Connect with us

Avalanche offseason

NHL buyout window begins; Will Erik Johnson be bought out?



Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche, NHL Buyouts

LEBANON, N.H. – Good Thursday to you all. As I type, I’m watching a 1987 Kiss concert on YouTube with my lifelong buddy Chris, at his house here in the Live Free or Die state. It’s this concert, from the Animalize Tour. Yes, I saw that tour in person, in Worcester, Mass., with Chris. But it’s time to talk some hockey, even though the season officially ended last night. We’ll start with something on the NHL buyout window that starts tonight:

Superstreak Bonus!
  • Indeed, later tonight, at about 9 p.m. mountain or so, NHL teams can buy out players, for whatever reason they deem necessary. The “buyout window” lasts until 3 p.m. mountain on July 27, one day before the start of NHL free agency. The Avalanche have a guy, Erik Johnson, who is the likeliest candidate to get bought out – but will they actually do that to him?
  • If the Avs buy out EJ, who has two years left on his contract at $6 million per, they would take a $2 million hit to the cap for the next four seasons. (Two-thirds the value of the remaining deal, spread out double over the length of the existing term).
  • That could solve two “problems” for the Avs: it would free up more cap space to sign other players (Cale Makar, Gabe Landeskog, Philipp Grubauer, maybe Brandon Saad) now, and it would eliminate the need to protect Johnson – who has a full no-move clause – for the July 21 expansion draft. Johnson, 33, would immediately become an unrestricted free agent.
  • This is a debate-worthy topic, for sure. I can see both sides. (For the record, too, Johnson has to be deemed fully healthy, not subject to concussion symptoms or anything else, to be bought out.) My hunch is…I don’t know. Nobody has said much of anything on this one.
  • While it would seem like a cold-hearted thing to do to EJ, this is also a tough business. Personally, I still think he has good value as a player, when healthy. But, yeah, there are those two words again: when healthy.
  • If EJ is to be bought out, I suspect we’ll know shortly after the window opens. That would be to everyone’s benefit, to make the decision as soon as possible.
  • What do you guys think the Avs should do? I have a feeling the majority of you will say “buy him out.” And, I get that. Yet, I think if there is one guy the Avs might want to do a favor for, it’s EJ. He’s been a loyal player, through thick and thin, with the team and is well-liked in the dressing room. And, big, experienced defenseman. He’s still a good player.
  • When healthy.
Subscribe to CHN+ today!

Adrian Dater - Kiss and Larry Bird fan. Writer with @Gambling and @Bookies, Avs Insider with 104.3 The Fan. Denver Post, SI, Bleacher Report alum, author of seven books.

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Karl Keen

I do think EJ could have been made a difference in the 2nd round the last two years, but like Calvert, playing in the 2nd round hasn’t occurred. We would be losing a bigger, more physical (not that he is incredibly physical) defenseman and if we were to lose Graves in the expansion (although I guess we could protect Graves by buying out EJ), we could lose our two biggest defenseman and just compounded a problem that keeps getting exposed in the 2nd round each year: we are too small and finesse to beat certain playoff opponents. Not sure if… Read more »

Yan Girard

The hockey changed significantly since the 20 last years. The speed, youth, talent, mobility, IQ Hockey and character are qualities very important in today’s hockey. All the teams would like to have large players with all these qualities. Unfortunately, these players are very few in the NHL. The Avs has the chance to count on several players among the most skilled of the NHL with Mackinnon, Rantanen, Makar and Girard. It’s why the Avs is a possession of the puck team. It’s their identity. It’s very difficult for the other teams to apply a pressure on the Avs’s defensemen. Rarely,… Read more »

Richard Trujillo

The hockey world hasn’t changed like you think it has. The big, physical teams still win Cups every single year. The finesse teams like the Avalanche just don’t succeed in the playoffs. The Avs have too many little guys on their back end.

Sorry man, your mentality leads to organizations alienating and disrespecting gritty, tough, highly skilled hockey players that we get to watch win Cups and Conn Smythe trophies for other organizations.


Yeah, but who’s fault is that? The entire game changes and the officiating goes out the window…in the playoffs.

Yan Girard

You are perfectly right. We must trade Makar and Girard.

Aaron Hinton

Good stuff, AD…I love EJ. Heart and soul of this team and has been through the entire process with professionalism, grace and grit. However…my question is this: would they wait to see who Seattle takes first before making the decision? If they take LOC/Jost/Compher/Donskoi would they buy out EJ but if they take Graves maybe keep him? Just some thoughts of mine.

John Mauss

Two questions. 1: The cap hit is $2M x 4. Is this what EJ gets in the buyout?
2: What is the likelihood of him being picked up and what kind of contract could he expect?


Good player, seemingly great person. But buy him out. Planning on his health, much as has been true with goalies in recent years, is an iffy proposition at best. The team is close and the big improvement needs to occur on the back end. As you said, it’s a cold business, or is when done successfully. I would say “happy trails, mate, we know you will light us up a time or two, we’ll see you in Denver for a ceremony soon.” BTW-underrated album (don’t listen to the Pod of Thunder coverage, as they are irrationally unkind particularly with respect… Read more »


I would like to see the Avs keep EJ and protect Graves at the potential expense of Girard. I don’t see this team going any further in the playoffs with an even smaller D corp. The only justification to buy him out to me would be his health, and if he isn’t on track to be on the roster next year then tough luck.

Yan Girard

The hockey changed significantly since the 20 last years. The speed, youth, talent, mobility, IQ Hockey and character are qualities very important in today’s hockey. All the teams would like to have large players with all these qualities. Unfortunately, these players are very few in the NHL. The Avs has the chance to count on several players among the most skilled of the NHL with Mackinnon, Rantanen, Makar and Girard. It’s why the Avs is a possession of the puck team. It’s their identity. It’s very difficult for the other teams to apply a pressure on the Avs’s defensemen. Rarely,… Read more »


Totally agree, Girard is too small to play in the playoffs. AVS already has enough puck moving defensemen.

Yan Girard

Makar isn’t too small? He is 1 inch of more than Girard. I don’t take no chance, I also trade Makar.


I like the Brooks Orpik approach. Contact a team like Detroit that has cap room to spare, send them EJ and a prospect or pick with the understanding that they buy him out, and then he resigns with the Avs at $2m x 2 so he loses nothing, Colorado saves $4m in cap space, and Detroit essentially buys a pick/prospect.

Scott Wilson

Detroit would still have to pay him $8 million in cash. In a COVID-impacted revenue year.

Might cost us a pretty valuable asset to do that (Connor Timmins?)


Given Timmins’ spotty health history and the fact that Barron is younger, bigger and faster, plus you still have MacDonald and Gilbert, it might be worth it. A third pairing of EJ and Byram for under $3m total cap hit sounds pretty good.


If he doesn’t waive his no trade, you have to buy him out. Don’t really want to see him go, but we can’t lose Graves and wouldn’t mind the cap space to use

Chris DeMott

I don’t see how a buyout is good for either side. EJ loses money that he is unlikely to recoup and the Avs would have $2 million less to work with over the next 4 years. This in a flat cap environment and with one of those years being a MacKinnion UFA year. The most logical deal would be for EJ to waive for the expansion draft and then if necessary, the Avs could enjoy $6 million in LTIR space and resign Saad or go get a Blake Coleman. Would this be “necessary”?. Well it sure seemed beneficial to Nikita… Read more »

Luke Waggoner

I think the Avs keep him and EJ waives his NMC. I think buying him out would just be too heartless. Either that, or they trade him, the other team buys him out, and the Avs sign him back to a lower deal. They can’t do that on purpose *wink wink*, but they can do it kinda under the table like Washington did with Orpik.


Animalize tour was in 1984…. in 1987, that was the Crazy nights tour. 😉


AD-Eric has had enough…nothing and no one is stopping him now!

Matt Briggle

My two cents for what they’re worth is that they don’t buy him out and the reporting is correct that he waives his NMC for the expansion draft. I have a few reasons for this. First, if he doesn’t waive the NMC the Avs will have no choice but to buy him out in which case he loses $4 mil and I really doubt he wants to do that. Second, he is an upgrade to the roster when he is healthy. Looking at what they have next year (assuming Graves gets taken in expansion) EJ would would be the best… Read more »

Scott Wilson

What is the 2nd pair in your scenario?


If he waives NMC and Graves is taken it seems pretty clear that EJ would pair with Girard (was a great combo in prior year) as the 2nd pair.

I do agree that his cap/salary slots in with MacK’s timeframe well.

However keeping EJ at $6 million means we are still tight against the cap to sign Landy, Grub, and Saad after Makar’s contract. Certainly not much there to bring in any bottom 6 forward help.

Matt Briggle

Honestly for the pairing I would probably break with conventional wisdom and have it set up as: Toews – Makar Byram – Girard Timmins/MacDonald/Johnson (as a rotational group to keep EJ healthy and fresh throughout the season) There were several games where Girard and Byram were paired together and I thought they worked really well together even though they’re both lefties. You might even be able to work Barron into that third pair rotation from time to time depending on how his AHL season goes. As for the cap space issues, if Graves is taken in expansion and they trade… Read more »

Scott Wilson

I like that 4th line and have been hoping that we can get stronger presence from the 3rd/4th lines as well. Tampa Bay finally did at last year’s trade deadline and it put them over the hump.

Right now I like Newhook-Kadri-Donskoi as our 3rd line but that still means we need a 2C and the market is pretty dry this year unless there is some deals that can be made.

Scott Wilson

J.T. Compher also has a pretty big CAP hit savings under a buyout scenario. If Avs are going to get aggressive about the next 2 year window then they have no choice. Buyout EJ and JT. Cap savings of $7 million this year. Re-sign Landy, Grub, Saad and max Makar. Trade Graves to Ottawa or Vancouver for a draft pick before Expansion draft; which means we probably lose Donskoi or Jost to Seattle. After Expansion Draft: Trade for a RHD with Seattle (Dean Kukan) Re-sign EJ to a lower AAV contract for 2 years. Trade Connor Timmins and Martin Kaut… Read more »

[…] NHL buyout window starts tonight, so will Erik Johnson be bought out? […]

Richard Trujillo

My view is that if the Avs want to stay in their championship window is that they keep EJ, sign Grubauer to something like 6 million per year, and give Makar his big contract and pay Saad. The place you get rid of money is with Rantanen and Landeskog. I think they should try to trade Mikko Rantanen for a load of players/draft picks. They overvalued him with that huge contract they gave him and should use that money on an elite player who can carry a team through a playoff series when Mackinnon gets shut down. Legit playoff teams… Read more »

Ari Sachter-Smith

If EJ is not deemed to be fully healthy would he also be exempt from the expansion draft? Do regular season & playoff games count towards the 60 games missed to qualify for LTIR?

[…] in the expansion draft, or they’re traded away first (or, in Johnson’s case maybe, bought out too). Otherwise, I can’t see Suter being a great fit on a team that would have a top six of […]

Colorado's premier coverage of the Avalanche from professional hockey people. Adrian Dater, Editor-in-Chief. Part of the National Hockey Now family.

This site is in no way associated with the Colorado Avalanche or the NHL. Copyright © 2019 National Hockey Now and Adrian Dater.