When general manager Joe Sakic signed then-35-year-old Francois Beauchemin to a three-year, $13,500,000 free agent contract during the summer of 2015 it was a mistake. But it would be an even bigger mistake if the final year of his contract weren’t bought out during the NHL’s two-week window beginning this Thursday.
You see, there’s an expansion draft June 17th for the incoming Vegas Golden Knights and any player with a no-movement clause in his contract (like Beauchemin), according to the league’s collective bargaining agreement, must be protected. Now, if the 37-year-old blue liner were still an effective NHL hockey player, you wouldn’t think twice about it. You would need him on your roster and make the necessary sacrifice of exposing a capable, young player like Sven Andrighetto or Mark Barberio to keep him in Burgundy & Blue.
But that’s not the case. Beauchemin has really struggled the past season and a half. Not just due to his declining physical skills, but also his inability to execute the fast and nuanced breakout system employed by his coach, Jared Bednar. Keeping him off the ice, alone, would be a boon for the team. Reclaiming his roster spot for a more deserving player would be even better.
What’s a team to do?
Well, one of two things: Either they convince the player to waive his no-movement clause (an action Beauchemin reportedly won’t consider), which would allow the Avalanche to protect a more desirable player while retaining his services. Or they can buy out his contract during the two-day period between June 15th and 5:00 PM EST and June 17th when expansion protection lists are due. (The buyout period extends through June 30th, but it would help much after the fact now, would it?)
What happens following a buyout?
Well, for a player 35 years of age or older, like Beauchemin was at the signing of his contract, not as much as you might think. The Avalanche would gain back the roster spot, but they’d still be on the hook for the remaining $4,500,000 of his contract.
Are the Avalanche in a cap situation that would prevent them from making such a move? Nope. According to Capfriendly.com, Colorado is $18,590,238 under the NHL threshold next year with only a handful of raises due. Maybe 2018-19 is the problem? Nope. Another $5,000,000 should be coming off the books when Blake Comeau and Joe Colborne’s contacts expire. Considering the team is also entertaining trading high-earning players like Matt Duchene and Tyson Barrie for entry-level-contract-type players and futures this offseason, it’s possible the team could possess even more flexibility to take on dead money. So, no—there’s no good financial argument for not buying out Francois Beauchemin.
The loyalty card
There’s just one problem—one character flaw that could prevent Joe Sakic from doing the right thing this week. You see, Joe imagines himself as a friend to veteran players. He believes if he does right by retirement-age blue liners like Francois Beauchemin, he’ll have an easier time attracting free agents to Colorado in the future. Maybe there’s some weight to that, but not a lot of weight. Certainly nothing that trumps the long-term health of the franchise. Having a player-friendly reputation around the league is fine, but the prime contributing factors in getting good veterans to join your team will always be money and your team’s ability to compete.
I don’t know if the Avalanche will be good next year. (In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say they won’t.) But I am confident their on-ice product—both next season and going forward—will be stronger with Mark Barberio’s name in the lineup rather than Francois Beauchemin.
It’s a move Sakic can’t afford not to make.