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The Flyers may finally have some clarity on their salary cap situation

Recent moves and rumors have brought some additional information to the Flyers’ cap picture on the eve of free agency.

Florida Panthers v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

A couple of weeks ago, we took a deep dive on the Flyers’ salary cap situation as they headed into this offseason, and then we checked back in on it a few days later when the NHL officially confirmed a $75 million salary cap for the 2017-18 season.

12 days later, we’ve been given an answer to one of the biggest questions facing the team, and it looks like we’re close to an answer on another. With unrestricted free agency formally opening tomorrow at noon, we’ve got just enough time to take one last look at how things are shaping up in the Flyers’ never-ending quest to get stay comfortably the salary cap.

At the time of the NHL’s announcement on the $75 million cap, the Flyers looked to have around $10.653 million in cap space to add three forwards (one of whom was presumed to be Jordan Weal), two defensemen, and a goalie to their roster. Here’s what has happened since then that we know will affect their cap picture:

  • Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was chosen by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft. That takes $1.45 million off of the Flyers’ total cap hit.
  • Brayden Schenn was traded for two first-round picks and Jori Lehtera. We’re not here to evaluate that trade right now (we’ve got other places you can do that if you want), but in the context of this exercise, that swap saved the Flyers $425,000 against the salary cap.
  • It was announced, via CapFriendly, that the Flyers will carry a $1,062,500 bonus overage into this season, which means that Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny hit all of their bonuses from their rookie seasons.
  • Jordan Weal was signed to a two-year deal that carries a $1.75 million cap hit.

With that knowledge, let’s take another look at what we know. There are 17 players that we can factor into the Flyers’ cap situation for certain (i.e. returning players and/or players that we know will make the team barring something highly unforeseen). Here is what things look like if we only factor those players into account.

Flyers 2017-18 Salary Cap: Confirmed

Giroux 8.275 MacDonald 5.000 Neuvirth 2.500
Voracek 8.250 Gostisbehere 4.500
Filppula 5.000 Gudas 3.350
Lehtera 4.700 Manning 0.975
Couturier 4.333 Provorov 0.894
Simmonds 3.975
Read 3.625
Weise 2.350
Raffl 2.350
Weal 1.750
Konecny 0.894
CAP HIT: 45.503 CAP HIT: 14.719 CAP HIT: 2.500
TOTAL CAP HIT: 62.722 BUYOUT COST: 1.500 CAP ROOM: 9.716

So with those certainties accounted for, the Flyers have around $9.7 million to add ... three forwards, two defensemen, and a goalie. Weal is in tow, but otherwise we’re right back where we started, just with some different numbers in certain places.

Luckily, we can make some guesses on what those other spots are probably going to look like, based on a combination of things that have been said, things that have been reported, and things that are common-sense. Among those things:

  • Nolan Patrick was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers. (Still cool.) While we do not know for certain that he will make the team, all indications are that he’s going to get a good shot at doing so, and with the top-9 suddenly looking for a new face with Schenn gone to St. Louis, it just feels like he’s a good training camp away from making this roster. So he will likely fill in one of those three forward spots. Patrick, as a player who will be on an entry-level contract, cannot make more than $925,000 against the cap (prior to bonuses, which we’ll get to), so let’s just pencil him in at that amount and move on.
  • Oskar Lindblom is now in North America, and among all potential in-house choices on the wing, he seems like the most likely one to crack this lineup. Like with Patrick, this will depend on his having a good training camp, but given his dominance in the SHL this past season (a league generally seen as comparable to the AHL), you have to think that if he does have a good camp it’d be very tough for Hextall to not put him on the opening-night roster. His pre-bonus cap hit is also $925,000, so let’s add that under the forward column.
  • The team’s last forward spot, if we’re looking at in-house options, will likely come down to one of Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier, and Mike Vecchione — all three of whom need new contracts. Vecchione, who is waiver-exempt, seems likely to start the season in Lehigh Valley unless he just blows the doors off of everyone at training camp. And in a choice between Laughton and Leier, the Flyers have basically already told us who they’d like; by protecting Laughton in the expansion draft, they’ve signaled to us that he’s likely going to be on the team next year. So we’ll pencil him into that last spot. As for what he’ll make, it’s tough to say at this time. Matt Cane’s Puck++ Salary Prediction free agent model has Laughton as likely to make $864,215 in AAV on a deal this summer, and while I could see him getting a little bit more than that, it won’t be much more that it’ll significantly change our evaluation here. So let’s take that amount and run with it.
  • On defense, we already know Ron Hextall is likely going to add two of the team’s young defensemen — in all likelihood, two out of Samuel Morin, Robert Hagg, Travis Sanheim, and Phil Myers — to the roster in the fall. Which one of those two it will be is anyone’s guess, so for now, let’s just take the two who figure to be the most expensive: Morin and Sanheim, who make $894,167 and $863,333, respectively, against the cap (pre-bonus). Sub in Hagg or Myers if you want, and the overall cap hit here will drop slightly, but not by enough to really change the picture here.
  • Finally, in net. The Flyers were linked to Brian Elliott in rumors yesterday, and those rumors apparently now have a price point on them. Fox Sports Midwest’s Andy Strickland says that “early talk” has Elliott and the Flyers meeting on a three-year deal TWO-year deal that will pay $2.75 million per year against the cap. We can argue about the value of that contract as a whole some other time, but in the here and now, $2,750,000 is a solid cap hit for another goaltender and we’ll add it to the total.

So how do things look if we pencil in that combination of forwards, defensemen, and goalies to fill out the final open spots on the Flyers’ roster? As such:

Flyers 2017-18 Salary Cap: Projected

Giroux 8.275 MacDonald 5.000 Elliott* 2.750
Voracek 8.250 Gostisbehere 4.500 Neuvirth 2.500
Filppula 5.000 Gudas 3.350
Lehtera 4.700 Manning 0.975
Couturier 4.333 Provorov 0.894
Simmonds 3.975 Morin* 0.894
Read 3.625 Sanheim* 0.863
Weise 2.350
Raffl 2.350
Weal 1.750
Patrick* 0.925
Lindblom* 0.925
Konecny 0.894
Laughton* 0.864
CAP HIT: 48.217 CAP HIT: 16.476 CAP HIT: 5.250
TOTAL CAP HIT: 69.943 BUYOUT COST: 1.500 CAP ROOM: 2.495

Our anticipated Flyers lineup has just about $2.5 million in cap space with a full roster and with buyout/overage charges accounted for. At this point, the only thing Hextall could do to really change this would be to go and make some forward/defenseman signings tomorrow — ones that would push some of these guys out of their current spots. Could he do that? Perhaps. But he’s only got around $2.5 million to work with, and odds that he’ll get a meaningful upgrade with that amount while still keeping enough space under the cap are slim.

At most, I could see Hextall signing an inexpensive veteran defenseman that can be sent to the AHL if necessary but could serve as a press box guy/occasional fill-in if the young defensemen don’t prove to be as ready as we’re anticipating they will be, which in turn leads to the Flyers needing someone else to fill out their roster. However, I think that kind of a signing would make more sense in September than it would right now (think something like the Hal Gill signing from camp in 2013, except ideally with someone better than Hal Gill), and even then it still seems unlikely. What we see here is probably what we’ll be looking at in October, based on what we know now.

The biggest remaining question mark at hand is whether $2.5 million of space is enough for potential bonuses that the team’s young players may hit. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, it’s theoretically possible — if not terribly likely, though it can happen — for the Flyers to be on the hook for somewhere close to $5 million in overages next year. Here is a list of every bonus that could potentially be earned by a Flyers player who could realistically make the team next season, with an estimate for Nolan Patrick based off of the bonuses that have been available to previous No. 2 overall picks:

Nolan Patrick (estimate): $2,650,000
Ivan Provorov: $850,000
Samuel Morin: $500,000
Travis Sanheim: $400,000
Travis Konecny: $212,500
Oskar Lindblom: $212,500

Provorov and Konecny both reached their maximum bonus amounts this past year, so the safe bet right now is to guess that they’ll do so again next year. If they do, the Flyers would have a touch over $1.4 million of space to cover themselves in the event of anyone else cashing in on their bonuses.

The big wild card here is Patrick, whose largest possible bonus amount could likely be achieved if he wins the Calder Trophy or does something similarly outstanding. At that point, maybe you’re willing to stomach an extra million or two on the 2018-19 salary cap. But it’ll be something worth watching. (Hopefully we can say the same thing about the Flyers!)