The Flyers may have multiple needs by the trade deadline this season, but what to do? A top flight, puck moving defenseman would clearly be a useful addition to the Flyers back line. The offensive depth from last season appears to be lacking. No NHL player has taken more draws than Claude Giroux as the Flyers literally have no other options giving even anything close to a 50% chance of winning a critical draw. And, any team looking to make a playoff run is always looking to add team leadership. The Flyers, though, find themselves in somewhat of a predicament. With a general lack of depth, there isn’t NHL caliber talent to include in a trade without creating a hole elsewhere in the line-up. Additionally, Paul Holmgren has repeatedly professed that he will not mortgage the Flyers future by trading away the young talent in the Flyers system.
In a normal season, this would likely doom the chances of making any sort of meaningful addition at the trade deadline with the possible exceptions of taking on an overpriced contract that could serve as an albatross in the future or an expiring contract from a non-contender which has recently come at the cost of high draft picks. The 2nd and 3rd round picks needed to acquire Nick Grossmann last year are good examples. 2013 is not a normal season, though. One of the advantageous areas that the Flyers have exploited in the past relates to their willingness to spend which is clearly not matched by most of the rest of the league. With the potential of two contract buyouts between the next two offseasons, the Flyers may have an opportunity to take on a bad contract in a trade at little-to-no cost or even that nets them a positive return. For a low revenue team looking to exit a contract, the compliance buyout provision under the CBA may be an attractive alternative. More attractive, though, would be ridding the team of the player and his contract while allowing someone else to go through the expense of buying the player out. Under the right circumstances, it might even behoove such a team to incent someone to take on such a contract by including additional assets in the deal – a draft pick or several draft picks, for instance.
The Flyers may be primed to take on such a contract. There are currently only three substantial options for a Flyers buy out – Chris Pronger, Ilya Bryzgalov, and Danny Briere. Pronger, though, cannot be bought out if injured and it’s extremely unlikely for him to heal significantly enough to play again. Ilya Bryzgalov has been the Flyers best player so far this season and having to replace him would be risky and expensive. Danny Briere has proven to be one of the greatest offensive playoff threats in Flyers history and has an important leadership role with the team. By the time summer rolls around, it is rather unlikely that two Flyers buy out candidates will emerge and quite possibly not even one. Though the Flyers are close to the salary cap now, they could free up substantial room by shifting players onto LTIR such as Chris Pronger and Jody Shelley. It’s not like the Flyers to waste the chance to gain a competitive advantage.
Contrary to the Flyers situation, several lower revenue teams may find themselves in a "selling" situation. Currently, it appears unlikely that the Blue Jackets will make the playoffs. They have also just dispatched Scott Howson, their now former G.M. Most importantly, they have a prime buy out candidate in James Wisniewski as well as a wealth of 2013 draft picks resulting from their trades of Carter and Nash. With a cap hit of $5.5 million per year and multiple years left on his deal, new Jackets G.M. Jarmo Kekalainen could reasonably decide that breaking ways with Wisniewski is the most productive way to move the franchise forward. If unable to work out a trade, though, the cost for that under the compliance buy out would be just under $13 million based on the remaining value of Wisniewski’s contract. For a team on a tight budget, what would it be worth to rid themselves of that near $13 million payout? Several draft picks doesn’t seem unreasonable. And that’s just the Blue Jackets - The same could potentially be the case for the Flames with Jay Bouwmeester or Mike Cammalleri or any number of other teams with any number of other players as well.
More likely than a higher profile "star" salary player, though, is the availability of lesser profile players who would likely generate less interest in the league-wide trade market. A player such as the Panthers Filip Kuba who has only one more year on his deal, but at an overpriced $4.2 million, could be such a candidate. While no speed burner, Kuba does conclusively prove that the "in" in his surname wasn’t what slowed Pavel down last year, more players are sure to emerge. Just this past summer, the Flyers bought out Oscars Bartulis and the Panthers bought out Matt Bradley as two examples of lesser impact players representative of who else may be headed towards a summer buy out. In the past, the Panthers trading a Matt Bradley-type to the Flyers or another high-revenue team in order to avoid the payout expense in the past would be a non-starter as the high-revenue teams would likely be unwilling to take on the associated cap hit. Compliance buy outs can be done this summer and next, however, without the cap implications. This gives the Flyers a loophole to exploit.