Holtby, Neal, Jones Bought Out, Will Become UFAs

James Neal, Braden Holtby, and Martin Jones were all bought out by their respective teams on Tuesday morning as free agency approaches.
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Braden Holtby

It's a busy time on the buyout market as free agency sits just 24 hours away, with three teams acting fast to create as much wiggle room as they can. 

The Edmonton Oilers wasted no time in taking advantage of the NHL's second buyout window on Tuesday afternoon, reportedly buying out the remaining two years of forward, James Neal's contract. 

This buyout, which will now carry a term of four years, affords the Oilers $3,833,333 in cap space for both this season and next before coming back to bite them, counting as a $1,916,667 hit against the team's cap until 2025. 

Neal, who turns 34 before the coming season starts, had a disastrous 2021 campaign in Edmonton, finishing with just 10 points in 29 games while occasionally being placed on waivers and watching from the press box as a healthy scratch. A buyout was seemingly the only logical outcome for the veteran winger, with the Oilers in desperate need of cap space to re-sign key contributors and Neal's steep on-ice decline making his contract among the worst valued in the league. 

The San Jose Sharks made a splash of their own during today's window, buying out the remaining three years of goaltender, Martin Jones' contract that would have carried a $5.75 million cap hit until 2024. 

Jones, who last registered a save percentage above .900 during a full season of work in 2018, was a logical buyout victim, as well. The 31-year-old will now count against the Sharks' salary cap for the next six years, breaking down to the tune of $1,916,667 in year one, $2,416,667 in year two, and $2,916,667 in year three before riding out the final three years at a cap hit of $1,666,667. 

With the largest penalties coming in the years during which the salary cap is reported to remain flat, this buyout leaves a lasting impact on the Sharks as they attempt to move forward. 

Rounding out Tuesday's trio of notable buyouts is another goaltender who finds himself on the chopping block. 

The Vancouver Canucks admitted failure on yet another dismal free-agent signing of the Jim Benning Era, buying out the final year of Braden Holtby's contract that would have carried a $4.3 million cap hit. 

Lasting for two years now, Holtby's buyout will afford the Canucks $3.8 million cap space for next season, of which the team sorely needs, before counting $1.9 million against their cap in 2022-23. 

Holtby, who signed a two-year deal in Vancouver this past offseason, had a dismal lone season as a Canuck in 2021, with a dreadful .889 save percentage in 21 games that ultimately contributed to the Canucks failing to make the playoffs. 

With these cumbersome contracts now off their books, all three of these teams can now dive into Wednesday's free-agent pool with a few extra dollars on hand. 

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