The worst season of Cody Hodgson’s life came at the worst possible time.
Most players who experience a slide in production get the chance to redeem themselves. Hodgson was certainly hoping for the opportunity. The forward had a terrible year for the Buffalo Sabres, recording just six goals and seven assists in 78 games, so he spent the spring with a skating coach and readied for redemption.
It won’t come. His age and Tim Murray’s aggressiveness led the Sabres to an easy business decision.
The Sabres waived Hodgson on Monday and will buy out the remaining four years of his contract Tuesday. Hodgson was due to receive $19 million during the remainder of his deal but will instead get $6.33 million spread over eight years.
The Sabres’ decision would have been tougher if Hodgson’s troubles began next season. He is 25 years old. Buyouts typically cost two-thirds of the remaining salary, but the rules are different for players age 25 and under. They can be bought out for just one-third of their remaining salary.
Hodgson’s age gave the Sabres a perfect chance to escape his long-term deal at a much lower cost.
In addition, there was simply no room on the roster for the forward. The acquisitions of Ryan O’Reilly, Jack Eichel and Evander Kane shut the door on Hodgson’s return to the top two lines. Hodgson is a liability on defense, and the additions of well-rounded David Legwand and Jamie McGinn give the Sabres more stability on the bottom two lines.
It added up to Hodgson’s impending departure. Neither the Sabres nor Hodgson’s agent would comment Monday.
The buyout will have minimal impact on the Sabres’ salary cap.
According to contract-related websites War-on-Ice.com and Spotrac.com, Hodgson will be on Buffalo’s books for $1.04 million in 2015-16, $541,667 the following season and $41,667 in 2017-18.
Buffalo will get a credit of $458,333 in 2018-19. Hodgson will count at $791,667 for the four-season period from 2019-20 to 2022-23.
Once the buyout is complete, Hodgson will become an unrestricted free agent.
Hodgson is the fourth player bought out by the Sabres in the last two years. They bought out the final season of Nathan Gerbe’s contract for $616,666 in July 2013.
They executed two compliance buyouts that didn’t count against the cap last summer, paying Christian Ehrhoff $12 million and Ville Leino more than $7 million.
Hodgson’s six-year, $25.5 million contract came with questions from the moment it was tendered in 2013. He was a restricted free agent with little bargaining power, a situation that usually leads to a two-year “bridge” deal that gives the player more time to prove his worth.
Then-General Manager Darcy Regier elected to give Hodgson a long-term contract, believing the No. 10 overall pick in the 2008 draft would grow into an on-ice leader. Hodgson paced the Sabres with 44 points in 2013-14, including 20 goals.
He stumbled from the start last season, recording only one goal and one assist in the first 26 games.
Former coach Ted Nolan wasn’t fond of Hodgson’s intensity level and sent him to the fourth line or, on occasion, the scratched list.
Hodgson’s exit will leave the Sabres with 14 forwards: O’Reilly, Eichel, Kane, Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson, Zemgus Girgensons, Brian Gionta, Marcus Foligno, Sam Reinhart, Nicolas Deslauriers, Cody McCormick, Johan Larsson, Legwand and McGinn.
Arturs Irbe helped goaltenders Jhonas Enroth, Michal Neuvirth and Anders Lindback have surprising success this season. He won’t be back for an encore.
Irbe will not return as the Sabres’ goaltending coach, Dan Bylsma said Monday on WGR-AM 550. Buffalo’s bench boss has moved on and is interviewing other candidates.
Irbe, brought to Buffalo by former coach Ted Nolan, was the only assistant to survive the end-of-season purge. He had one year left on his contract, and General Manager Tim Murray wanted his next coach to at least interview Irbe for the position.
“We have moved on from Arturs as our goaltending coach,” Bylsma said on the radio.
“I talked to several coaches at the draft, and that will probably be ahead of us in the next week.”
Irbe worked with Nolan as part of Latvia’s national team and jumped at the chance to join him in the NHL. He was very unhappy with the treatment of Nolan by people both inside and outside the organization.
The Sabres elected to give qualifying offers to seven of their 10 restricted free agents, including Larsson and defenseman Mark Pysyk. The qualifying offers ensured the Sabres retain negotiating rights to the players.
Also receiving offers were forwards Jerry D’Amigo, Phil Varone and Tim Schaller, defenseman Jerome Leduc and goaltender Nathan Lieuwen.
The Sabres opted to make unrestricted free agents of forwards Zac Dalpe, Kevin Sundher and Jordan Samuels-Thomas.