Matt Duchene headlines final hours of NHL buyout window

Matt Duchene, Blake Wheeler, Kailer Yamamoto, and others have been placed on unconditional waivers for a buyout. The first National Hockey League (NHL) buyout window concluded Friday at 5 p.m.

Some prominent players have already been bought out, more recently Josh Bailey after the Islanders dumped his contract on Chicago’s hands. Below are the profiles of some key players who were bought out.

Matt Duchene celebrates after scoring a goal at a Nashville Predators home game. The Nashville Predators opted to terminate the forward's contract earlier today in the NHL buyout window. Duchene will become an unrestricted free agent.
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today

Matt Duchene

Nashville’s prized acquisition of the 2019 free agency period finds himself on the hunt for a new home. Duchene is headed to free agency and perhaps the final destination of his winding journey through the NHL.

This buyout has less to do with his performance (22-34-56 in 71 games) and more to do with the contract he was signed to. It is by no means his fault he signed that contract, but new general manager Barry Trotz understands the situation the Predators are in. They need to rebuild and fast. Duchene, while still a solid contributor, is entering the latter stages of his career.

Blake Wheeler

The final remaining Atlanta Thrasher still with Winnipeg is now gone. All year, it seemed Blake Wheeler was not long for the Jets, especially after losing his captaincy. Wheeler remains a solid playmaker, but at 37 years old, this is likely his last ride.

Wheeler’s agent has said he would prefer to sign with an Eastern Conference team. The Bruins immediately come to mind, especially now they are heavily rumored to reunite with Milan Lucic. Perhaps Lou Lamoriello takes a shine to Wheeler and brings him in with the cap space freed up from the aforementioned Josh Bailey trade.

Kailer Yamamoto

Less than 24 hours after being traded to the Detroit Red Wings, Kailer Yamamoto will be an unrestricted free agent. A piece to the Edmonton Oilers’ middle six is out of Oil Country for the sake of cap space and now Detroit has elected to use a buyout on him.

Yamamoto is only 24 years old, so teams will want to bring him in because they know he will contribute for years to come. Yamamoto sizes up as a quality complementary piece to a middle-six, the kind of depth playoff teams need. A team like Carolina stands out as a contender for Yamamoto.

Mike Reilly

Ever since he signed his extension in Boston, Mike Reilly has been heavily rumored to leave the Bruins, one way or another. Boston waived him at the beginning of the season and nobody picked him up. Their last option was the first NHL buyout window.

Reilly is a reliable puck-mover and solid offensive defenseman. He can really help out a team’s third pair in the short term. Teams such as Florida will look Reilly’s way if they fail to land Noah Hanifin via trade.

Josh Bailey

A longtime Islander that was destined for a buyout, Josh Bailey is available for contract negotiations. Bailey can still go at the NHL level, but was a healthy scratch in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on an Islanders team whose weakness was at forward.

Teams know Josh Bailey is a reputable enough player to at least help them out financially. That said, he will likely not get much more than a two-year contract.

The buyout window is always intriguing. Who gets bought out for performance? Whose contract is just too much to keep on the books? Good players can suddenly become free agents, as seen with Matt Duchene. The clock continues to wind down to July 1st and the buyout window continues to add twists and turns.

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