Have The Philadelphia Flyers Put Themselves In A No-Win Salary Situation?


Saturday’s opponent for the Ottawa Senators are in deep trouble.  As they muddle along at the edge of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference with the midway point of the season on the horizon, the Philadelphia Flyers need to start looking ahead past this season and figuring out what they are going to do with their roster. It is pretty unbelievable that a team with the league’s highest payroll in the league could miss the playoffs, but that is where the Flyers find themselves.  And going forward, it doesn’t appear to get much better for them.

February 27, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (30) and right wing Jakub Voracek (93) celebrate win against the Washington Capitals at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers defeated the Capitals, 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

This week’s acquisition of Simon Gagne had put the Flyers right up against the Cap for this season.  They have pretty much no flexibility to add at the deadline without taking away a roster player.  There is some Long Term Injury Relief space available due to Chris Pronger‘s injury, but that isn’t likely an option.

But forget about this year.  How about next year?  With 19 players signed, the Flyers are less than $3M below the cap.  They don’t have a backup goalie signed and restricted free agents include Zac Rinaldo, Erik Gustafsson and Harry Zolnierczyk, not to mention UFAs Gagne, Mike Knuble, Ruslan Fedotenko and Jody Shelley, Matt Walker, Kurtis Foster, Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton.

Even worse, when you project ahead to 2014-15, the Flyers have already committed $43M to just 10 players.  At that time the will also have to resign (or move) the following players:  Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Tye McGinn (all restricted free agents) as well as Matt Read, who could become an unrestricted Free Agent.  Also, Kimmo Timonen‘s contract extension also expires at that time.

The Flyers’ Long Term Salary Commitments:

PlayerContract ExpiryCap HitNTC
Danny Briere2015$6.5MY
Jakub Voracek2016$4.25MN
Scott Hartnell2019$4.75MY
Wayne Simmonds2019$3.98MN
Maxime Talbot2016$1.75MN
Chris Pronger2017$4.94MY
Brayden Coburn2016$4.5MY
Luke Schenn2016$3.6MY
Niklas Grossmann2016$3.5MY
Ilya Bryzgalov2020$5.67MY

The problem stems from a number of long term contracts that are in place.  Pronger’s deal is still in effect until 2016-17, and there is nothing they can do about it because of the confusion brought about by the over-35 rule.  And since he is injured, he cannot be bought out as an amnesty buyout.  Danny Briere is locked in at $6.5M until the end of the 2014-15 season and with a no-movement clause isn’t likely to be interested in going anywhere, although he becomes a probable buyout candidate due to his actual salary of $3M and $2M over the next two years.

Of the 10 players they have signed past 2013-14, 7 of them have some sort of no-trade clause in their contract. And that list of 10 players includes Pronger and his albatross contract.

It is tough to visualize just how much of a mess the Flyers are in.  They may have to part with one or more key building blocks such as Schenn or Couturier because of the number of long term commitments they have, or they are going to have to buy out someone with a big ticket either this summer or next as part of the amnesty buyout period.  As stated earlier, the most likely candidate for that would be Briere, who would only have 1 year left in the summer of 2014, but even that might not be enough, depending on where the cap ends up that year.  GM Paul Holmgren has dug himself a hole that he might not be able to escape from.

This means the Flyers’ window of opportunity could be closing, at least for this particular core of players.  And as inconsistently as they are playing now, it doesn’t look like this will be their year.  But that is what people were saying about the Los Angeles Kings last season.