With the Flyers having a very eventful offseason already in the form of free agent acquisitions Vinny Lecavalier, Mark Streit, and Ray Emery, it's important to remember that next offseason was supposed to be the more interesting one. Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Brayden Schenn were all slated to hit restricted free agency, and Matt Read (not to mention Kimmo Timonen) will become unrestricted free agents.
However, the Flyers took care of some of that business already, signing Giroux to an 8-year, $66.2M extension and Couturier to a 2-year, $3.5M deal as well. Assuming Timonen retires after the season, Schenn and Read are the two main contributors to the Flyers without a contract past the 2013-2014 season.
First of all, can they even afford him?,Let's take a look at the Flyers' cap situation after this year. All numbers from CapGeek.
The Flyers have a little less than $31.8M tied up in 10 forwards for the 2014-2015 season: Claude Giroux ($8.275M), Scott Hartnell ($4.75M), Vinny Lecavalier ($4.5M), Jakub Voracek ($4.25M), Wayne Simmonds ($3.975M), Maxime Talbot ($1.75M), Sean Couturier ($1.75M), Scott Laughton ($1.106667M), Zac Rinaldo ($0.75M), and Jay Rosehill ($0.675M-ugh).
Now, let's look at the money committed to the defense for 2014-2015. There are only 5 Flyers defensemen under contract past this season, totaling just under $21.8M: Mark Streit ($5.25M), Chris Pronger ($4.941429M), Braydon Coburn ($4.5M), Luke Schenn ($3.6M), and Nicklas Grossmann ($3.5M).
Neither of the team's goaltenders are under contract past 2013-2014.
That totals 15 players under contract for 2014-2015 for a total of $53.573095M against the cap.
The team will have Schenn, Erik Gustafsson, and Steve Mason as the notable restricted free agents to retain after the season. Both Gustafsson and Mason's next contracts will be largely affected by how they perform in this upcoming season, but for now I'll assume a modest raise for both of them: $1.5M for Gus, and $1.75M for Mason. This would bring the Flyers to slightly less than $56.85M committed to 17 players.
Brayden Schenn is an interesting case because his entry-level contract was structured oddly, with a cap hit of $3.11M made up largely of bonuses and therefore it's extremely unlikely his next contract will have a higher cap hit than his current one. Things can change for him, obviously, with a big season on Lecavalier's wing, but I'll pencil him in for a $3M cap hit on his next deal. Considering Cooters just got $1.75M, I think $3M is a bit optimistic, but I digress. The Flyers are now at roughly $59.85M for 18 players.
Now let's take a look at the composition of those 18 players. In Giroux, Hartnell, Lecavalier, Voracek, Simmonds, and Schenn, the Flyers likely have their top-6 forwards. Couturier, Talbot, Laughton, and Rinaldo figure to fit in somewhere in the bottom-9, with Cooters likely centering the 3rd line, Rinaldo on the 4th line, and Talbot and Laughton bouncing between the two as need be. With guys like Tye McGinn, Michael Raffl, Eric Wellwood, Ben Holmstrom, Kyle Flanagan, Petr Straka, and Jason Akeson in the system as well, the need for Matt Read isn't there, although there's no debating how useful his ability to play anywhere from lines 1-4 and on both the PP and PK is.
On defense, the Flyers will have a couple top/2nd pairing tweeners in Luke Schenn and Braydon Coburn, a couple 2nd/3rd pairing puck movers in Gustafsson and Streit, and a 3rd-pairing bruiser in Grossmann under contract. It's a solid group, notably lacking a #1 defenseman. The Flyers would love to acquire one in the 2014 offseason for sure. But why does this matter? Well, they will need cap space to pursue one in free agency. They will also need cap space to sign Matt Read and another goalie to fill out the rest of the roster. With the current cap set at $64.3M, the Flyers would have a little under $4.5M in cap space to work with in the 2014 offseason.
However, two factors help them out. One is the ability to take Chris Pronger's $4.9M+ cap hit and put it on LTIR and the other is that the salary cap is slated to rise after next season. Per Bill Meltzer's blog today, the projections on the cap are slated to rise $5-6M next season. Taking the combination of Pronger's LTIR money and the cap increasing by $5M to $69.3M, the Flyers would suddenly have over $17M in cap space. That's more than enough to sign Read to a new contract and still pursue upgrades on the blueline and in net. Jay Bouwmeester, Dion Phaneuf, Joni Pitkanen, Nicklas Hjalmarsson, Dan Girardi, Dennis Seidenberg, and Jonathan Ericsson could all be free agent targets on defense. Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Miller, Jaroslav Halak, Corey Crawford, and Brian Elliot are all potential targets in net. And the forward group is stuffed to the gills with free agent talent, including but not limited to the Sedin twins, Marian Gaborik, Thomas Vanek, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Phil Kessel, Ryan Callahan, Matt Moulson, and Joe Pavelski.
So we've established that the Flyers will almost assuredly have the money to spend on Read and a spot for him next to Couturier on the 3rd line. Now, the question becomes: how much money will he make? In 2 years with the Flyers, Read has played 121 of a possible 130 games and has tallied 35 goals and 71 points in those 121 games, good for a total of roughly 0.59PPG. His shooting percentage in both seasons was over 15%, and it remains to be seen whether that will regress at all in the future. I took a look at contracts signed in the past couple years of players similar to Read to try to figure out what he'll get.
The first comparable I thought of for Read was Viktor Stalberg, a depth forward who played some PP and PK in Chicago who left the Blackhawks for the Predators in free agency on a 4-year, $12M deal. Stalberg played 3 full seasons in Chicago before leaving. In 2010-2011, he accumulated 24 points in 77 games, which bumped up to 43 points in 79 games in 2011-2012. In the lockout-shortened season this year, he had 23 points in 47 games. His total PPG average over the 3 years was 0.44 on shooting percentages between 8%-10%, but in his free agent season it was 0.49 and the year before it was 0.54. I thought $3M per season was a steal for Stalberg, and Read looks to be a better player.
Another idea I had for Read's next contract was Ville Leino,, who played a role similar to Read as a 2nd-3rd line tweener. He was very effective in it until a monster contract of 6 years and $27M from the Sabres pried him away from the Flyers. Leino's been an unmitigated disaster in Buffalo, combining injuries with ineffectiveness but during his short stint with the Flyers he was a very good player. His 2009-2010 regular season was split between Detroit and Philly, and he only recorded 6 goals and 11 points in 55 games between the two teams. However, he exploded in the 2010 Cup run on a line with Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere to the tune of 7 goals and 21 points in 19 games. He followed his postseason breakout with 19 goals and 53 points in 81 games for 0.65PPG before signing his deal with Buffalo for $4.5M per season.
I ran out of ideas for those 2, so I ran a simple search on Hockey-Reference: In 2011-2012, I wanted to find players in their 20s in the first 5 years of their career who played at least 70 games and had between 35-60 points. Read came in 12th on that list with 47 points, behind David Desharnais, Bobby Ryan, Evander Kane, Brad Marchand, Ryan O'Reilly, Kris Versteeg, TJ Oshie, Derek Stepan, Adam Henrique, Wayne Simmonds, and Jakub Voracek, with Sam Gagner, Tyler Bozak, and Nick Foglino rounding out the top 15 behind him. Here's the chart:
As for their next contracts? Desharnais got $3.5M per year for 4 years on his next deal, Bobby Ryan was in the midst of a $5.1M per season contract, Kane signed a $5.25M/per year contract in 2012, Brad Marchand got $4.5M per year on his next contract. O'Reilly signed a 2-year, $10M offer sheet with Calgary in 2013 that was matched by the Avalanche. Versteeg signed a deal worth $4.4M per season that offseason. Oshie got $4.175M a season on his next deal. Stepan is still on his ELC, as is Henrique. Simmonds signed an extension worth $3.975M/year that offseason, and Voracek also got extended at $4.25M/year. Gagner got a 1-year deal worth $3.2M. Bozak just signed a 5-year deal worth $21M, and Foligno got a shade over $3M on his next deal. However, Bozak was the only one out of all these players who signed his contract as an unrestricted free agent. So I went to the 2012-2013 season for contract comparables as well. Again, first 5 years of their career in their 20s with more than 35 games played and between 20 and 30 points. Here's the chart:
Read finished 15th on this list, behind Lars Eller, Kyle Turris, Cory Conacher, Desharnais, Bozak, Brendan Gallagher, Mark Letestu, Brandon Saad, Mikkel Boedker, Brayden Schenn, Damien Brunner, Patrik Berglund, Cody Eakin, and Carl Hagelin. Behind him were Jeff Skinner, Nikolai Kulemin, Viktor Stalberg, Jamie McGinn, and Michael Grabner.
Eller is on a bridge contract paying him $1.325M per year. Turris signed an extension paying him $3.5M per season that starts this year. Conacher is on his ELC. We covered Desharnais and Bozak already. Gallagher is still on his ELC as well. Letestu is making $1.25M for the next 2 seasons before becoming a UFA. Saad is on his ELC as well. Boedker is currently an unsigned RFA who made $1.1M last year. We know all about Schenn, making $3.11M on his ELC. Berglund signed a 1-year deal worth $3.25M while keeping his RFA status for next year. Eakin is on his ELC. Hagelin signed a 2-year deal for $2.25M per season which will expire with him still an RFA. Skinner signed a massive 6-year, $34.35M extension after a monster 2011-2012 season, but it now looks like he might be a bit overpaid for his services. Kulemin is making $2.8M next year before he reaches UFA status. We already looked at Stalberg. McGinn is making $1.75M on a bridge deal like Sean Couturier's, and Grabner signed a 5-year extension worth $3M/year that will take him into his UFA years. So again, just about everyone was an RFA when they signed their deals, which doesn't help us much with Read. You'll notice who I left out from the contracts, though: Damian Brunner.
Brunner, like Read, came to the NHL at a relatively advanced age. In his case it was age 26, as opposed to Read's 25. Brunner was coming from Switzerland as opposed to Read coming from the NCAA. In any case, Brunner is a great comparable for Read. He signed a cheap deal to prove himself in the league and in his first and only season under contract as a member of the Red Wings he had 12 goals and 26 points in 44 games for Detroit this past year for 0.59 PPG-coincidentally, exactly the same figure as Read's 2 years in the NHL.
So why didn't I include Brunner? Simple: he's still a free agent. According to Winging It In Motown, Brunner is reportedly looking for an AAV of $3-$3.5M per season, while the Red Wings offered him somewhere around $2-2.5M. I'll be honest, I'm a bit surprised that Brunner is still available over 2 weeks after free agency opened, but here we are. I don't think $3M is unreasonable, and it might just be a case where he has to wait a bit to get his money like Alex Semin did last year. With all that in mind, I think the four best comparables for Read, for various reasons, are Tyler Bozak, Damian Brunner, Viktor Stalberg, and Ville Leino.
So, 2,000 words in, let's answer the questions posed in the title of this FanPost:
What will Matt Read make on his next contract? With the cap rising, and keeping in mind the contracts of Bozak (5 years, $21M), Leino (6 years, $27M), Stalberg (4 years, $12M), and Brunner (TBD, but I'll guess somewhere between $2.5-3.5M AAV), my guess? Somewhere in the range of 3-4 years, $13.5-18M for Read. An AAV of $4.5M might seem a bit on the excessive side, but I'm assuming he'll perform at a very high level again next season and that he might make it to unrestricted free agency without an extension. Nothing between $3.5M and $4.5M per season would surprise me.
Can the Flyers afford it? YES! The cap breakdown was done earlier in the post, but with plenty of salary coming off the books next season, the use of LTIR, the cap rising, and most of the core of the team (with a few notable exceptions-namely, #1 defenseman and goaltender) under contract already or controlled via restricted free agency, the Flyers should be able to afford Matt Read with room to spare.
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