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January 4, 2013 | 6:22pm ET
Buyouts for all!
If the NHL and NHLPA can agree on a new CBA and save this season, the summer's activities leading up to the 2013-14 campaign will be entertaining to watch.

CHICAGO -- This week's CBA negotiations presented the long-expected and much-anticipated concept of amnesty to the world.

According to reports, the League has floated the idea of each team being able to buyout up to two players to get under a new, lower salary cap. The Players' salaries would still count against Hockey Related Revenue, but would no longer impact the team cap number.

There had been some talk about amnesty being part of the new CBA, but the idea appears to be much more real and defined now; the cap relief would be available to teams during this upcoming offseason (before a 2013-14 season started).

While we don't yet know where the cap will eventually settle, it's reasonable to split the difference between the players' number ($65M) and the owners' ($60M) and use $62M as a theoretical cap (see what I did there?). If we use that number, though, there will be some general managers with no finger nails, friends or available minutes on their phone plan by the time October arrives.

Some teams, like Philadelphia (Chris Pronger) and Boston (Marc Savard), could look at the amnesty as a way to accelerate the inevitable "retirement" of two injured stars that won't likely play again.

Others, like Chicago, will be able to use their amnesty to clear out a crowded roster or make way for prospects; the Blackhawks might opt to buy out veterans like Johnny Oduya and Steve Montador, both defensemen, because organizational depth could provide an inexpensive, internal replacement.

When the NBA allowed amnesty, there was a flurry of trades moving big-money contracts for what appeared to be nothing on paper. NHL fans should look at this template for chaos as an expectation if/when amnesty becomes a reality for teams. Not only will names change on lockers, but the power struggle across the league could be entirely different.

However, there could be some big names moving, one way or another, before the dust settles.

Obviously the summer spending spree spiked the payroll in Minnesota, but they aren't in a terrible position going into this summer. They have just over $51M committed to 16 players and have some prospects -- Charlie Coyle, Zack Phillips, Jason Zucker and, eventually, Mathew Dumba -- that could affordably fill out their roster on entry level contracts.

But if Minnesota wanted additional cap space, they might consider parting ways with Dany Heatley and his $7.5M cap number. Indeed, with only the 2013-14 season remaining on Heatley's contract, he could become a popular trade piece for teams looking to move longer deals with large cap numbers.

The future facing other organizations, like the Vancouver Canucks, isn't nearly as survivable.

Vancouver has over $55M committed to only 13 players for the 2013-14 season, affording them an average of less than $1M per spot to fill out a 20-man roster. If they were able to trade Roberto Luongo -- which might be more possible before the amnesty period -- and used their two amnesty buyouts on Keith Ballard and David Booth, for example, they could have roughly $20M in cap space to fill 10 spots on their roster (minus the players/salaries brought back in a Luongo deal).

Sound rough? It will be... and both Sedins will be unrestricted free agents in 2014.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Tampa Bay Lightning find themselves in a similar potential cal hell as the Canucks. The Bolts have over $57.5M already committed to only 15 players for the 2013-14 season, giving them little/no flexibility to fill out their roster.

Could a lower cap ceiling mean the end of Vinny Lecavalier in Tampa? With almost a full decade left on his contract, and the $7.7M cap number attached to those years, there's a real chance he could be on the market.

Two big-market teams could stand to benefit the most from the proposed amnesty structure, which could make any potential movement from a player like Lecavalier even more intriguing.

The Montreal Canadiens could (finally) get Scott Gomez and Tomas Kaberle off their books, and they would have to; Montreal has over $60M already committed to only 16 players for the 2013-14 season. Clearing over $11.6M by moving Gomez and Kaberle could make Montreal players in what could be a fascinating free agent and trade environment.

Toronto might be the team that could immediately benefit most from a lower cap and amnesty program. The Leafs have over $20M in available cap space for 2013-14 with 13 players signed, none of whom would appear to be buyout candidates.

Making the Leafs even more of a potential power player in the coming months is the lack of long-term obligations on their payroll; Toronto only has three players on their NHL roster signed for the 2014-15 season. If a team needed to move a long-term contract on a quality player (cough, Lecavalier), Toronto has ample cap space to fit the deal moving forward.

Fans should be ready for previously-unthinkable trade scenarios to become reality, and some household names to become free agents.

Tab Bamford is a Columnist for The Fourth Period Magazine. Be sure to follow him on Twitter.
 

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