Why San Jose Shouldn't Buy Out Martin Jones
Martin Jones has been bad. But his poor performance isn’t the biggest concern for the San Jose Sharks.
That honor belongs to his contract.
After posting a .915 save percentage over three years and winning 102 games in that span, Jones signed a six-year, $34.5 million deal with the Sharks in 2018.
The next season, his save percentage plummeted to .896.
This year is going even worse for the goaltender, whose .889 save percentage ranks last among netminders with over 25 games.
The downward trend looks to be irreversible. So the question is, what should the organization do about his contract?
Jones carries a $5.75 million cap hit for four more seasons after this one, which makes him the 12th-highest paid goaltender with the fifth-most years left on his deal.
This makes the 30-year-old an almost unmovable piece in a trade, as no team would be willing to chew up that cap hit for that long, no matter what the return was.
That leaves the Sharks with only one way to get rid of his contract: A buyout.
LET’S TALK BUYOUTS
Buyouts allow a team to pay two-thirds of the amount owed to a player over twice as many years. So, if you owed someone $3 million over the course of two years ($1.5 million per year), you would instead pay them $2 million over the course of four years ($500,000 per year).
You can see how this would break down season by season for Jones below (courtesy of CapFriendly):
This would free up some cap space for San Jose in the immediate future, but it would also have repercussions for the next eight years to the tune of roughly $2 million per season.
If Jones was bought out this summer, the eight-year payout would be tied for the sixth longest in NHL history, the longer ones being Brad Richards (12), Christian Ehrhoff (14), Ilya Bryzgalov (14), Vincent Lecavalier (14), and Rick DiPietro (16). Every one of those was done with the compliance buyouts granted after the 2013 lockout, meaning the money doesn't count against the salary cap like it would for Jones.
However, two players have been bought out for an eight-year length without the use of a compliance buyout: Cody Hodgson of the Buffalo Sabres and Alexei Yashin of the New York Islanders.
Hodgson’s buyout costs Buffalo just under $1 million per season through 2023, while the Yashin buyout—which ran from 2008 to 2015—took up between $2-4 million of cap space each year for the Islanders.
Neither team has won a playoff round with those penalties on the books.
BAD WITH. BAD WITHOUT.
Buying out Jones’ contract won’t cause cap problems for the Sharks. But at the same time, neither would keeping it. That’s because the team is already in a bad financial place.
The Sharks will be cash-strapped over the next few seasons, not only because of Jones’ contract, but because the team has so much tied up in depreciating assets.
Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Erik Karlsson all have at least five more years left on their deals, chewing up $41.5 million in cap space each season. When those deals expire, none of them will be younger than 33-years old.
This wouldn’t be a problem if San Jose was playing well and in win-now mode, or if they could bounce back in a season or two, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
So that brings me to my point: If you have $41.5 million dedicated to five aging players who are already struggling to compete, then what difference does saving $3-4 million right now make?
The immediate assets they could get with that room wouldn’t be enough to bring the team from bottom feeder to playoff contender. It takes more than a couple million dollars and one offseason to make that drastic of a change.
Trying to save money when the team isn’t close to being a threat would only extend the burden of the contract. It would be better for them to eat the cap hit now when they don’t need the space rather than having to eat it when they do need it.
So, the Sharks shouldn’t buy out Jones’ contract until they’re ready to make a deep playoff run. This will give them the space they need to strengthen their lineup in a competitive year while minimizing the number of extraneous years that would need to be paid out.
Buying out Martin Jones might be the answer later, but it’s not the answer right now.