Well, this will be interesting.
The projected NHL salary cap was set at $71.1 million. That was until Friday night. Just hours prior to the NHL Draft in Philadelphia on Friday night, the NHL announced the league had agreed with the NHL players association on $69 million salary cap – a full $2 million lower than projected.
For some teams, such as the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers, it really wasn’t that big of a deal. They’re more worried about the cap floor than the cap ceiling. For other teams, such as the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks, that was a huge deal.
When the cap ceiling was unofficially set at $71.1 million, both teams had some wiggle room underneath the cap. Once it was set at $69 million, both teams were over the cap and forced to start looking to shed salary. Chicago made a few moves at the draft to get under the cap.
Philadelphia? Still waiting.
It should be noted the Flyers can spend 10% over the salary cap in the summer which would bring them to $75.9 million then worry about shedding salary later. The key here is the Flyers must be cap compliant by the beginning of the season and that includes Chris Pronger’s $4.9 million cap hit on the books. Pronger cannot be placed on long-term injured reserve until after the season begins.
So where does that leave the Flyers right now?
As we speak, the Flyers are sitting $236,429 over the $69 million salary cap and do not have any compliance buyouts remaining after using their two last season on Danny Briere and Ilya Bryzgalov. The good news is new general manager Ron Hextall was already in the mindset of shedding salary prior to the NHL’s announcement of the lower cap on Friday.
Center Vinny Lecavalier is likely gone. The 34-year-old was in and out of head coach Craig Berube’s doghouse all season and nothing brought that to light more than his 8:45 of playing time in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Rangers, which included no shifts in the crucial third period.
Lecavalier has a no-movement clause which means he can block any trade to any team for any reason. The good news for the Flyers is Lecavalier will likely be open to most trades as he will probably see more playing time in a different system. Plus if a team is willing to trade for him, they obviously covet him for some reason or another, which will likely make Lecavalier happy. The problem with moving Lecavalier is his $4.5 million cap hit through 2017-18. Finding a team willing to take on the full hit will be a little difficult but teams like the Panthers, Nashville Predators, Arizona Coyotes and Dallas Stars, who all need centers, might be more willing than some to take Lecavalier.
A name that has not been thrown around much recently but who could be a cap casualty is defenseman Nicklas Grossmann. The 29-year-old is a hulking 6’4”, 230 lbs. stay-at-home defenseman who is coming off a career-year in which he scored one goal and added a career-high 13 assists for a career-high 14 points. Grossmann is a main-stay on the Flyers penalty kill while providing solid defensive play but he is a liability with the puck.
There are a lot of unforced errors when Grossmann has the puck on his stick. While that might not be a huge deal for other teams, Grossmann isn’t the only Flyers defenseman who is plagued by that issue so a change might be necessary. There are bound to be teams who need a physical defenseman like Grossmann and he carries a somewhat reasonable $3.5 million cap hit for the next two seasons. The Flyers have five defensemen on their payroll making more than Grossmann’s $3.5 million so a move could be coming for one of the defensemen.
These are just two of the names that could be on the move to clear salary for the Flyers to be able to operate this summer. Could there be other names and combinations moved in a variety of ways? Absolutely.
Ron Hextall has the wheels turning. Look no further than his trade of Scott Hartnell last week.
It will be an interesting chain of events come the opening of free agency on July 1st.