Top buyout candidates in 2014

Brad Richards among a group that could be released next summer

Updated: December 19, 2013, 11:35 AM ET
By Neil Greenberg | ESPN Insider

Richards_Brad 131028Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesBrad Richards has not lived up to his $60 million contract as a New York Ranger.

When the NHL emerged from the lockout last January, the new collective bargaining agreement contained a provision which granted each team two compliance buyouts over the next two seasons. Some teams took full advantage of the relief immediately: The Chicago Blackhawks bought out defenseman Steve Montador and forward Rostislav Olesz. Montreal used its buyouts on Scott Gomez and Tomas Kaberle. Tampa Bay bought out franchise icon Vincent Lecavalier. Philadelphia -- which ended up signing Lecavalier -- got out from under the contracts of Danny Briere and Ilya Bryzgalov, while Toronto bought out Mike Komisarek and, surprisingly, Mikhail Grabovski.

Equally surprising was the New York Rangers using just one of their compliance buyouts -- electing to rid themselves of blueliner Wade Redden -- but keeping the remaining six years of Brad Richards' $60 million contract.

Just three summers ago, Richards was one of the most sought-after free agents on the market. The Prince Edward Island native was coming off a 28-goal, 77-point season with the Dallas Stars and had teams lining up to make offers. Ultimately, the Blueshirts' nine-year, $60 million contract won them his services. Unfortunately, it hasn't worked out.

Richards' offensive production has fallen from his point-per-game pace to a more average level of top-six production. Much of that decline is due to a reduction in power-play scoring:

Brad Richards scoring chart Courtesy: Neil Greenberg

Some speculated the 33-year-old Richards could flourish under new head coach Alain Vigneault's system, but Richards is currently on pace for a 61-point season. That's the same as last season under John Tortorella, who made Richards a healthy scratch for Game 4 of the 2013 playoffs against the Boston Bruins, and played the former Conn Smythe winner eight minutes in Game 3.

According to Capgeek.com, the Rangers have five forwards under contract next season, with a possible buyout of Richards reducing that number to four. It would cost the Blueshirts $18 million spread over 12 years to pull the cord, but that's a small price to pay to get out from under an albatross of a contract for a player way past his prime.

Here are some other buyout candidates:


Leino

Ville Leino, F, Buffalo Sabres


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Neil Greenberg is ESPN Insider's NHL analytics expert. His columns have appeared on the Washington Post website, and he is a regular guest on Sirius XM NHL Radio.