Eyes on the Dollar: Philadelphia Flyers

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 3:13 am by Cam Lewis

As we all know at this point, the strength Canadian dollar is directly tied to the NHL’s revenue, and subsequently, the league’s salary cap. Gary Bettman suggested a couple weeks ago that if the Canadian dollar stayed at $0.80, the cap ceiling would end up around $71.5 million. If that’s the case, multiple teams who were relying on a jump in the cap ceiling to give them some much needed breathing room will be forced to change their plans. 

The Philadelphia Flyers are one of those teams. Frankly, the Flyers are in cap hell even if the cap rises to a higher figure than the one Bettman suggested. They’re heading into next season with basically their entire roster intact, as they have $67.327 million tied up in 11 forwards, five defenceman (and Chris Pronger who will hit the LITR) and one goalie. As a result, they’ll have ~$4.0 million to fill a couple of holes. (They’ll also be given ~$5.0 million to replace Pronger through the LTIR replacement bonus.)

That doesn’t seem too daunting, does it? 

Well, if they want to continue to be a middling team, sure, it won’t be overly difficult. But if they want to actually improve their roster, they’re going to have to do something about a lot of really, really ugly contracts that aren’t going away any time soon. The Flyers may need to sell high on some of their most valuable assets now in order to rebuild for a time down the road when they don’t have quite so much of their cap tied into dead weight. 

Players under contract for the 2015-16 season

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So the Flyers basically have their team for next season. Well, I mean, they could pretty much go into next season without really doing anything because they have so many players signed. With their ~$9.0 million in spare cap space this summer, they’ll need to add a couple forwards, defencemen and a backup goalie. Or just resign all of the guys hitting free agency, like Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Chris VandeVelde, Michael Del Zotto, Nick Schultz, and Ray Emery. 

The problem for the Flyers is the amount of dead weight it carries. The graphs below paint a quick picture of how many players the Flyers have that provide very little value to the team despite their large contracts. The Flyers also have a handful of players who actually provide more value for a fraction of the cost that they may be at risk of losing because they have so much  cap space tied up in albatross contracts. 

Flyers’ point shares vs. cap hit this season:

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Flyers’ points vs. cap hit this season:

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I didn’t bother putting each player’s name on the graph, because the next chart is going to go more into detail, and it won’t be quite so messy. This is just a quick look at how much the Flyers are spending for very little value. The collection of dots at the bottom-middle of the graph are the boat anchors on the Flyers — Lecavalier, MacDonald, Umberger, Read, Luke Schenn, and Coburn. The Flyers are getting similar, if not better value from their players that cost them under $2.0 million than they are from players who are paid $3.5 million or more. 

Flyers’ players stats and value this season:

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Just as the scatterplot shows, the Flyers simply aren’t getting enough out of their highly paid players. They have a handful of guys who are being paid way more than they’re worth, which is dragging the whole team down. 

Boat Anchors:

I’m going to go through these a little differently than I did with the Kings and Blackhawks. Rather than going through position and position and determining which players it was most advantageous to keep, I’m going to file out the contracts the Flyers absolutely need to move before they go ahead and do anything else — the boat anchors. After that, I’ll go through and determine who stays and who goes. 

Vincent Lecavalier – three more years at $4.5

This contract was awful from the very beginning. It didn’t really make any sense for the Flyers to sign Vinny after he was bought out by Tampa Bay, but they did it anyway, and now they’re paying for it. The Flyers are paying Lecavalier $4.5 million a season and they’re getting the value you would expect from like a $1.5 million player out of it. Unfortunately for the Flyers, Vinny is under contract for three more seasons after this one, and it’s very likely his game will continue to quickly deteriorate. As a result, teams will avoid Lecavalier like the plague. They obviously won’t get anything of value back for him, even a late round pick, because there’s nobody in the NHL that will pay $4.5 million for the value he brings to the table at this stage of his career. If the Flyers want to shed this albatross, they’re going to either have to bring in another ugly contract in return, eat a bunch of salary, or just buy him out. If option two or three become a reality, there will be two different teams in the NHL paying Lecavalier to play against them, which would be really funny. I mean, if Tampa and Philly played each other,  they would both be paying money for a player who isn’t involved in the game in any capacity. Anyways, back on track.

R.J. Umberger – two more years at $4.6

In the offseason, the Flyers swapped ugly contracts with the Blue Jackets, trading Scott Hartnell for R.J. Umberger. While Hartnell is owed more money ($4.75 million for four more seasons), he’s a way better player than Umberger. Umberger is Philly’s second highest paid forward and he’s only scored 13 points, while Hartnell has 11 goals and 31 points for the Jackets. I still understand the move, though. Hartnell is 32 and his game is likely to go down hill. While he may be better than Umberger now, two years from now, his $4.75 could be really, really ugly, possibly even more so than Umberger’s $4.6 contract is now. Just like Lecavalier, the Flyers are going to have to take back salary or eat salary in order to move this contract. 

Andrew MacDonald – five more years at $5.0

Honestly, if you throw six years and $30 million at a player like Andrew MacDonald, you deserve to be in cap hell. The Flyers have received better value from a collection of replacement level defencemen who are being paid a fraction of MacDonald’s salary this season. Due to the length of this contract, I imagine it might actually be the most difficult one to move. Maybe they can trade him straight up for Mike Richards, or something. 

Braydon Coburn – one more year at $4.5

This one isn’t quite so dire as the one mentioned above because there’s only one year left on the deal. Historically, Coburn has been a good player, meaning a team who would be more prone to take a risk on the last year of his contract than they would on MacDonald. I doubt the Flyers would have to hold back any salary if they moved Coburn, but I also doubt they’ll get much of value for him. 

Four guys – $18.6 million

Together, these four guys fill up $18.6 million dollars in cap space. If the Flyers can get somebody drunk and pawn them into taking on these contracts without taking any salary back in return that would be incredible. That’s not going to happen. One way or another, the Flyers will be eating a good chunk of that 18.6 million. This poses somewhat of a difficulty. It’s one thing to have very little cap space to flesh out the rest of your roster because you already have 17 players signed, but its another to flesh out your roster because you have 13 signed and you’re paying four other guys to play on other teams. As a result, the Flyers will have to determine which of these contracts they actually really, really need to move, and the ones they can deal with.

Who stays, who goes?

I’ll operate under the assumption the Flyers aren’t going to blow their team up and embark on a full-scale rebuild this offseason. They still have a nice core of really good, young forwards. They could capitalize on Jakub Voracek’s amazing season and sell high on him, especially considering he’s only a year away from being a UFA. It wouldn’t be the worst idea, but I don’t see the Flyers moving Voracek at this point. 

In: Giroux, Simmonds, Voracek, B. Schenn, Couturier, Streit, Mason ($30.1 million)

Now, where does that leave the boat anchors discussed above? I think Coburn is likely to go, because his contract will be easy to move and they won’t have to take any salary back with him just a year away from free agency. I think they’ll keep MacDonald, mainly because nobody wants to take on five years of him, but also because they just made an investment in him last summer and will likely give him at least another year to prove himself. Lecavalier and Umberger will be difficult, but I think they’ll both be traded, with salary being eaten. When it’s all said and done, I imagine the Flyers will eat ~$4.0 million of the combined $9.1 million owed to Umberger and Lecavalier. If that’s the case, and somehow, I’m totally right on my prediction (won’t happen), the Flyers will cut out half of the $18.6 owed to those four boat anchors. 

In: Giroux, Simmonds, Voracek, B. Schenn, Couturier, Streit, Mason, MacDonald, Eaten Salary (~$39.1)

Out: Lecavalier, Umberger, Coburn

After that, the Flyers will need to make decisions on some other depth players and underachievers. I imagine they may kick tires on players like Read, Grossmann and Luke Schenn, because if they can find suitors for them, they should pull the trigger. They can find players who will bring similar, or better value for much less than they’re paying these guys. If all those players do stay on the roster, though, the Flyers will have ~$20 million to find five more forwards, three defencemen and one goalie, meaning it’ll be really difficult for them to improve their roster. Laughton and Raffl provide good value up front, while the $3.625 spent on read can be used better. Same goes for Luke Schenn and Grossman. If the Flyers can move all three of Grossmann, Schenn, and Read, they’ll open up $10.725 more for roster improvement. 

In: Giroux, Simmonds, Voracek, B. Schenn, Couturier, Streit, Mason, MacDonald, Eaten Salary, Laughton, Raffl, Rinaldo (~$42.026)

Out: Lecavalier, Umberger, Coburn, L. Schenn, Read, Grossmann

Conclusion: Of course, a lot of this hinges on who they can actually find suitors for. In a perfect world, all of the aforementioned players would be dumped without any salary coming back, but that just isn’t realistic. The Flyers have dug themselves into a really deep hole with all of these terrible contracts, because even if they manage to ship a player out, they’re still either going to be paying them, or they’re going to get a brand new awful contract in return. While it may sound like an awful idea, they Flyers may have to sell high on some of their best assets now and rebuild for a time when they don’t have quite so much of their cap space tied up in dead weight. Yeah, it would really suck to move Voracek after the season he’s put up, and it would also really suck to move any of B. Schenn, Couturier, and Simmonds, but by the time the Flyers actually have the cap space necessary to make their team good enough to make a serious run, these guys will be looking for bigger contracts. Tough decisions are ahead for the Bullies.  

Stats from: Hockey Reference and Hockey Analysis 

Previously in this series:

Eyes on the Dollar: Chicago Blackhawks

Eyes on the Dollar: Los Angeles Kings