The Next Salary Cap Hell

On Wednesday, July 1, Elliotte Friedman broke some details about the modified CBA pertaining to the salary cap, and it paints a dull outlook for the next few years.

“Some stuff to look forward to in modified CBA: Flat salary cap (unless changed, numbers were $81.5M next two years, $82.5M in 2022-23); cap on escrow (starting at 20 per cent next season, moving down after that); return to Olympics (pending agreement with IOC)”

Before the season went under, the projected cap ceiling for next season was to be set anywhere from $84 to $88 million, now with the coronavirus decimating the last month of the regular season and playoffs, the cap won’t grow at all this summer, and maybe not for the next three seasons. The current cap ceiling in the NHL is $81.5 million meaning, depending on the situation, the cap may stay the same or only increase by one million dollars.

On July 10, the NHL and NHLPA ratified the Return to Play and New CBA, confirming that the salary cap will say flat at $81.5 until the league revenue hits $4.8 billion, a number that is impossible to reach without packed stadiums every night, a scenario that doesn’t look to be in the cards any time soon.

That leaves teams who were relying on the bump in salary in a real sticky situation with their star players, and the Flyers won’t be immune to the struggles. A few weeks ago, I looked at the upcoming UFA/RFA class for the Flyers, but if the reverberations of the loss of a season are felt for years to come, it is going to impact some big time stars.

This summer’s biggest name to secure is Phil Myers, and the two players with medical issues, Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom, along with some other depth players. Next summer in 2021, the name grow substantially with Carter Hart and Travis Sanheim. Hart is at the end of his ELC and Sanheim is coming off a two-year bridge deal. And in 2022, Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier are up, as well as Joel Farabee and Morgan Frost coming off their entry-level deals.

There are some in-house solutions the Flyers can take to buy themselves some time. The first step should be trading Shayne Gostisbehere and James Van Riemsdyk, who are making a combined $11.5 million until 2023. Ghost’s $4.5 cap hit will go to re-signing Travis Sanheim, who will probably end up around the five million range after his $3.25 million bridge deal ends next summer. JVR’s seven million dollars will be a bounty split between Carter Hart and Phil Myers.

The salary cap is the NHL’s way to punish teams who draft well, and when you have the track record the Flyers do over most of the past decade, that’s a heaping dose of punishment.

In the short term, Phil Myers will probably get a bridge deal, Giroux and Couturier still have two years left of their deals, and if they’re smart, they’ll lock up Carter Hart as long as possible at a reasonable number right away. If they part ways with some of their high-priced vets, they can try to manage their young stars, but it will greatly effect their changes of picking up a rental star down the line.

The damage done to the salary cap league-wide will be determined by how much longer the coronavirus keeps the game itself in jeopardy, let alone bringing full crowds into stadiums. With little hope on the immediate horizon, there’s a good chance the 2020-21 season will be faced with similar situation as this season.

Can Chuck Fletcher guide the Flyers through the tight quarters? Time will tell but the Flyers still have a pipeline full of young stars on entry level deals that will keep their costs down for the next few seasons, but with so much talent, they won’t be able to hold  off the inevitable forever. With any luck, the world will return to normal for the 2021-22 season and the league can begin on the track to financial recovery and save the Flyers before the walls close in too tightly.

 

 

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: nhl.com

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