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.