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Should the Thrashers Buy Out Todd White?

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The NHL buy-out window will be open for the next two weeks. Only a few teams use this technique to get rid of contracts/players. The Thrashers have only gone this route one time to excise Alexei Zhitnik from their roster. How about Todd White? He's a potential candidate since the Thrashers will pay him $2.6 million next season with a cap hit of $2.35 million.

You may recall that Todd White was a below average 2nd line center who was signed to a four year contract at age 32 by Don Waddell. That contract (along with the Holik deal) was proof positive that Waddell really didn't understand the career curve (or thought he was smart enough to beat it). Most NHL players tend to go into decline after age 33--with the chief exception being Hall of Fame level or near Hall of Fame level talents. If you're going to have to overpay someone to come to Atlanta, better a younger player who is not a lock to become an boat anchor by the end of his deal.

I don't know of anyone who considered Todd White to be an elite forward three summers ago--and now Mr. White appears to have hit the wall last season at age 35. Nobody should be shocked by this development, Father Time comes calling on all us eventually. So if you're the Thrashers you have to ask yourself this question: what are the odds that at age 36 Todd White will rebound and be a productive forward who can handle top six ice time? I'd say the odds are lousy. If anything White appears on a trajectory to be this season's Slava Kozlov--a practice body who is a healthy scratch most of the 2nd half of the season.

So now it comes down to doing your basic cost/benefit analysis. What are the costs? If you buy out Todd White he is due 2/3rds of his final season salary and 2/3rd of his cap hit will count against the cap. The cap hit is spread out across the next two seasons, but considering that the Thrashers are nowhere close to the cap ceiling, they need not  worry about the cap expense. The real problem is this: Atlanta will owe White $1.73 million and they will then need to spend money paying someone to replace White on the roster. Let's project that Carl Klingberg takes White's roster spot and he earns $0.8 million in the NHL. The total cost for the buying out and replacing White is $2.6 million or a complete wash in terms of money saved.

So the decision to keep or replace White shouldn't be driven by a dollars calculation but rather one about ice time and player development. Are the Atlanta Thrashers going to get closer to being a contender because they retain Todd White at $2.6 million? Or are the Atlanta Thrashers going to be closer to being a contender by buying out Todd White and playing Carl Klingberg at a cost of $2.6 million. In my mind the 2nd option is clearly the better route.