Purely from a business standpoint, Cody Hodgson is in his final hours with the Buffalo Sabres. It’s the hockey potential that may keep him around.
The Sabres must decide by noon Monday whether to buy out the remaining four years of Hodgson’s contract. The NHL’s buyout deadline is 5 p.m. Tuesday, but Hodgson would have to go through the 24-hour waiver process before the transaction could take place.
This is the most ideal opportunity for the Sabres to rid themselves of what remains of Hodgson’s six-year, $25.5 million contract. Though buyouts typically cost two-thirds of a player’s salary, the collective bargaining agreement allows teams to buy out younger players for less. Players 25 and under can be bought out for one-third of their salary. Hodgson is 25.
The forward, signed to the long-term deal by former General Manager Darcy Regier, is owed $19 million in salary. The buyout total would be $6.3 million. If the Sabres waited until next summer, the cost would be just more than $10 million.
Hodgson is in this position after a terrible season. He recorded just six goals and seven assists in 78 games. He scored on a paltry 4.7 percent of his shots. Hodgson remained a liability in the defensive zone with a minus-28 rating.
Hodgson has shown flashes of potential. He led the team in scoring in 2013-14 with 44 points, including 20 goals. The former No. 10 overall draft pick, who recorded back-to-back 40-goal seasons in junior hockey, seemed to be on the upswing before crashing hard.
Part of the problem was a personality clash with former coach Ted Nolan. But his questionable skating ability may prevent him from performing under any coach. Sabres GM Tim Murray said Hodgson went to Sweden this spring to work with a skating instructor.
With the acquisitions of Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly and Jack Eichel, the Sabres wouldn’t need Hodgson to fill the top-line role that Regier envisioned. The winger could settle into a spot on the third line, allowing for easier matchups and possible production.
The Sabres will decide soon if that possibility trumps the financial sensibility of a buyout.