The team is intent on moving out older players with high salaries as it rebuilds, and Phaneuf, 34, was a prime candidate for a buyout. He was set to make $5.25 million annually for the next two seasons.
The Kings will buy out Phaneuf through 2022-23, starting with a $2.1-million salary cap hit next season and $4 million in 2020-21, according to capfriendly.com.
Phaneuf gave the Kings an initial boost when he was acquired from the Ottawa Senators with Nate Thompson on Feb.13, 2018. The Kings got rid of injury-riddled Marian Gaborik in the trade and finished that regular season 15-7-3 with Phaneuf, a big-bodied, third-pairing veteran who was once a Norris Trophy finalist.
But it became clear this past season that Phaneuf didn’t fit into the team’s plans. He was benched for the first time in his 14-year career in February and bristled when asked about being a mentor.
“I’m not that old,” Phaneuf said. “I will say that, and I’ve got lots left.”
Phaneuf declined to speak to reporters at season-ending exit meetings. It is the second buyout by the Kings in three years, after Matt Greene in 2017. Greene’s salary is off the books, but the Kings are still paying a penalty for the terminated contract of Mike Richards and will pay $3.7 million in buyouts or penalties to Phaneuf and Richards this season, according to capfriendly.com.
Saturday was the first day that NHL teams could buy out players’ contracts.