When the Tampa Bay Lightning signed defenseman Matthew Carle to a six year contract for $5.5 million per year, he was coming off three consecutive seasons of at least 35 points with the Philadelphia Flyers. He had become a steady top-four presence and was one of the top defensemen available in free agency going into 2012-13. His first couple years, he continued right around the same point per game production for the Lightning. After that though, he steadily declined. His time on ice has declined. His time on the power play has declined. Matt Carle just is no longer the player that we signed.
It has been popular among fans to talk about trading Carle to another team. Many of these fans underestimate how hard it really would be to move him. The Lightning certainly aren't the only team that realizes he has fallen off a cliff in his play. It's not hard for scouts of all 29 other teams to see it either. At this point, with two seasons left in his contract, it would require the Lightning sending assets with Carle to another team just to move his contract. The Lightning would likely only receive a token asset back just to say they got "something" for him. General Manager Steve Yzerman is not in the habit of giving away assets when another option is available.
That leaves a buyout. Many people may remember several years ago when the Bolts bought out Vincent Lecavalierand Ryan Malone without any salary cap ramifications. Those buy outs were special compliance buyouts that were a limited offered put in place during the 2012-13 lockout to help teams get out of bad contracts that had been made worse by the changes in contract limitations and salary cap calculation in the new collective bargaining agreement. Those compliance buyouts are no longer available.
However, normal course buyouts are still available to teams. The buyout period starts the later of June 15th or 48 hours after the last game of the Stanley Cup Finals. Seeing as how it looks like the Pittsburgh Penguins should wrap the series up shortly, it appears that the buyout period will start on June 15th. It would only be later if the series goes to Game 7. From June 15th to June 30th, the Lightning will have to finalize a decision of weather to buy out or keep Matt Carle.
With two years remaining on his contract, the Lightning would be responsible for 2/3 of his remaining salary. That salary would be stretched out of twice the remaining years of the contract; in this case, four seasons. With $11 million left, that comes out to $7,333,333 total owed. His salary has also been steady through the course of the contract, so there isn't any funky math going on if they had paid more or less in the earlier years. The salary cap charge would be $1,833,333 per season for the next four seasons. That would save the team $3,667,667 in salary cap the next two seasons and would add $1,833,333 to the salary cap charge for the two seasons following.
It is not ideal to have to buy out the contract but at this point, Carle is not playing up to his salary cap hit and it's time for the team to move on from him. Yzerman should be exploring a trade, just in case there is someone out there that sees something in him and will take his contract for an agreeable price. It is doubtful though that there is such a club out there and Yzerman will be forced to buy him out.
So long Matt Carle. Thanks for everything, but it's just not working out anymore.