There were a number of options open to both parties after Semin cleared waivers and was assigned to St. John’s. A buyout was one of them.
Semin could have refused to report after which the Canadiens would have placed him on the suspended list without pay for failing to honour his contract. ‘Suspended’ means barred for hockey anywhere.
Clearing unconditional waivers cuts Semin’s ties with the NHL completely and allows him to now seek employment in Europe, probably in the Kontinental Hockey League.
On the business side, had Semin reported to St. John’s only 150-thousand of his 1.1 million dollar contract would have been charged to the Canadiens salary cap since teams are allowed to write a fixed 950 thousand off the cap for players who are sent the minors. Clearing unconditional waivers means there now will be no salary cap charge.
In the end, Semin didn’t play horrible hockey with the Canadiens but he wasn’t giving the team the veteran impact Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien hoped for. At the risk of second-guessing, Semin took up a roster spot that probably should have been reserved for one of the top prospects at the start of training camp. The rookies, the most talented of whom are Sven Andrighetto, Daniel Carr Charles Hudon and Michael McCarron, are eagerly looking to replace him.