Can a team buy out an injured player?
The CBA technically does not allow injured players to be bought out. However, in rare situations, it has occurred — typically by mutual agreement between team and player.
The most prominent example occurred in 2011 with the New York Rangers and Chris Drury. The Rangers intended to buy Drury out of the final year of his contract for the 2011-12 season. On June 17, 2011, the New York Post reported the Rangers would be "unable to buy out the final season of Drury's contract because of a degenerative knee condition" that would have rendered him "medically unable to play" in 2011-12. But on June 29, 2011, the New York Post reported Drury decided "against applying for a medical exception" that — if he were "declared medically unable to perform" — would have allowed him to collect the full $5 million due to him. Instead, as a result of Drury's decision, the Rangers were able to buy him out for approximately $3.33 million with cap charges of approximately $3.717 million in 2011-12 and $1.667 million in 2012-13.
Another example of this occurred in 2008 with the Carolina Hurricanes and concussion-plagued David Tanabe. In June of that year, Carolina "sought to buy out" Tanabe but was thwarted when the "NHLPA filed a grievance based on the terms of the CBA," according to a report in the Raleigh News and Observer on Aug. 22, 2008. On Oct. 17, 2008, the News and Observer reported that the Hurricanes and Tanabe had "reached a settlement." Tanabe, who was due $900,000 in the final season of his contract for the 2011-12 season, instead received "$850,000 over the next three years." It was not made public how Tanabe's contract counted against the salary cap, although it is likely the standard buyout formula applied.
The other example of interest also occurred in 2008 with the Boston Bruins and Glen Murray. In June of that year, Murray was bought out of the final year of his contract — allowing him to receive approximately $2.76 million of the $4.15 million he was due — in June 2008. According to a report on TSN.ca on Nov. 5, 2008, Murray required ankle surgery on Nov. 11, 2011, and although he did not realize it at the time of the buyout, believed the injury was "pre-existing and should have prohibited the Bruins from buying him out." However, the Boston Globe reported on June 18, 2009, that "arbitrator Richard Bloch ruled that the Bruins were within their rights (in 2008) to buy out the final year of Murray's deal." According to the report, Murray had argued "he was injured at the time the Bruins rendered the buyout, and thus he should have been ineligible to be bought out, per the protections of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Bloch disagreed, noting in his written decision that Murray was too late seeking a second medical opinion, a key and necessary ingredient in structuring his grievance."
— By Matthew Wuest – CapGeek.com