Center Scott Gomez of Anchorage may yet get a chance to return to the NHL this season.
The league and the NHL Players' Association on Tuesday agreed to amend a buyout rule in the new collective bargaining agreement and allow teams to use one of their two "compliance'' buyouts before the season starts Saturday.
Previously, teams had to wait until the 2013 or 2014 offseasons to use their compliance buyouts, which are designed to allow teams to shed contracts they believe are onerous and make it difficult to remain below the salary cap.
This new rule appears to target Gomez and erstwhile New York Rangers defenseman Wade Redden, who that club has buried in the American Hockey League. The Montreal Canadiens on Saturday told Gomez to go home with pay, indicated they would buy out his contract in the offseason. They prohibited him from playing for any other team because a long-term injury would negate their ability to buy out his contract.
If the Canadiens buy out Gomez's deal, they would owe him his pro-rated salary of $5.5 million for this season and two-thirds of his $4.5 million for the 2013-14 season. They still will also have to absorb his cap hit of $7.35 million this season.
Gomez must first clear waivers before the Canadiens can buy him out. If both happened, Gomez would become an unrestricted free agent eligible to sign with any team.
The Rangers in the summer of 2007 signed Gomez, a two-time Stanley Cup champion and former Rookie of the Year, to a seven-year, $51.5 million contract that then became Montreal's when the Canadiens acquired him in the summer of 2009.
Gomez, 33, has played 12 NHL seasons and is Alaska's most accomplished player. He has scored 686 points in 902 career games. In three seasons in Montreal, though, he scored just 97 points in 196 games and became a favorite target for media and fans.
Gomez during the lockout played for the ECHL's Alaska Aces.