At 5 PM EST, the first buyout window of this offseason will be closed. There have been several players bought out by other teams for various reasons. They include poor performance, having an undesirable contract, or both. OK, the reasons aren't that varied. Nevertheless, the players bought out will now become unrestricted free agents on July 1. The inclusion of additional talent should give the various NHL teams more options should they go to market. Cap space is at a premium for the New Jersey Devils. It's still worth looking at whether they should consider improving their roster with any of them.
As of Sunday night, there have been ten players who have been or will be bought out. Three of those ten players are defensemen: Aaron Rome, Ed Jovanovski (may or may not be on a compliance buyout per Harvey Filakov), and Christian Ehrhoff. Yes, the Sabres decided to wipe away the seven years left on his deal. Yes, the Sabres dumped easily their top defenseman if not their best skater. I suppose they plan on tanking for 2015 too. Ehrhoff immediately joins Matt Niskanen as one of the best defensemen available on the market. However, the Devils do not need any defensemen and so they shouldn't consider either of them. Ehrhoff will likely command a substantial contract anyway. So for the Devils, let's take a closer look at the seven forwards.
Richards was ingloriously bought out by the Rangers after a very poor postseason. You know a team really doesn't think of much of you if they're willing to eat just under $21 million of cap space spread out over twelve seasons.
Why They Should Consider Him: Well, the Devils do need offensive production and Richards been all about that. While he only produced 51 points, he did lead New York in shots on net with 259 and finished third on the team in scoring. Richards shot at 7.7% last season, the second lowest shooting percentage he's had in a season. He could bounce back for the better. He's been a main part of power plays, which could help prevent the Devils' success rate from diving in 2014-15.
Why They Should Avoid Him: His underlying numbers last season were bad. Just look at his player page at Extra Skater. Richards was positive in possession in the regular season but that was assisted greatly by starting a ton of shifts on offense. In the postseason, he was demolished in possession. A sub-45% Corsi despite favorable offensive zone starts is simply hideous. His minutes were cut and understandably so. Moreover, Richards' 51 points was the lowest he's had in a full season. While his shooting percentage was low along with the team's, that fact combined with the fact he's 34 suggests he could be starting a big decline.
Concluding Thought: The Devils do need help on offense but I don't see it from an aging Richards, who hasn't been a great possession player, potentially demanding significant money.
Mike Ribeiro just completed the first year of his deal before getting bought out. Something had to have been amiss and the Coyotes management wasn't shy about Ribeiro having off-ice issues. Greg Wyshynski touched on them at Puck Daddy a few days ago. Whether it's warranted is moot; he'll be hitting the market.
Why They Should Consider Him: Ribeiro has been a scorer of significance from his days in Dallas and his one season in Washington in 2013. He was a big factor as to why their 1-3-1 set up worked; he was the set-up man behind the net. Ribeiro is an excellent passer of the puck. As the Devils have plenty of forwards who can get pucks deep, having a distributor could be beneficial. Ribeiro wasn't a fit with
Phoenix Arizona, so a change of scenery could get him back to form. Who wouldn't want a scorer?
Why They Should Avoid Him: Ribeiro's got a lot of unfavorable aspects on the ice. One, he was positive in possession for the first time in three seasons per Extra Skater - and he got 71% offensive zone starts to do so with Arizona. I don't think the Devils would be able to shelter him that much. I really don't think this suggests he would do well with Peter DeBoer's offensive strategies. Two, Ribeiro is not a shooter. He's only averaged more than two shots per game in a season once in his career. The Devils are short on shooters. While he could help facilitate others from putting pucks on net; he's not going to help in that regard. Three, he's also 34. He may have not fit in with the Coyotes at all, but age could be another factor in his lackluster 2013-14 season. Four, Mike Ribeiro's never been much of a defender. The center on New Jersey has traditionally been the first one back to help the defense out. Ribeiro isn't going to suddenly learn how to do this, nor supplant Travis Zajac, Patrik Elias, or Adam Henrique in either.
Concluding Thought: The more I look at Ribeiro, the less I think the Devils should consider him.
After 53 points in 81 games in his second NHL season, Buffalo offered him a six-year deal worth $27 million. In the following three seasons, he put up 46 points and scored 10 goals in 137 games. No one is surprised at this buyout.
Why They Should Consider Him: Well, Leino certainly has a point to prove. He had a terrible time in Buffalo. He could be convinced to be picked up on a relatively cheap deal and could be a decent supporting forward. He surely can't go goalless for another season, right?
Why They Should Avoid Him: The underlying numbers do not suggest he's all that good of a player. The production since that one season with Philadelphia do not suggest he's all that good of a player.
Concluding Thought: Picking up someone coming off a goalless season who only took 38 shots in 58 games does not appear to be a good idea. It isn't.
The Sharks bought out the last year of Marty (or Martin) Havlat's contract. He's been a skilled winger throughout his career. Would he work for New Jersey?
Why They Should Consider Him: Havlat is a skilled right winger. The Devils are thin at right wing and arguably in terms of skill. Based on his player page at Extra Skater, he was actually pretty good in possession against pretty good competition in the two seasons before 2013-14. It's possible that he just had a really off year despite a crazy 16.7% shooting percentage.
Why They Should Avoid Him: Health is a big concern with Havlat. The closest to a full season he's played with San Jose has been 40 games in the lockout-shortened 2013 season. At the age of 33, this isn't a concern that is going to go away. Moreover, his rate of shooting has dropped in each season with San Jose. His last season with Minnesota had him averaging nearly three shots per game. He was half that in 2013-14 with the Sharks. That suggests he's a player on the decline. He could bring up his shooting and that could yield points; but that won't help if he's not available to play. The fact that his relative Corsi percentage was considerably negative despite weaker competition, fewer minutes, and more zone starts than 2013 is another red flag.
Concluding Thought: It's one of those ideas that seems good at first, but ultimately isn't all that appealing. That said, it isn't abhorrent.
David Booth was a big shooting, big hitting, and big producing winger for Florida. Vancouver picked him up in 2011-12 and that didn't all carry over. He's battled injuries and struggled to be that producer. Rather than pay him $4.75 million, the Canucks bought out the last year of his deal.
Why They Should Consider Him: Unlike everyone else on this list so far, Booth has been a positive possession player through the last three seasons. OK, take his 2013 season with a grain of salt as he only played 12 games. But he was quite good in this regard last season; while he didn't face tough competition, he didn't get favorable zone starts either. That would be quite nice in New Jersey. He is a left winger, so he could help strengthen that side; but he could also play right wing as needed. Booth is pretty fast, he shoots pretty well, and he's pretty aggressive on the forecheck. He's also not as old as the other bought out forwards; he's just 29.
Why They Should Avoid Him: Booth has struggled with injuries, including concussions. He hasn't played a full season since 2010-11. Again, he can't really benefit when he's not available to play. While he did get make 66 appearances last season, he struggled to establish himself in the lineup. He suffered a long goalless streak. While a down year in scoring wouldn't be a reason alone to look elsewhere; the fact he had 26 goals and 25 assists in 134 games suggests so. I doubt he's going to become a big scorer once he gets away from British Columbia.
Concluding Thought: I actually like Booth's game. If he could be had for cheap, then it's not the worst idea to get him. But if the scoring doesn't return, then he could he be a guy who rushes in and tries to win pucks in deep. Wait a minute. The Devils have a bunch of wingers who already do that. Including one with a history of concussions. OK, it's not a great idea after all. It may be the least bad idea if you believe he can get back to producing. But I don't recommend it.
Ryan Malone is winger with big body presence. When he's on, he's a handful to deal with. Unfortunately, that has faded as he's gotten older. The Lightning bought out the last year of his deal. Could the Devils pick him up?
Why They Should Consider Him: Malone shot at a really low rate last season. A shooting percentage of 5.7% is low by itself. It's especially low for Malone, who has shot at 13.8% in his career. Combined with his size, he could make the Devils' wingers larger and meaner.
Why They Should Avoid Him: The Devils don't need more size or nastiness. They need help generating points and shots. Malone has never been a prolific shooter. He has never produced more than 51 points in his career and that was before the injuries and years piled up. Now look at his player page at Extra Skater. While he was a positive possession player last season, he played limited minutes for the Bolts and did so against weak competition. In the two seasons before that, play did not get better when he was on the ice. Lastly, the Devils already have Ryane Clowe, Dainius Zubrus, and Tuomo Ruutu. The Devils don't need big wingers who can effectively battle down low.
Concluding Thought: The Devils already have Clowe. Why would they want an older, worse version of him in Malone?
Jordin Tootoo became surplus to the roster with the Detroit Red Wings, spending much of last season with Grand Rapids. The Red Wings bought out the last year of his deal.
Why They Should Consider Him: Believe it or not, Tootoo was actually a productive fourth-line type player with Nashville. That suggests he's more than just an agitating penalty machine. Plus, his inclusion would make someone like, say, Cam Janssen totally unnecessary as opposed to generally unnecessary. It could also lead to fans bringing in train whistles.
Why The Should Avoid Him: Seriously, he's just a fourth-liner at best. He only played 11 games with Detroit and averaged less than 7 minutes. He contributed very little in Detroit. His underlying numbers at Extra Skater aren't good, as one would expect from someone who plays limited minutes. I don't think he's better than any of the CBGBs. I don't think he's really that much of an upgrade over most of the depth beyond New Jersey's fourths. I don't want to hear a train whistle at the Rock.
Concluding Thought: No.
Ultimately, I'm not really in favor of the Devils picking up any of the new unrestricted free agents generated by buyouts. I'm actually not surprised that my ultimate conclusion isn't to recommend either of these players. They got bought out for a reason. Nearly all of them are on the wrong side of 30 and their best years are behind them. Most weren't just bad for only a season, but over multiple seasons, which may be evidence of the player declining. It's not that none of them can help New Jersey at all, but none of them present an ideal options. Sometimes, one man's trash isn't another man's treasure.
As usual, I want to know what you think. Do you disagree and think any of these seven bought out forwards should be considered by the Devils in free agency? If so, who and why?