I think the Flyers have painted themselves into a corner.
As of today, the Flyers currently have 40 players signed to NHL contracts for 2011-12. Why is that a bad thing? Because you can only have 50, and that 40 doesn’t include any of the RFAs or UFAs we need to re-sign.
The list of 40 contracts we have committed for next year, while it doesn’t include Leino, Powe, Nodl, Sestito, Carcillo, etc, does include a bunch of new acquisitions Homer has made lately:
and our one and only draft pick to get a contract, Oliver Lauridsen.
There are also only 3 goalies who will be playing in North America included in the 40 total; Bob, Backlund, and Leights.
You can see our entire 50-man contract list here.
For safety’s sake, we can never use up all 10 of the open spots we have remaining. If we go to 50 contracts now and we have an injury at some point during the season, we cannot sign somebody or pick someone up off of waivers. We’d simply have to do without, or make a trade. So we’re looking at only having room to put 8-9 additional players under contract, at least until we trade people away.
8 spots, in which we need to fit contracts to keep or replace Nodl, Powe, Carcillo, Leino, Zherdev, get a 7th defenseman, get another goaltender for the AHL, etc.
Here’s the definition of the actual contract limit. The NHL CBA defines it right up front in Article 1.
"Reserve List" means the list of all Players to whom a Club has rights including all Unsigned Draft Choices, all Players signed to an SPC (whether or not currently playing in the NHL), and all Players who have signed an SPC but who have subsequently been returned to Juniors. A Club may have on its Reserve List, at any one time, not more than 90 Players, which shall include the following:
(a) Not more than 50 Players signed to an SPC and not less than 24 Players and 3 goalkeepers under an SPC. Age 18 and age 19 Players who were returned to Juniors, and who have not played 11 NHL Games in one season, shall be exempt from inclusion in the 50 Player limit.
Any Club violating this provision shall be liable to loss of draft choices as determined by the Commissioner.
(b) Unsigned Draft Choices.
To be clear: That’s a Reserve List of 90 players, and a Contract Limit of 50.
Now, we all know that there are numerous loopholes in the CBA, and Homer knows them well. But in the case of exceeding the 50-man contract limit, there’s only one: the Slide Rule. This is mentioned at the end of the contract limit above, but properly defined in Article 9, Entry Level Compensation. (As usual, I’m going to edit for clarity’s sake.)
9.1.(d).(i) In the event that an 18 year old or 19 year old** Player signs an SPC with a Club but does not play at least ten (10) NHL Games in the first season under that SPC, the term of his SPC … shall be extended for a period of one (1) year, … in the event a Player's SPC is extended an additional year in accordance with this subsection, all terms of the SPC, with the exception of Signing Bonuses, … shall be extended; …
9.1.(d).(ii) In the event that a Player signs his first SPC at age 18 and has had his SPC extended pursuant to Subsection (i), and such Player does not play at least ten (10) NHL Games in the second season under that SPC, then the term of his SPC … shall be extended for one (1) additional year...
** For a player to be considered 19 under this definition, they have to stay 19 through December 31st of the year they're considered to be 19.
Basically, the contract “slides” from this year’s 50-man list onto next year’s 50-man list if the player doesn’t appear in 11 NHL games. If the player is 18, there’s a possibility you can slide his contract twice.
The trouble with the Slide Rule is that this loophole can only be used for players who are signed to Entry Level Contracts when they are either 18 or 19 years old. This means that you’re looking at signing draft picks, or signing someone who was skipped over in the draft the same year they were skipped over, which can be a pretty scary idea. Nobody was willing to draft him, but we need to be willing to give him an NHL contract right now? Not something I’d be comfortable doing too often.
Homer has taken to filling out our system by signing Undrafted Free Agents who are a little bit older. And since they’re a little bit older, the loopholes don’t apply. None of those 7 new contracts I listed above can “slide”, so they all must be counted toward the 2011-12 contract limit. And we don't have any other contracts that could "slide", because we don't have anyone signed who is under 20 years old. This is why I’m concerned.
Only one other team has less than 15 open spaces on their 50 man contract list, and that’s Detroit, with 14 openings. The rest of the league ranges from 15 to 27 openings, with the average being about 18 or 19.
Homer has the least flexibility in the league, at the moment. And that scares me a lot.