It's no secret that the salary cap is at the front of Ron Hextall's mind as NHL free agency begins at 12 p.m. ET today. He talked about it before the draft was even over this past Saturday, noting that his first priority was to "go back to Skate Zone" and "see where we can try to manuever."
But the salary cap doesn't necessarily stop Ron Hextall from making moves on July 1. Let's go back to Kevin Christmann's great article on the Flyers salary cap situation, which he updated for us earlier in the week:
I thought it would be beneficial to add an update prior to the start of Free Agency on July 1.
- The Flyers traded Scott Hartnell for RJ Umberger
- Brayden Schenn signed a two-year extension
- It was revealed that the Flyers actually do have $345,000 in bonus overages from last season
- The upper limit of the salary cap was set to $69 million. Which leaves a summer overage of 10% at $75.9 million.
- Ron Hextall indicated the Flyers will submit qualifying offers to Jason Akeson and Tye McGinn, but that he's unsure about Cal Heeter. That differs greatly from my initial speculation. For the sake of this recalculation, we'll only use Akeson and McGinn. (Brandon Manning and Erik Gustafsson were qualified, but will not be on the opening night roster.)
- each player under a one-way contract = $68.991 million
- all deferred salary and bonuses = $345,000
all ordinary course buyout amounts
- any amount offered in a Qualifying Offer for Restricted Free Agents (proportionate to time spent in NHL) = $191,585
- each player under a two-way contract (proportionate to time spent in NHL) = $8,855
any salary retained in a retained-salary transaction
any cap-advantage recapture penalties
any amount paid in a salary or bonus dispute
That leaves the Flyers at $69.536 million on the salary cap. That obviously has them over the newly set upper limit by $536k. It also means they have $6.364 remaining in their 10% overage cushion for the summer.
Just another reminder that that $536k over the cap includes every number indicated above. It will change as that includes 22 players: 14 forwards, 7 defenseman (one being Pronger), and 1 goaltender. But the point of this exercise is to understand the Flyers' cap situation during the offseason ... not what it will be once the season starts. Now let's see what Hextall does with it on July 1.
The Flyers need to get under the cap by the start of the season, and they can exceed it by 10 percent until then. That means that Hextall's hands are not necesssarily tied today.
The Flyers are over the cap but they can still spend something like $6.3 million on July 1 and beyond. If they think that they'll eventually be able to shed Vincent Lecavalier in a trade -- and really, there is still room to believe that's possible, even if they take back a bit of salary and despite Monday's setback -- that frees them up to have even more flexibility in free agency.
But we shouldn't expect a big splash from the Flyers at 12 p.m. no matter what -- really, even if they did have space. And that's a good thing.
Most of the time, paying UFAs big contracts doesn't work out, and one of the first things Hextall said when he was hired as general manager was that he wanted the team to get away from that. He wants this to be a team built primarily through the draft, not trades and free agency. Signing somebody like Matt Niskanen would be a big mistake. The Flyers don't have the flexibility or the desire to do it.
That said, the Flyers hands aren't tied. They'll sign a backup goalie, maybe a winger, maybe a defenseman. Don't expect them to stay completely quiet, even if they won't be as crazy as they have been in recent years.