ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Wild were strapped for cash with the NHL salary cap decreasing to $64.3 million this season and it cost the team defenseman Tom Gilbert.
Minnesota announced Wednesday that it placed Gilbert, who had three goals and 10 assists last season, on unconditional waivers for the purpose of buying out Gilbert’s remaining two years of his contract. Gilbert was scheduled to make $6.5 million over the next two seasons and carried a cap hit of $4 million each year.
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“Due to the NHL salary cap decreasing this season, we needed to make this difficult decision to give the team more flexibility,” Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said in a release. “We thank Tom for his time with the Wild and wish him the best going forward.”
Minnesota was left with just over $2.4 million in salary-cap space after trading for Nino Niederreiter during the draft Sunday. If Gilbert clears waivers, the buyout will save the Wild all $4 million against the cap, giving the team about $6.4 million to use when free agency opens on July 5.
In the new collective bargaining agreement, each NHL team was given two compliance buyouts to use over the next two offseasons to adjust to the changing salary cap. Minnesota will still pay Gilbert, but won’t be charged against the salary cap. Gilbert is the first compliance buyout for the Wild, which still owes Mark Parrish $927,778 against the cap this season for a previous buyout.
Gilbert was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers for Nick Schultz at the trade deadline in 2012. He scored three goals and 15 assists in 63 games for Minnesota over the past two seasons. Gilbert was a minus-11 last season and was even a healthy scratch at times for the Wild.
If Gilbert clears waivers and is bought out, he can’t re-sign with Minnesota for at least one year.
The Wild still have to sign restricted free agent defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who the team made a qualifying offer to this week. Minnesota will likely be looking at defensemen in free agency too, after releasing Gilbert. The Wild currently has six defensemen on the roster with Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Clayton Stoner and Nate Prosser, along with Spurgeon.