What If the Flyers Were Issued a Compliance Buyout?

The NHL season has been on pause for almost two months now. Due to the break, and the looming possibility that the season gets scraped altogether, questions about the financials of the league are starting to rise.

Originally, it was reported the salary cap would rise from $81.5 million to anywhere from $84 million to $88 million. But with the lack of games both in-person and on TV, there is worry that the NHL salary cap won’t increase at all. That would leave most teams, who were counting on that increase, in a sticky situation. The rumors of the NHL issuing teams a compliance buyout to help relieve some financial stress have started to circulate. If that eventually comes to fruition, would the Flyers take advantage of the opportunity?

The Flyers are on the verge of being in a pretty tight cap situation. Carter Hart, Phil Myers, Travis Sanheim, Claude Giroux, and Sean Couturier all need contracts in the next two years, and currently have only four players on long term contracts in Jake Voracek, Kevin Hayes, Travis Konecny, and Ivan Provorov. If the Flyers had to pick one player to buyout who would it be?

The answer has to be either Shayne Gostisbehere or James Van Riemsdyk. Both players have three more years on their deal with Ghost making $4.5 million and JVR making $7 million respectively. The decision may not be easy though, as both players have their pros and cons.

Shayne Gostisbehere continued his monumental fall from grace during the 2019-20 season. He registered just five goals and 12 points through 42 games, and spent a vast majority of the late part of the season on injured reserve and later in the press box as the other six defenseman were all playing well enough to keep their spot in the lineup. Ghost’s six-year, $27 million contract once looked like a great deal. He posted his career-high 65-point season during the first year of the deal, but he has failed to replicate that success in the two years since.

To make things worse for Ghost, the emergence of defenseman Phil Myers and Travis Sanheim have effectively pushed Ghost out of the top six and, with their stellar play, will earn big money contracts in the not-too-distant future.

With Gostisbehere’s value at an all-time low, a trade might be harder than a buyout. If they test the trade market, they may get little or no value for Ghost, or even worse, they could be forced to retain a portion of his salary. Is a bad trade better than just washing their hands of him entirely?

James Van Riemsdyk just wrapped up the worst season of his career statistically since 2011-12, his last season in Philadelphia during his first go around. He scored just 19 goals and 40 points in 66 games, having his season cut short with a broken hand that more than likely would’ve forced him out of the rest of the regular season.

While 19 goals and 40 points is not too shabby for a middle-six forward, for someone who is making seven million dollars a year, it’s boarderline unacceptable. This would be JVR’s third consecutive year on the decline since his 62-point campaign during the 2016-17 season.

Van Riemsdyk’s consistency was put under the microscope this season thanks in part to long stretches on inactivity. He went through three separate seven game pointless droughts, two of those reaching eight games. A majority of his points came in bunches, typically scoring multiple points in three of four games before falling off the radar for another month or so.

With both players on big contracts their play doesn’t warrant, and both on the decline statistically, which is the better option for a buyout?

JVR may have the better value on paper, but his $7 million contract makes the list of teams that could bring him on pretty small. Ghost may be easier to move, but could they find a team willing to take a gamble on an all-time low Shayne Gostisbehere on a $4.5 million deal?

From a Flyers perspective, the goal should be to clear as much cap as possible, thus making the best target James Van Riemsdyk. Even though he is still hovering around the 20-goal mark, his overall play was very disappointing. Now 31-years-old, age is not on his side in terms of a big bounce back year. Seven million dollars is a lot of money, and can go a long way into re-signing one, or possibly more, of their young players.

The Flyers system is full of talent. Joel Farabee will enter his second NHL season, hopefully Morgan Frost and Nolan Patrick return and make the team, and the new arrival of Linus Sandin should all improve the team and easily cover JVR’s missing 40 points.

With the expansion draft on the horizon, the Flyers may get an easy out of Gostisbehere. If he can somewhat recover from his disaster of a 2019-20 season during the 2020-21, his value should go up and they can leave him unprotected, maybe even offering a draft pick to Seattle to steer clear of one of the younger players in favor of Ghost.

Whether or not the NHL issues a compliance buyout or not is still to be determined. If the cards do indeed fall that way, Chuck Fletcher will be tasked with playing some 4D chess to use the buyout on the correct player. It’s a decision that could have ripple effects on the franchise next season, and for the foreseeable future. With so many top prospects getting closer to big contracts, moving on from an overpriced veteran player is the right move for the franchise.

 

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: nbcsports.com

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