It was abundantly clear by the end of the 2013 MLS season that it would be the last for Richard Eckersley at Toronto FC. Despite the English defender having another year left on his contract with the club he was out of favour and far too expensive to bring back.
Getting rid of a contract like Eckersley's was never going to be a straight forward matter though as very few MLS clubs were even going to come around sniffing for a player of his calibre on that sort of high wage. The club did have the option of buying him out but with MLS limiting clubs to a single buyout of a guaranteed contract each year that would not be the ideal solution.
It seems that TFC have exhausted their trade options and could not find a buyer overseas and may have to buy out Eckersley in the end to allow him to join a new MLS club on a better contract. According to a number of sources on twitter that club could be the New York Red Bulls.
Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) January 24, 2014
Building on the tweet from @TaylorTwellman earlier today, I am hearing that Richard Eckersley is headed to RBNY per source.— Kristian Dyer (@KristianRDyer) January 25, 2014
The deal, while not ideal for Toronto FC, would get Eckersley and his large salary off the books which is what the club need the most. Freeing up needed cap space, room on the roster, and an international slot gives the club the option to sign someone else in his place.
With the arrival of Bradley Orr the right back position seems to be well covered with Mark Bloom and Ryan Richter in place to provide coverage for the 31-year-old on loan from Blackburn. Moving Ecks out also opens up an international roster slot to be filled by Orr. The club currently hold nine such slots and with Eckersley still officially a TFC player they will have 10 internationals once Jermain Defoe officially joins so some move had to be made.
If the report that Eckersley is going to be bought out is true it means that TFC will no longer have the option of buying any other player out. That means if they want to do any further subtraction from the roster it will have to be done via trade, transfer, or releasing a player who is not on a guaranteed deal for the 2014 season.
The connections in the news with RBNY continued yesterday with reports coming out that Bobby Convey took less money to make the move to New York than he was being offered to return to TFC.
That is a choice that could come back to bite him considering the moves that TFC have made this offseason but it could wind up being in the best interest of both parties. With Dwayne De Rosario now back in Toronto he would likely have taken up a good chunk of Convey's minutes and having both players would not have made good financial sense.
In the end, both players could well wind up being quite happy in New York while for TFC the big bonus is that they have room on their roster to work with as they have a few holes remaining to be addressed in the weeks leading up to the start of the season.
With training camp getting underway with physical testing this past week it is likely that the club will make a few more moves to get the roster in line with MLS rules before the opening of the new season.
Update (1/26): A report on Empire of Soccer, a New York based blog, offers some insight into what the details of this deal could be.
Toronto will pay out a large portion of Eckersley's hefty final contract year while New York take on a "significantly" smaller amount. Sources explain his combined wages for 2014 would see Eckersley paid "DP money" thanks in part to a back-ended restructuring of his 2013 contract. The total number is likely in the neighborhood of $350-400k a year, though one source believes it is closer to $450k.
To make this deal happen, Toronto will pay Eckersley the lion's share of his guaranteed salary, while New York pays anywhere from $100-150k for his services. A buyout clause in Toronto's original deal means their share will not count against the cap. For New York, the bargain-basement wages allow the team to bring in a quality player under a stretched salary cap.
New York will not be trading any talent in exchange for the English defender, but allocation money is "probable."