No Brotherly Love for Salary Cap
When it comes to the Flyers we often hear Ed Snider complaining or Bobby Clarke ripping Eric Lindros or Jeremy Roenick speaking out and making a fool out of himself. Often overlooked is the real underlying problems that the Flyers currently have. The team has not won a cup in 30 years and is going to have an uphill battle in adjusting to the new economic world of the NHL.
From what we have seen and heard the new salary cap will probably be in between $35 million to $40 million. Right now the Flyers have committed approximately $33 million to 13 players. And this is after the 24% rollback in salaries has been factored in. Under contract are:
Forwards: Tony Amonte, Jeremy Roenick, John Leclair, Mike Knuble, Turner Stevenson, Todd Fedoruk, Michal Handzus, Sami Kapanen, Keith Primeau, Donald Brashear
Defence: Eric Desjardins, Joni Pitkanen, Danny Markov
With almost zero money left to spend, it makes you wonder how the Flyers will be able to keep their restricted free agents which include:
Forwards: Simon Gagne, Radovan Somik, Branko Radivojevic
Defence: Kim Johnsson
Goal: Robert Esche
And how will they replace the likes of Alexei Zhamnov, Vlad Malakhov, Sean Burke, Marcus Ragnarsson, Mark Recchi who either will leave via free agency, are retired, or have already left the team.
And lets not forget, the Flyers two top prospects in Jeff Carter and Mike Richards will need contracts as well and probably will demand the rookie maximum.
So it is safe to say that Bobby Clarke and the Flyers management will have a big headache on their hands trying to righten the Flyers payroll situation.
In all likelihood players such as Amonte, Roenick, Leclair will get the two-thirds buyout deal in order for Philly to clear cap room. Getting rid of those 3 players alone will bring the Flyer back to around 17 million committed to 10 players. It is also possible that a guy like Brashear and maybe even Desjardins will get cut to further bring down the cap numbers.
It would appear that this would solve the Flyers cap woes however resigning their RFAs and their rookies will eat up most of the remaining room. the two youngsters Carter and Richards are the hottest prospects around not named Sidney Crosby. Certainly they will be getting the maximum rookie deal. Another rookie, Antero Nittimaki has the inside track on the backup goalie job and youngster Patrick Sharp will likely be filling in the 4th line centre role. There is also a strong possibility that RJ Umberger will find a spot as a role player and Denis Seidenberg will be among the Flyer’s top 6 on defence. This is what Philly will need to do, integrate their youngsters now due to their cap concerns.
But signing their restricted free agents will be tough. Esche has establish himself as a number 1 goalie and will look to upgrade from his backup wages to starter like money. Johnsson is the team’s best offensive defenceman and runs their powerplay. he could be one of those players who goes to Europe for more money. Gagne is a consistent 20 goal man and only 25 with his better years ahead so Philly may look to resign him with a long term deal.
Taking care of their own business will probably take them out of the running for many of the big name free agents. It will cost them plenty to keep their own guys. And they still need to address many of their needs that they had even before this cap stuff was put in place.
They need playmakers. Zhamnov and Recchi are gone and they were the team’s best. They do not have a playmaking centre as Primeau and Handzus are excellent checkers who can provide some support scoring and Carter is young and more of a sniper. The team could also use a big time scorer. Carter may develop into that but it would be awfully hard to ask that of him in year 1. they will need to find a way to replace Zhamnov, Recchi, and possibly Amonte, Roenick and Leclair assuming they are bought out. That’s 5 players capable of scoring 30 plus goals. That is a tall task for a team with little money to spend.
They also need to address their shortcomings on defence. Ragnarsson retired and with him goes their best defensive defenceman. Malakhov is a big blow too as he was a steady contributor at both ends. they both also made their respective partners in Johnsson and Markov better players. The Flyers will want to look at getting a big rugged blueliner who can clear the front of the net. And really, the teams needs to get deeper. They cannot afford to have Sami Kapanen again play defence.
Pitkanen and Seidenberg will play big roles but the Flyers will still need to upgrade.
As we can see, the Flyers are going to have as busy an off-season as anyone. It would be foolish to under-estimate Bobby Clarke. He is a good GM and is crafty enough to find a way to get around the salary cap. It would be wrong to discount the chances of a couple of big name players ending up in Philadelphia. There are plenty of top players available and perhaps more to come via teams buying out the big contract players. The Flyers are not far off from contention and a couple of top notch players may be what puts Philly finally over the top. It will be interesting to watch how things unfold for the Flyers as they will have much work to do to get themselves in order.