalev for 5MM dollareedoos a couple years ago is pressuring Murray to make his below cap floor squad…more cap floory (Cap Wine Sellar?). I think Butler was the victim of a numbers game pure and simple. His contract was stupid and handed to him in haste. Heyyyyy raise your hand if you’re similarly weirded out by Jim O’Brien setting up a sick goal and getting a two year one way deal meanwhile he has 6 points in only 34 NHL games! The Sens wanted to press the eject button on Butsy’s deal while they had that breif window of opportunity to do so. Look how (REALATIVELY) cheap the buy out is. 1.2 Million was way too much for the season he put up, he played one more game than Konopka! We can massage it anyway we want but Butler had a terrible season. As the Sens rebuild and go through players and prospects like nobody’s business I start to see a theme emerge: It aint easy being a smallish, below average scoring forward. If youre a scoring forward that can play either side, there are basically 4 places max for your kind on an NHL team. Players like O’Brien, Daug, Regin, Condra dont get their deals bought out because they are bottom six dudes who can play defense well. That’s what team’s seem to need in the bigs. If all you can do is score, you’d better score or you’re out the door. Remember Nikita Filatov? Has more pedigree in his little finger than Butler, shows how little chance you get if you cant adjust quick. Neither got the job done and both are off the team and likely both will spend their careers in Europe where defense is considered how you say “inelegant.”

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