You certainly can’t blame Francois Beauchemin for taking the deal. In 2015, the Colorado Avalanche put a three-year, $13.5 million contract offer in front of him. Not only that, the Avs threw in a nice sweetener to the then-35-year-old defenseman: a no-move clause. For the next three seasons, Beauchemin could guarantee to himself and his family Denver would be his home if he so chose.
Beauchemin signed the deal, and here we are, not long after Year 2 of the contract. Will we see No. 32 in the new, Adidas Avalanche uniforms for a third season? The odds wouldn’t seem high, despite the fact that, should the Avs buy out his last year, they would get zero in the way of cap relief for the 2017-18 season.
Because Beauchemin was 35 at the time of his signing the deal, the NHL’s collective bargaining mandates his team can’t receive any cap relief should it choose to buy out the remainder of the player’s contract. What’s the point of buying out a guy if you don’t get any cap relief?
Well, first off, while the Avs would still have to count Beauchemin’s $4.5 million base salary toward the ’17-18 cap, they would save on some out-of-pocket, real-money costs. If they buy him out, Avs ownership would have to pay him two-thirds of the $4.5 million, which my calculator tells me is $3 million. Plus, ownership would be able to pay the $3 million in two installments, which, again checking the calculator, would be $1.5 million this season and next.
But the biggest and best reason to buy out Beauchemin would be because it would eliminate his no-movement clause, which in turn would allow the Avs to NOT have to protect him as a roster player for next month’s NHL expansion draft with the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
Under the CBA, players with no-movement deals under contract at the time of the June 21 expansion draft must be on that team’s protected list. Teams can choose one of two options: protect eight skaters (forwards and defensemen) plus one goalie, or protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie.
Here’s where I wonder if, somehow, Beauchemin might still salvage that third, full-paid, active-roster season with the Avs. Let’s say Beauchemin goes to the Avs and makes this kind of offer: “Hey, I’ll waive the no-move clause, and therefore give you better flexibility in the expansion draft, if you promise not to buy out my final year.”
If Beauchemin does get that final year bought out, his NHL career is likely over. He’ll be 37 on June 4, coming off a poor season with the worst team in hockey. Even though he would be able to sign for the minimum as an unrestricted free agent as a bought-out player, how many NHL teams would be in the market for a 37-year-old in 2017?
NHL teams can buy out players starting June 15, or 48 hours after the final game of the Stanley Cup Finals should it come first. That would leave two days before the expansion draft protected lists are due, two days in which to buy out Beauchemin and not have to worry about protecting him anymore.
But, could Joe Sakic possibly be talked into keeping Beauchemin on, in exchange for a waive of the NMC? After all, the Avs will have $4.5 million of his final year counting against this coming season’s cap, no matter what, buyout or no buyout. Look, Beauchemin was not good at all in 2016-17, with 18 points in 81 games and a minus-14, with a 44.2 Corsi-for percentage in all situations.
But could he still have value as a depth guy or a guy who could step in if injuries strike? I can at least attempt to make that argument. I don’t know if my heart would be too into it, but I could at least make an attempt. Beauchemin, I thought, played pretty well in 2015-16, with good offensive numbers (34 points in 82 games). Maybe he’s got one last decent year left?
But if Beauchemin refuses to waive that no-move clause, then there’s no discussion: Sakic has to buy him out. Would Beauchemin consider it? I’ve placed calls and emails to his agent, Bob Sauve, but haven’t gotten a response. The Avs also declined to discuss the matter. Beauchemin did give an interview to French journalist Jean-Phillippe Morin late last month in which he indicated he would not waive the no-move clause. Not only that, but in which Beauchemin also believed he would NOT be bought out.
“I had a good meeting with the coaches at the end of the year. They were satisfied with my performance. I did as much as I could in the situation we know. I want to try to encourage young people to start over from next year,” Beauchemin said, according to a Google translation of the original story in French.
Look, I don’t want to take potshots here, but…if the coaching staff was satisfied with the way Beauchemin played last year, then…ok, wow. Keeping Beauchemin around would contradict what Sakic said is his vision for the next Avs team, to be younger and faster. He’d open himself up to rightly being accused of keeping him around out of not wanting to admit a mistake two years ago, or for possible cronyism reasons.
Beauchemin has children in the Colorado school system and appears to really enjoy living here. So, it’s understandable why he’d want to exercise his right to stay put no matter what. But it could be a costly financial decision. Then again, maybe Beauchemin already has assurances from the Avs he will be brought back for the third year of his deal.
But if so, he not only will take up a roster spot that could have gone toward, say, a young, developing Chris Bigras or Duncan Siemens (assuming Siemens gets a qualifying offer), he’ll force the Avs to protect a 37-year-old player over any one of a number of more deserving ones in the expansion draft.
It would seem, therefore, a no-brainer for the Avs to buy Beauchemin out from that last year unless he grants them a favor with the NMC.
Then again, trying to make sense of much of anything the Avs have done in the last couple years has been a difficult task.