Auditing top buyout candidates

The regular season has a few weeks left, but once it is done, general managers will each need to decide if they will use the compliance buyout. The new collective bargaining agreement gave each team two compliance/amnesty buyouts to use before the beginning of the 2014-15 season, and some GMs used one or both of them already this past offseason.

Think of it as a reset button on terrible contracts, only a team cannot use them on players who have been put on long-term injured reserve, such as Brooks Laich of the Washington Capitals. Laich has found love, but hasn't been able to find his scoring touch.

The Capitals signed Laich to a six-year, $27 million contract extension after a career-best 59-point campaign during the 2009-10 season. Since then, he has fallen short of the 50-point plateau each season and been plagued by injuries, limiting him to nine games in the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign and 51 games during 2013-14. Plus, Laich had to undergo groin surgery, thus effectively ending his 2013-14 season with a stint on LTIR.

While it doesn't look as though the Capitals will be able to get out from under the remaining $13.5 million due Laich by buyout, as advocated back in December, here are nine other players who could be given their walking papers this summer.

Buyout candidates who appear to be safe

Marc-Andre Fleury | G | Pittsburgh Penguins

The first overall pick of the 2003 NHL draft has seen his share of ups and downs, with the most recent "downs" occurring during the past two playoff series. Many wondered if the Penguins should continue footing the bill for the remaining years of Flower's seven-year, $35 million contract -- which runs through the 2014-15 season -- but this season appears to have erased all doubt.

Fleury has won 36 games, five by shutout, with a .917 save percentage for one of the most dominating teams in the East. Expect them to keep the dark horse Vezina Trophy nominee around for a bit longer.

Brad Richards | F | New York Rangers