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NHL buyouts increase; 5 veterans waived

In a scramble by NHL teams to free space under the salary cap before the start of free agency, five veteran players were placed on unconditional waivers yesterday.

The Minnesota Wild confirmed they waived defenseman Tom Gilbert for the purpose of buying out the remaining year of his contract. The Nashville Predators said they placed forward Sergei Kostitsyn on waivers.

Also waived, according to a person familiar with the moves, were Detroit defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, Vancouver defenseman Keith Ballard and Buffalo forward Nathan Gerbe. The person revealed the list of waived players to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the NHL doesn’t announce these moves.

“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 regarding the team’s decision to waive Gilbert.

The other four players waived yesterday could land in the same buyout category in moves made before the free-agency period opens at noon tomorrow.

Former New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro cleared waivers and had his contract bought out by the team. Washington defenseman Jeff Schultz also cleared waivers and is expected to have the remaining two years and $6 million left on his contract bought out.

The Philadelphia Flyers issued qualifying offers to retain the rights to defensemen Erik Gustafsson, Oliver Lauridsen and Brandon Manning, and forward Eric Wellwood. The Flyers declined to make offers to defenseman Blake Kessel and forward Mitch Wahl, allowing both to become unrestricted free agents.

The St. Louis Blues re-signed defenseman Jordan Leopold to a two-year contract. Leopold is a 10-year veteran who had two assists in 15 regular-season games with St. Louis after being acquired by the Blues in a trade with Buffalo on March 31.

Teams had until yesterday to place players on waivers in order to buy out their contracts. Under the collective bargaining agreement, teams are allowed to buy out contracts of two players over the next two seasons.

The clause was included to allow teams to clear space under the salary cap, which is dropping from $70.2 million last season to $64.3 million. Contracts of bought-out players won’t count against a team’s salary cap, though the players will be paid two-thirds of their remaining salary over double the years remaining on their contracts.

Maple Leafs defenseman Mike Komisarek announced on his Twitter account that he is on his way out of Toronto. Set to make $3.5 million over the final two years of his contract, Komisarek is expected to be bought out after spending part of last season playing in the minors.

The Florida Panthers announced they used a standard buyout on 36-year-old defenseman Filip Kuba, meaning the remaining year of his contract will still count against the salary cap. Kuba had a goal and nine assists in 44 games last season.

Gilbert is a seven-year veteran who was set to make $3 million in the final year of his deal. The Wild have one of the NHL’s most expensive payrolls and needed to make the move to free up space.

From Bloomington, Minn., Gilbert failed to make much of an impact with his hometown team after the Wild acquired him in a trade with Edmonton in 2012. Gilbert managed just three goals and 15 assists in 63 games.

Kostitsyn had one year left on his deal and was scheduled to make $3 million next season. The move didn’t come as a surprise after Kostitsyn landed in Coach Barry Trotz’s doghouse last season, his third with Nashville. Kostitsyn is a six-year NHL veteran who had three goals and 12 assists in 46 games.

Kostitsyn has hinted that he could be open to playing in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League next season.

Ballard was scheduled to make $4.2 million in each of the final two years of his contract. He is an eight-year NHL player, who managed just two assists in 36 games with the Canucks last season.

The Sabres’ decision to place Gerbe on waivers came as a surprise after General Manager Darcy Regier indicated he had no plans to buy out any of his players. Gerbe had difficulty carving out a role during five seasons with Sabres.

Buffalo did re-sign journeyman forward Matt Ellis to a two-year contract. If Ellis doesn’t play with the Sabres, the team is counting on him to serve as captain at AHL Rochester.

Colaiacovo struggled in his first and only season with the Red Wings, failing to play to his two-year, $4 million contract. He had an assist in six games last season, and added an assist in nine playoff games.

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