They frankly don't give two hoots if this team is in cap trouble in 4-5 years. If they haven't won a cup by then they're rebuilding anyway, which is going to include, among other things, dumping bad contracts.
I think these GM's on some of these deals fully know that the last quarter/last half of these contracts are just dead weight but they have to do it in order to keep the player for the "NOW."
Totally get the "NOW" thing. The catch is it's getting harder for GMs to dump bad contracts. If they can't unload it via trade, their rebuild won't be capable of signing future stars they may discover. Say they can't move the player and the team doesn't want the player back for whatever reason. Now you are in buyout territory which will cost you a lesser amount of money, but it gets spread over more years hurting your cap for more time. Just as a crazy example... let's say Price needs to be bought out in 5 years (Yes, it's extreme and probably would never happen) and no one will accept a trade for him. 3 years remaining on the contract. 23.5M in remaining salary.
[quote]The cost is either 1/3 or 2/3 of the remaining salary, averaged out over twice as many years that were left on the contract. This is determined by the age of the player at the time of the buyout - if they are under 26, they get 1/3, if they are 26 or older they get 2/3./quote] And the value can't be "slid" to be a more manageable number each year.
They would be paying 2.6M per year for 6 years for someone no longer on their roster. That's pretty much the value of a #3 or #4 (2nd pairing) defenseman currently.
Say they do wind up being to trade the guy - the team usually winds up eating a significant portion of the contract still in order to make any kind of trade - which won't make an owner happy - paying a player to play for an opponent.
Slippery slope any time these guys sign contracts of more than 4 years and a player is 29 or older. Consider the average age for the league is under 27.3 as of last season and seems to be getting younger. This is due to all of the development stuff throughout North America which is creating NHL-ready players at younger ages.
Smart GMs are getting on board with this and exploiting it in how they manage their salary cap - see Pittburgh which given their cap constraints before each season the past 2 years seeming wouldn't be able to sign a roster capable of winning a Cup, but, did so both seasons. Same story is rolling around this season about the Penguins. They are so cap constrained and only have x defenseman signed. So what? It was also true in in the Summer of 2015 and they had even fewer players signed with similar cap space available as right now. Their cap situation now is actually better than it was in the Summer of 2015. It just takes a willingness to let the younger players play, vice signing marginal aging veterans to smaller contracts to fill out the roster. (Yes, I'm pinging Armstrong on this one).