Flyers Would Be Wise to be Proactive in Defensive Acquisition
Defenseman Andrej Meszaros celebrates with defenseman Matt Carle after scoring the game-winning goal against the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
By Tyler J. Altemose (@TJamesAltemose)
The Flyers have suffered a plethora of injuries within their defensive ranks. Chris Pronger is sidelined for the remainder of the season with severe post-concussion syndrome. Andreas Lilja and Erik Gustafsson remain sidelined by injury. Even Oskars Bartulis remains out for the foreseeable future. Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall, two of the Flyers’ defensive prospects, have already been promoted to the big club in the wake of these injuries, further thinning out the depth pool.
That news is all well known. The misconception is in how the Flyers ought to handle the situation. The common opinion I have been witness to through various social media outlets suggests that the best thing the team could do is wait, preferably until the trade deadline.
The trade deadline, by the way, is 3:00pm on February 27, 2012.
That opinion seems well warranted. After all, the Flyers have been battling injuries all season long. They have 72 man games lost as of Tuesday, this according to Dave Isaac of Philadelphia Sports Daily, yet they are in the process of a seven-game win streak. They lead the Atlantic division, the Eastern conference, and remain just one point shy of the best record in the entire National Hockey League. That’s quite impressive, and it speaks to the resiliency of this season’s squad.
But unfortunately the salary cap does not care about the principle of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I will explain why it is actually better for the Flyers to consider a move sooner than later and why waiting too long may have a costly effect on this season’s results.
I have discussed how Long-Term Injured Reserve works many times before. This is not a lesson in how the system works, but rather an explanation of where the Flyers sit with regard to the salary cap.
Currently, the Flyers have no projected cap space. That’s right—$0. But there is a crutch. The team currently has just under $1.9M in LTI relief (that’s the ‘buffer’ the team gets for putting a player on LTIR). The problem is that the amount of LTI relief shrinks by over $45,000 a day. According to capgeek.com, by the end of this calendar year the Flyers will be down to about $1.6M in LTI relief—a drop of approximately $300,000 from today. By February 9, 2012—just two-and-a-half weeks prior to the trade deadline—that figure will have fallen to under $1M. By the trade deadline the Flyers will have less than $700,000 in LTI relief.
That does not equate to a lot of bargaining power in the long run, even for a GM like Paul Holmgren who has been known to be an aggressive negotiator on the trade front. The issue also runs the risk of being compounded if the Flyers find themselves falling into a slump. It is going to be too difficult for Flyers GM Paul Holmgren to enter trade negotiations with 29 other GMs knowing that the team’s best defenseman is out and the team has very little money to spend. Furthermore, the extent of Claude Giroux’s recovery time remains unknown. If he is out until the trade deadline it makes the situation even worse
It may be more rational to make a move sooner rather than later. Lots of players have been contributing in the wake of Claude Giroux’s absence. Their values are higher. The team is winning, and that helps too. There is less of a sense of desperation given the situation of having lots of injuries while simultaneously continuing to win. And, of course, the Flyers have more money to work with. The CBA allows the Flyers to use that LTI relief toward the acquisition of a new player via trade. That helps out a lot now, but it won’t help out if the Flyers wait until the trade deadline to make a move.
Elliotte Friedman of CBC Sports’ Hockey Night in Canada tweeted earlier today that Homer claimed to have called “29 other teams” about working out a trade once he found out Pronger would be sidelined for the remainder of the season. Dustin Leed reported three weeks ago that even back then the Flyers looked poised to make a move. The fact that Holmgren and the Flyers front office have reportedly been looking into this situation—trying to find a solution—is a testament to their concern and to the gravity of the situation as well.
It is often said that good things come to those who wait. But the early bird always gets the worm. Mr. Holmgren needs to be cautious about how he handles the situation on defense. The future of the season may rest on the decisions he makes (or doesn’t make) in the next few months.
EDIT: It has been brought to my attention that the cap hit amount the Flyers can afford will not change, unlike the amount of remaining LTIR. This is true, and I apologize for any confusion. For example, the Flyers have enough LTI relief to afford a cap hit of $3M. That technically does not change. The problem is that the figure drops when certain players (e.g. Lilja, Gustafsson) come off LTIR (LTI relief drops from a $3M AAV to a $1.3M AAV) and is only that high if the Flyers use all of it. That brings up the issue of a cap overage coming into 2012-13. The Flyers have had players on LTIR all season. That forced them to operate essentially with $0 of space. When performance bonuses are considered, it may result in a cap overage for the Flyers. It happened last season, as they entered the 2011-12 season with a penalty of over $4M. The point, essentially, is that the Flyers do not have as much space as many people believe and cannot afford to run the clock on this issue. Hopefully that point is not lost in the confusion.