Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher just managed one of the biggest face lifts the organization has seen in at least a decade, navigating all the new moves through the salary cap, which remains flat due to the coronavirus pandemic. While it’s a big victory right now, his work isn’t quite done. There are dark clouds on the horizon as next summer will test Fletcher’s ability to get creative like no other. Not only does the flat cap pose issues for the Flyers to stay under the ceiling, but a few big ticket contracts coming due is going to put pressure on the team to do whatever has to be done to keep a competitive team on ice while staying cap compliant.
The cap is expected to rise $1 million from its current $81.5 million before next offseason, which is a trend in the right direction, but at the end of the day, a million dollars is minuscule in the grand scheme of things.
During the summer of 2022, Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Joel Farabee and need new contracts, as well as Wade Allison, Rasmus Ristolainen, Morgan Frost, and seven other main roster spots, including a backup goaltender.
Claude Giroux’s $8.275 million cap hit coming off the books is where a majority of the cash for Sean Couturier’s extension will come from. Essentially, they would switch cap hits with Couturier making a shade over $8 million and Giroux around the $4.3 mark. Whether it works out that perfectly or not remains to be seen, but it should be close enough to use it as a starting point. It doesn’t really create any cap space, but they don’t have to find an exterior solution either.
UPDATE: Couturier re-signed for eight years, $62 million (7.75 aav), which, as expected, eats up most, but not quite all of Giroux’s cap coming off the books. Fletcher during his press conference yesterday sounded like negotiations between the team and Giroux won’t start until next offseason, so we’ll have to wait and see just how much of a pay cut he’s willing to acceopt. While he may come in at $4.5 aav, expect him to be closer to the $5.5 million range.
The big issue is there aren’t really any other notable contracts coming off the books. Nicolas Aube-Kubel’s $1.07 million contract comes to an end, but he’s still an RFA, Ristolainen’s $5.4 cap will be the significant chunk of change removed from the cap, but they’ll need to replace the 2RD spot, which more than likely won’t come cheap. Justin Braun and his $1.8 and Martin Jones and his $2 million are the other two deals over a million that’ll be available, but again, even though Jones is coming off the books, they’ll need to replace the backup goalie, which will probably still hover around the $2 million price tag.
The Flyers have at least expressed interest in keeping Ristolainen around, but the money is going to be tight. That interest level will obviously depend on how Ristolainen adjusts to a new team, and the money he might demand next summer. Defensemen across the league are getting paid an obscene amount of money lately, and as a right handed D-man, Risto may look for his own fair chunk of change. If for some reason he does test the free agency waters next season, whether mutually or not, the Flyers will still have to secure a second pair RHD elsewhere on the market as they don’t have any internal options on the right side.
The internal players are far more pressing, however, with Joel Farabee, Wade Allison and Morgan Frost all coming off their entry-level deals. As of now, neither of Frost or Allison should see substantial dollars next summer, but rather cheap $1-2 million bridge deals depending on how well they produce at the NHL level this season, Farabee is the much bigger concern.
Farabee, who has been on the rise to stardom during his first two NHL seasons, could be looking for a nice raise if his stock continues to rise in the right direction. The Flyers already set themselves a precedence when it comes to handing a scoring winger a contract right away in Travis Konecny. He got a six-year $33 million ($5.5 aav) deal fresh off his ELC for similar offensive production. Maybe they could work a bridge with Farabee too to at least help them navigate through the short-term, but if that’s the case a Farabee does indeed become a star, good luck trying to lock him up to a value deal two or three years down the road.
At face value, some solutions would be trading or buying out James Van Riemsdyk, dealing one of both of Scott Laughton and Oskar Lindblom, even potentially trading freshly signed Travis Sanheim. Dismantling half of the team to re-sign the other seems like a strategy reserved for teams like the Lightning and Blackhawks, teams with success to justify the craziness, though it could be their only option when it comes to navigating a very sticky cap situation.
Right now we can look back on a successful offseason and get hyped to watch a new team for 2021-22, but the feeling of “now or never” has never been more intense than it is right now. The general feeling from social media is “well if they suck, they can blow it up” and while that’s true, what if they don’t? What if they have a relatively successful regular season and make it to the second round or even the Eastern Conference Final of the playoffs? If they’re lucky, next season they can create just enough room to roll out a very similar team to this year, but there’s very little room for improvements. It can all be put on the back burner for now, but it’s a storm they’re on a crash course with sooner or later. Take Warning.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: mcall.com / thehockeywriter.com