The buzzy 2012 deadline deal that saw the Vancouver Canucks and Buffalo Sabres swap underwhelming prospects Cody Hodgson and Zack Kassian hasn’t quite worked out like either team hoped. Now there’s a chance that the Sabres could put their end of the bargain behind them by buying out the remainder of Hodgson's contract.
Buffalo GM Tim Murray told WGR radio on Thursday that while Hodgson is working to improve his game in the offseason, “a buyout is still a decision.”
Motivation for the player? Maybe, but with the buyout period about to open up with the end of the Stanley Cup Final on the horizon, it feels like something more than just a kick in the pants.
No one in Buffalo would be surprised by the decision if it comes to that. Hodgson’s talent is undeniable but something is missing from his game. Foot speed has always been an issue, but over the years his hockey sense and his desire to compete have dissipated as well.
Hodgson spent much of this past season in Ted Nolan’s doghouse. He was moved away from his natural center position—the coach, who was dismissed after the season, felt he couldn’t be trusted defensively—and buried on the fourth line. He ended up with just six goals and 13 points in 78 games. It’s been a startling fall for a player who was selected with the 10th pick by Vancouver in the 2008 draft and, for a time, regarded as one of the top young prospects in the game until a back injury suffered while playing in the OHL slowed his development.
If the Sabres go this route, they’ll owe the 25-year-old Hodgson one-third of the remaining value of his contract. He has $10.5 million remaining on the backloaded deal so that means a payout of $3.5 million. The team would then be allowed to spread his outstanding cap hit of $8.5 million over a period of four years, twice the remaining length of Hodgson’s contract.
If it comes to that, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see another team take a chance on Hodgson. He hasn’t done much in Buffalo to suggest he was being held back by the team's struggles, but there’s always a chance that he’d thrive in a different environment.