Scott Hartnell was bought out by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, and he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
The buyout will cost the Blue Jackets $1.25 million per year until 2020-21. It will cost them $1.5 million against the cap in Year 1, $3 million in Year 2, and $1.25 million in Years 3 and 4. There were two years left on the contract which would have cost them $4.75 million against the salary cap in each of those years. They have a bit of a cap crunch going on there now and needed the immediate space. Thus, buyout.
The first thought here from our perspective is that the Flyers won the trade. Ron Hextall’s first big move as general manager was to trade Hartnell to Columbus for R.J. Umberger, and we weren’t terribly happy with it at the time because it clearly made the team worse in the short-term.
But here we are three years later, and the long-term sense that Hextall had in making that deal is obvious. He knew Hartnell’s contract would outlast his value on the ice, and that’s exactly what happened — in 2016-17, Hartnell scored just 13 goals and added 24 assists in 78 games, down from 20 goals and 32 assists in his final year with the Flyers in 2013-14.
Umberger was downright terrible in 106 games as a Flyer after the trade, scoring just 11 goals and 15 assists in those games. But his buyout number is just a measly $1.5 million, and that will be totally off the Flyers’ books by the end of the upcoming season. It’s not really a factor, especially not compared to Hartnell’s buyout in Columbus that’s now three seasons longer and also more expensive.
The second thought here is ... well, could we bring Hartnell home to Philadelphia?
Notice how I worded that sentence above about Hartnell’s worthiness. In comparison to the $4.75 million he made against the cap, he was no longer a valuable player. But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be valuable on a short0term deal.
Yes, Hartnell is 35 and at the back end of his career. Yes, he still takes a lot of bad penalties — but 63 PIM in 78 games this past year was the lowest PIM he’s had since his first year in the NHL. 37 points isn’t nothing, either, and you could potentially imagine him in the exact same role on the power play that Brayden Schenn was in here. After all, Schenn is the one who replaced Hartnell in that spot on the Flyers’ top power play unit after Hartnell was traded. Might as well just swap them back in before, and that would help to solve the issue of how one might replace Schenn’s power play production.
So with that said, the right deal would have be a cheap one -- less than $2 million for a year, and no longer. Another team would probably offer Hartnell more than that, but the Flyers shouldn’t be pulled into any sort of bidding war for him. For the right price, if Hartnell wanted to come back, I wouldn’t hate it. It’d be a nice little stop-gap before Nolan Patrick or Oskar Lindblom or any of the other kids really settle into impactful NHL roles.
Plus, Scott Hartnell is fun as hell. It’d be an entertaining year. But I’m pretty sure Hartnell doesn’t want to come back here, considering the quotes from him after the trade was made back in 2014:
Hartnell says Hextall implied “he was done” in Philly. Was initially angry about the trade, ultimately decided waiving NTC was smart— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) June 23, 2014
Hartnell on Hextall: “I guess he has a different vision of the club going forward."— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) June 23, 2014