How Michael Leighton Affects the Salary Cap and Depth Chart

PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 04: Michael Leighton #49 of the Philadelphia Flyers takes a break in Game Four of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks at Wachovia Center on June 4, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

With Michael Leighton clearing waivers, the Flyers have made a major move in terms of the salary cap and their depth chart. First things first: Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky are your NHL goalies. This makes that clear.

But what happens if one of them goes down with an injury? You have to think Johan Backlund is 3rd on the depth chart if for no other reason than he is exempt from re-entry waivers due to his AHL salary (CBA Art. 50.9(g)). Because Michael Leighton would have to go through re-entry waivers and be offered to any NHL club for a cap hit of only $400,000 this year and $800,000 next year, it's very likely that he is, at best, the club's 4th goaltender on the NHL depth chart.

Even then, would Brian Stewart be above Leighton? Stewart is exempt from waivers AND re-entry waivers, meaning he can go between the Flyers and Phantoms (and Road Warriors) as much as he likes for the foreseeable future. The guess is that if the Flyers had to go all the way down and grab Brian Stewart to start, the team would risk putting Leighton on re-entry. But if they needed somebody to sit on the bench while one of their goalies is hurt and the other is out with the flu, Stewart is probably your one-day door opener.

Does that make sense? Backlund is now your #3 NHL goalie, and Leighton is now your #4. Brian Stewart is your emergency doorman, and Nic Riopel is your Michael-Lee Teslak for the year.

But what about the salary cap? Seriously, I'll try to make it really easy. You may have seen numbers today and yesterday reporting the Flyers have close to $3.5 million in cap space. It is not even close to being true. Even if we followed the Barry Hanrahan method of pretending LTIR exemption is cap space, that number is only $1.48 million. And we all know even that number isn't correct.

Jump for an in-depth explanation.

  • First, the basics. Right now, the Flyers have 24 players counting against the cap. Two of them are on LTIR (Matt Walker and Ian Laperriere) while another is on IR (Chris Pronger). This leaves them with 21 healthy players: 13 Forwards, 6 Defensemen, and 2 Goalies.
  • The daily cap is $319,355. The 24 players on their current roster (and 21 healthy ones) cost $315,093, leaving the team with a $4,262 daily surplus.
  • So, as long as the Flyers are rolling with these 24 players, they won't even be using LTIR during that span.
  • As of now, the Flyers are $161,231 over the yearly salary cap. If they continue with these 24 players, they will be under the salary cap in 38 days. That means February 11th, 2011 would be the first time the Flyers are under the salary cap since Mike Rathje was placed on LTIR sometime around November 30th, 2006.
  • If the Flyers wanted to call up a defensemen tomorrow, they could. They only have 21 players on the roster and they have $4,262 in daily cap space to do it. Yes, actual, real cap space. 
  • However, if the Flyers wished to recall Eric Gustafsson ($4,839 daily), they would be using LTIR to afford it, and thus would not be under the cap in 38 days.
  • Either way, at the current rate, the Flyers will finish the season $247,910 below the salary cap, with a possible (but unlikely) $1.9 million in bonuses to pay.

But how do people come up with the incorrect $3.5 million in cap space you ask?  Simple.  Those individuals take the LTIR exemption ($15,412 per day/$2.866 million per year) and add the actual daily cap space created by this move ($4,262 per day/$792k per year) and come up with a $3.658 million figure.

Those people are wrong. First, there are only 96 days left in the season, so any space created going forward cannot be transferred into yearly amounts. The $792,000 yearly figure? It's only $409,152 because the season is halfway over. What about the $2.866 million LTIR exemption you ask? Well, ignoring the fact that number is temporary (Matt Walker does have to come off LTIR, remember), the Flyers get that amount for 96 days, not a full season. That's $1.48 million.

As soon as Matt Walker comes off LTIR, the Flyers LTIR exemption drops to $6,272 per day ($1.166 mil per year). So if the Flyers actually had $3.6 million in cap space, they're going to blow $1.7 million of it on Matt Walker whenever he returns. Plus, they're using their $792,000 per year salary to pay off previous debt, so don't believe anybody who tells you the Flyers have $3.6 million in cap space.

Did they help their cap situation by waiving Michael Leighton? Definitely. They're on pace to be $247,910 below the year end cap. For the first time in over 4 years. What are the odds it actually happens?

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