There have been numerous articles, rumours and speculations lately about the Canadiens buying out Scott Gomez after this season is over. Some reports indicate that this has already been agreed to by Gomez himself. Such a move may save the Habs a lot of cap space, and would rid Montreal of a highly under performing player. While the idea would be a positive move for several reasons, its worth examining both sides of this potential transaction.
Gomez is currently on the injured reserve list with a concussion, thanks to a hit from behind on Tyler Myers a few games ago; an infraction worthy of the 3 game suspension. The fact is that concussions are difficult to recover from quickly, and have a very open ended timetable when it comes to a return date. Unlike broken bones which usually take 4 to 6 weeks, or surgery to repair torn knee ligaments and cartilages which can take 6 to 12 months, returning from a concussion injury is much less predictable. These types of injuries are usually classified as minor or major. Regardless, NHL clubs have been taking a much longer term approach with these injuries over the past year or so, with better defined procedures for evaluating players immediately after it occurs.
Why this is pertinent is due to the possibility that Gomez may not recover before the end of this season, which has only 6 games remaining at this time. If he does not, then due to a clause in the current CBA, any injured player cannot be bought out from their contract. The Habs would be stuck with him, and vice versa.
Now, the conspiracy theorists would say that if Gomez wanted to leave Montreal, he could voluntarily return to the lineup to get into at least one game. However, with the guaranteed $10 million left on his contract over the next two seasons, what would his incentive be to leave? Some say that he yearns to return to New Jersey, where he started in the NHL. To do so, he’d have to accept a drastically reduced salary, but perhaps he would be happier playing there. From the team’s perspective, a buyout would save 2/3 of the $10 million left on his contract in terms of real money. Unfortunately, from a cap perspective the cap hit would actually be greater. According to capgeek.com, a buyout would cost Montreal a total of $11.3 million over the next 4 seasons on the salary cap, including a little over $8 million over the next 2 seasons! Would the Canadiens want to carry that much of a cap hit over the next 4 seasons, for a player that does not play for them? Another option exists, where the Canadiens could move Gomez to the minors, where they would be obligated to pay his salary but not be subject to his restrictively high salary cap hit. Such a move has not been done by Montreal before, but a few other teams who can afford it [e.g New York Rangers] have done so, very successfully.
Scott Gomez’s career is at an all time low, and has been on a steep decline since he joined Montreal. Perhaps a change of scenery would do both him and the team good. As it stands today, until Scott Gomez returns to play from his injury, nothing definitive can be planned for, for the off season or next season.