Hi everyone-I'm Stephane. I thought I'd do some of the number-crunching and examine the next two offseasons for the Flyers to see what their cap situation and roster will really look like (and what it could look like as well). So, off we go!
The salary cap for the 2013-2014 season will be $65.3M. That's the figure I'm working with when I discuss how much cap space they'll have.
Forwards (11): The Flyers have 11 forwards under contract for the 2013-2014 season. Here they are in order of their cap hits, with the year the contract expires in parentheses:
Briere, $6.5M (2015)
Hartnell $4.75M (2019)
Voracek $4.25M (2016)
Simmonds $3.975M (2019)
Giroux $3.75M (2014-RFA)
B. Schenn $3.11M (2014-RFA)
Talbot $1.75M (2016)
Couturier $1.375M (2014-RFA)
Laughton $1.1375M (2016-RFA)
Read $0.9M (2014)
McGinn $0.775M (2014-RFA)
As you can see, the Flyers have 11 of the likely 14 forward slots on the roster already committed for next year at a total cost of $32.2725M against the cap. However, the situation gets a bit murky in 2014, with Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, and Tye McGinn all hitting restricted free agency as well as Matt Read hitting unrestricted free agency. More on that later.
Defensemen (7): The Flyers have 7 defensemen under contract for the 2013-2014 season. Here they are in order of their cap hits, with the year the contract expires in parentheses:
Pronger $4.935714M (2017)
Coburn $4.5M (2016)
Meszaros $4.0M (2014)
L. Schenn $3.6M (2016)
Grossmann $3.5M (2016)
Gervais $0.825M (2014)
Bourdon $0.6125M (2014-RFA)
Bartulis $0.1M (buyout-ends in 2014)
The 7 defensemen (8 counting Bartulis) on the Flyers' cap after this season total $22.073214M in salary cap commitments.
The only goalie on the Flyers' cap after this season is Mr. Universe, Ilya Bryzgalov, who carries a $5.666667M cap hit with him until 2020.
Adding up the money committed to the 11 forwards, 7 defensemen, and 1 goalie equals $60.012381M. When that figure is subtracted from the total cap of $65.3M, the Flyers are left with $5.287619M of cap space for the 2013 offseason.
"But wait! Chris Pronger (and perhaps Marc-Andre Bourdon)'s contract can be put on long-term injured reserve, which gives the Flyers somewhere between $4.9M-$5.6M of extra cap space! Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, here we come!" Not so fast, enterprising Broad Street Hockey reader. LTIR, as it is affectionately known, doesn't start until the season begins. Therefore, Pronger (and Bourdon)'s contract counts against the offseason cap. Now, there is a provision in the offseason that does help the Flyers' cap situation, and it is that you can spend up to 10% over the cap in the offseason, provided that you are under it once the season starts. 10% of $65.3M is $6.53M, which gives the Flyers $11.817619M of offseason cap space. However, it still has to get under $65.3M by the time the season starts. Out of the $6.53M of extra space the Flyers have (assuming Pronger and Bourdon don't miraculously recover), $5.548214M of it can be put on LTIR once the season starts. This means that merely $0.981786M of the rest of the extra space in the offseason cap needs to be shed before the start of the season. This means that the Flyers, theoretically, could commit $10.835833M of contracts this offseason and be under the cap for the 2013-2014 season.
Now let's examine the actual roster situation for the upcoming offseason. The Flyers have 9 unrestricted free agents this offseason and 3 restricted free agents. Here they are, with expiring cap hit in parentheses:
UFAs: Kimmo Timonen ($6.333333M), Rusty Fedotenko ($1.75M), Matt Walker ($1.7M-thank the Lord), Jody Shelley ($1.1M-see Matt Walker), Kurtis Foster ($0.95M), Brian Boucher ($0.95M), Michael Leighton ($0.9M), Mike Knuble ($0.75M), and Andreas Lilja ($0.7375M).
Walker, Shelley, Foster, Boucher, Knuble, and Lilja are all walking. Without a doubt. If the Flyers wanted a checking winger who is defensively responsible, they could bring Fedotenko back, but I think he's gone as well. They'd obviously love to have Kimmo back if he wants to be back, but there's a very strong chance he retires. If he returns, it will be with the Flyers, and he'll get a one-year deal for somewhere in the neighborhood of $3-5M. For the purposes of this exercise, I'll say Kimmo retires. Michael Leighton could be brought back as a backup if he does a passable job, but if he continues to play like he did against the Lightning he'll be gone too. That would mean that all 9 UFAs leave the team. This would open up a spot in the top-12 forward group and at backup goalie, while also leaving a gaping hole in the top-4 on defense.
I expect all 3 of these RFAs to be retained. Sestito is a goon, plain and simple, and can serve the Jody Shelley role of being the 14th forward, playing on the 4th line in the event of injuries, and dropping the gloves when necessary. Wellwood has incredible speed, and I think has a chance to blossom into a really useful player if he improves his hands even a little bit. He's good defensively and can make some plays with his excellent skating on the 4th line. What you see with Rinaldo is what you get. He's a bundle of energy on the ice, constantly skating and throwing his body around with reckless abandon. He's working hard to cut back on his penalties and Lavy has noticed. It's hard to tell what each of these guys will get in restricted free agency, so for now I'll just put in their cap hits as the qualifying offers they'll each be tendered. That's $0.6655M for Sestito, $0.594M for Wellwood, and $0.5775 for Rinaldo. Those 3 QOs add up to $1.837M, which leaves the Flyers with $8.998833M they could commit in contracts in the offseason.
Let's take a look at our roster at this point. We've now got 14 forwards, 7 defensemen, and 1 goalie for a total of 22 out of the 23 spots. With Pronger and Bourdon taken out of the equation on defense under the assumption that they'll be on LTIR, the Flyers have 14 forwards (Hartnell-Giroux-Voracek, Schenn-Briere-Simmonds, Read-Couturier-Talbot, McGinn-Laughton-Rinaldo as the active players, Wellwood and Sestito as healthy scratches). That looks to be a solid group, though if they wanted to add a forward they could always send Sestito or Wellwood down to the AHL. On defense, though, is where the troubles are. The pairings would figure to be Coburn-Grossmann, Meszaros-Schenn, and Gervais-ohmygodweneedanotherdefenseman. This lack of defensemen means that one (or both) of Erik Gustafsson and Brandon Manning will open the season on the roster. Both are RFAs after the season, and if we add the qualifying offers for both to the cap ($0.8505M for Gustafsson, $0.715M for Manning) to our cap the Flyers are left with $7.433333M of cap space.
Other RFAs likely to be retained are Harry Zolnierczyk, Blake Kessel, Oliver Lauridsen, and Ben Holmstrom (among others), but they're likely to start the season in the minor leagues and therefore their salaries wouldn't count against the Flyers' cap until they were called up to the big club.
At this point, the Flyers have 14 forwards, 7 defensemen, and 1 goalie on the roster. The only true "need" on the roster is at backup goalie. However, the blueline could certainly stand to be upgraded and Paul Holmgren seems to never be satisfied with his offensive depth. Here's where the fun part comes in: speculation!
(Disclaimer: I know nothing about anything that may or may not happen this offseason. Proceed accordingly.)
The Flyers need at least one, maybe two defensemen to compete and Homer is sure to be looking for a top-line RW to place next to Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux.
The available crop on defense in unrestricted free agency is slim pickings. Lubomir Visnovsky, Sergei Gonchar, Ron Hainsey, Mark Streit, Robyn Regehr, Ryan Whitney, Marek Zidlicky, Rob Scuderi, Jordan Leopold, Ian White, Douglas Murray, Ladislav Smid, and Wade Redden lead the way there. Yeesh. Out of that crop, my choices would be Scuderi and Streit on relatively short-term deals but none of those names inspire. The RFA crop, on the other hand, is something else. Alex Pietrangelo, Zach Bogosian, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Ryan McDonagh are all excellent young players. If PK Subban isn't signed or traded this season, I believe he retains his RFA status for next offseason as well, though I'm not 100% sure about that. Any of these names would be a fantastic addition to the Flyers' blueline. However, the only two that seem even somewhat realistic (not including Subban, because I think his status will be resolved by then) would be McDonagh and Ekman-Larsson. McDonagh is a great young player in New York and the team would love to retain him, but their salary situation gets a little dicey this offseason. They've got a little over $53.1M already committed to 16 players next season, with just $12.2M left to fill the remaining 7 slots on their roster. I'm sure they'll find a way to fit McDonagh in, though, as he's an excellent young player for them well-deserving of a raise. The Coyotes, on the other hand, are a different story. They've got only 10 players signed past this season, and just under $33M committed to those 10. They'd absolutely be able to afford Ekman-Larsson cap-wise, but finances are always an issue out in the desert. Let's assume, for the purposes of this exercise, that he's retained. Where does that leave the Flyers? In a pretty bad spot, to be honest. With their defense looking subpar, I'd expect them to sign a couple of vets. Again, totally guessing but let's say they commit $4M between two veteran defensemen, one as a middle-pairing guy and the other for depth. That would leave them with only $3.433333M of cap space. Factoring in the backup goalie they need for around $1M again, and it's clear that the only upgrades on offense they'll be making would be a move similar to the Fedotenko signing last offseason-and by that, I mean no Corey Perry. If the Flyers do get involved in the forward market, there are a lot of good names out there to be had-Perry and his Ducks teammate Ryan Getzlaf lead the way, but Jarome Iginla, Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder, Valterri Filppula, Nathan Horton, Alexander Semin, and Jaromir Jagr are all available as well, along with my personal favorite, Simon Gagne. Perry, Iginla, Jagr, Horton, Ryder, and Semin all play RW.
Obviously, things can change, and cap space could be cleared with a trade (Andrej Meszaro's $4M cap hit springs to mind) or a buyout of Ilya Bryzgalov or Danny Briere (the two likely candidates). But I don't think the Flyers exercise either buyout this season-Bryz has started off the season well and there aren't better options available in free agency, and the Flyers don't need the space they'd gain from shedding Briere's contract this offseason as of now. They'll probably save the Briere buyout for 2014 if it comes at all, since that's when Giroux, B. Schenn, and Couturier hit RFA and Read becomes a UFA.
So what have we learned today? For me, I was shocked at how quickly the cap space deteriorated. $7.4M seems like a boatload of cap space, but with holes on defense and a limited amount to spend, I found myself thinking less about Corey Perry and more about Rob Scuderi and Mark Streit. Not having a boatload of cap space for Paul Holmgren to work with might be a blessing in disguise, however, since the 2014 offseason is a doozy. Outside of the big 3 RFAs mentioned previously and Read, the only "significant" pieces who will hit free agency are Meszaros and Bruno Gervais. The Flyers could take care of that now by using their wiggle room under the cap to re-up with Giroux, Schenn, and Couturier before they become restricted free agents, saving money in the future to deal with Read's UFA status in 2014 while also maintaining flexibility to pursue the big fish in the 2014 free agency pond, a group that includes (as of now) Evgeni Malkin, Henrik Lundqvist, the Sedin twins, Ryan Miller, Marian Gaborik, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Pavel Datsyuk, Jay Bouwmeester, Dan Boyle, Dion Phaneuf, Andrei Markov, Phil Kessel, Patrice Bergeron, Dan Girardi, Dustin Brown, and many others.