Mark Streit trade: Expensive defenseman isn't the long-term answer

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Adding Mark Streit would help the Flyers next season, but he's not the long-term answer. Kurt R. contributed to this analysis.

From a hockey perspective, adding Mark Streit to the Philadelphia Flyers blue line is a nice boost.

  • He's a puck mover, the exact kind of guy the Flyers really need.
  • He helps on the power play and would immediately boost a second unit that struggled mightily last year and may have been the difference between playoffs and no playoffs for the 2013 club.
  • He'll put up points and can log top-four minutes.
  • He's an older version of Keith Yandle. (A decade older, of course.) He's not quite as good as Mr. Yandle, who we discussed the other day as a trade target, but if the options are a 36-year-old Streit for essentially nothing -- sorry, Shane Harper -- or Yandle for Sean Couturier and more, Streit is a much smarter option.
  • Despite his age, Streit is a durable hockey player. He's played a lot of minutes and aside from a completely lost season in 2010-11 when he tore his the rotator cuff in his shoulder. Aside from that year, Streit missed just eight games total in his four seasons with the Isles.
  • Consider the pairings: Kimmo Timonen, Erik Gustafsson and Streit are all offensive puck movers, and they compliment the stay-at-home styles of Luke Schenn, Braydon Coburn and Nicklas Grossmann well. It doesn't give the Flyers that No. 1 alpha kind of guy, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad unit.

From purely a hockey perspective, Mark Streit on the ice makes the Flyers a better team next season. But that doesn't account for his salary, which directly impacts the rest of the roster both next season and in the years ahead. And when you take Streit's salary and contract demands into consideration, it changes the entire complexion of the conversation.

***

Mark Streit left the Islanders because his contract demands were not in line with what they were willing to pay him. Via Arthur Staple of Newsday:

According to a source, the Islanders offered Streit a three-year deal worth about $5 million a season, but Streit is looking for north of $5.5 million per season. With the free-agent market for defensemen very thin, Streit could command $6 million per year and even possibly get a four-year deal.

Streit is 35 years old and will be 36 in December. He might be a nice addition to a defense that could desperately use him right now, but at $5 million a season, it's just not a smart move. Maybe you could justify that kind of salary for a season or two, but three years? Four years? No way. And at $5.5 or 6 million a year, it's even crazier.

He has no loyalty to the Flyers. He will not be giving Paul Holmgren a discount.

If Streit thinks he can get that on the free agent market, though, he's going to try. He had loyalty to the Islanders -- he captained them and earlier expressed a willingness to stay -- and still left town because he felt he could get more money. He has no loyalty to the Flyers. He will not be giving Paul Holmgren a discount. That means the only way the Flyers are going to sign him is if they meet his demands.

The only way Mark Streit becomes a Flyer is if they sign him to a deal higher than what the Islanders offered him earlier this month. They'll have to overpay. It's not worth it, especially on a 35 year old player.

***

But, okay. The Flyers have acquired Streit. We'll assume for now that they're going to get something done with him, so let's pencil him in the roster at $5.5 million and draw up a lineup from there using educated assumptions about their further direction this offseason.

We'll also assume that Erik Gustafsson gets a slight raise as an RFA, up from $900,000 against the cap last year to about $1.2 million this year. Not assuming anything else, that puts the Flyers roster here:

Forwards
Scott Hartnell ($4.750m) / Claude Giroux ($3.750m) / Jakub Voracek ($4.250m)
Danny Briere ($6.500m) / Brayden Schenn ($3.110m) / Wayne Simmonds ($3.975m)
Maxime Talbot ($1.750m) / Sean Couturier ($1.375m) / Matt Read ($0.900m)
Zac Rinaldo ($0.750m) / Scott Laughton ($1.107m) / Jason Akeson ($0.900m)
Tye McGinn ($0.775m) / Jay Rosehill ($0.675m) /

Defensemen
Kimmo Timonen ($6.000m) / Luke Schenn ($3.600m)
Braydon Coburn ($4.500m) / Mark Streit ($5.500m)
Nicklas Grossmann ($3.500m) / Erik Gustafsson ($1.200m)
Andrej Meszaros ($4.000m) / Marc-Andre Bourdon ($0.613m)
Chris Pronger ($4.941m) / Bruno Gervais ($0.825m)

Goalies
Ilya Bryzgalov ($5.667m)
Steve Mason ($1.500m)

Buyout: Oskars Bartulis ($0.100m)

SALARY CAP: $64,300,000; CAP PAYROLL: $76,512,262; BONUSES: $2,960,000
CAP SPACE (26-man roster): -$9,252,262

That cap space number obviously doesn't work, nor does the whole 10 defenseman thing.

Shuffling Chris Pronger off to LTIR gets that cap payroll number down to $71,570,833. We'll assume Marc-Andre Bourdon is playing on the top pairing for the Phantoms instead of in Philadelphia, so we'll move him there.

Then come the bigger questions. If I'm making the decisions, I'm keeping Erik Gustafsson as my sixth defenseman and I'm dishing off Andrej Meszaros to another team, even if for pennies on the dollar. I'd like to think that's what the Flyers would do as well, especially given the new-found glut of bodies on defense and Meszaros' hefty, not-close-to-worth-it cap hit.

So let's assume that happens. Where would it leave us?

Forwards
Scott Hartnell ($4.750m) / Claude Giroux ($3.750m) / Jakub Voracek ($4.250m)
Danny Briere ($6.500m) / Brayden Schenn ($3.110m) / Wayne Simmonds ($3.975m)
Maxime Talbot ($1.750m) / Sean Couturier ($1.375m) / Matt Read ($0.900m)
Zac Rinaldo ($0.750m) / Scott Laughton ($1.107m) / Jason Akeson ($0.900m)
Tye McGinn ($0.775m) / Jay Rosehill ($0.675m) /

Defensemen
Kimmo Timonen ($6.000m) / Luke Schenn ($3.600m)
Braydon Coburn ($4.500m) / Mark Streit ($5.500m)
Nicklas Grossmann ($3.500m) / Erik Gustafsson ($1.200m)
Bruno Gervais ($0.825m) / Chris Pronger ($4.941m)

Goalies
Ilya Bryzgalov ($5.667m)
Steve Mason ($1.500m)

Buyout: Oskars Bartulis ($0.100m)

SALARY CAP: $64,300,000; CAP PAYROLL: $71,899,762; BONUSES: $2,960,000
CAP SPACE (24-man roster w/ Pronger on LTIR): $301,667

It's a little flexible this way, and I can see it working for 2013-14. It doesn't even require that they buyout llya Bryzgalov and Danny Briere, but likely they will buyout at least one of those guys -- $300k is literally *zero* wiggle room since a player on a league minimum contract makes more than that. In executing a buyout, they'd need to sign replacements for whoever leaves, so you're adding a starting goalie (or at the very least, a 1b) and/or a second-line winger.

You'd assume that the replacements they do sign will cost less than those two -- that's the whole point of the damned buyout, after all -- so the cap space math wouldn't be a concern at that point.

This roster works for next season, even if it assumes Jason Akeson and Scott Laughton both make the team. If they decide to keep Meszaros and have Gus outside of the top-six, it essentially would require a buyout of at least one of either Briere or Bryzgalov to make the cap math work.

But we're already sort of assuming that happens even if they did also shun Mesz, so we can picture a roster with Mark Streit that works next season. It might not be the best team in hockey, but that's probably a playoff contending roster right there (a lot of variables though, of course) and the Flyers would be sticking with the young core and growing with them for another year. It's certainly better than blowing it all up again like they did two years ago.

***

About growing with this roster, though. That's just the problem with signing Mark Streit. What's the real goal here? Is Streit -- with a $5.5 million cap hit and presumably a three-year deal or longer -- going to help the Flyers win a Cup when the window swings wide open in two to three years? When this core of players truly grows into a power house that can contend for the Cup?

Streit isn't the big, long-term fix on defense. He's not young and likely won't be the same player in two or three years. And having him on the roster for the next three years inhibits the Flyers' ability to go after that long-term fix that will help this team win a Cup in a few years. He's the plug that stops the leak, but at the same time is the wrong size for the hole.

Kurt R. contributed to this analysis. Thanks to CapGeek and their cap calculator tool, too.

More from Broad Street Hockey:

Will the Flyers buyout Bryz?

Targeting goalie Jonathan Bernier

Not convinced on Keith Yandle

If Bruins win, we all lose

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