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NHL Salary Cap Announced, Holmgren Wants to Move Up in the Draft

Jun 21, 2011, 12:16 AM EDT

A look at how a higher salary cap and floor affect the Flyers and their plans heading into the draft.

We’ve all been waiting with bated breath for the announcement of the NHL’s 2011-2012 salary cap, primarily to see how much space the Flyers will have in order to sign goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and any of the restricted free agents they’d like to retain. TSN is reporting that the cap will be $64 million, with a floor of $48 million. Last year’s cap was $59.4 million, and $64 million represents about the highest anyone was expecting the cap would be.

In other words, good news for the Flyers, who need as much room as possible.

Below, we’ll take a look at the implications of the cap number, as well as the Flyers’ hopes to move up in this Friday’s NHL entry draft.

Frank Seravalli of the Daily News put together a nice contextual look at this year’s cap as compared to previous seasons since its application in 2005 (even more interesting is a reminder of what the Flyers paid out before the cap was put in place). In 2011, the salary floor is $9 million more than the 2005 cap. Frank also points out that this season’s floor may have a big impact on the market, forcing teams at the bottom to spend up:

It may sound crazy, but the biggest number reported on Monday may be the salary cap floor number. Why? Small market, low budget teams like Florida, who have just $18 million committed in salary for next season, will need to spend at least $30 million just to be cap compliant. They may be willing to take on a little more salary than normal off a team like the Flyers looking to dump.

 
I don’t disagree, but I also wonder if the other side of that coin could hurt the Flyers in their attempts to negotiate. With both the cap and the floor increasing, so too could the demands of available, sought after players. Meanwhile, teams unlike the Flyers (ie, against the floor rather than the cap) may want to target a marketable big fish in free agency, and they just got a mandate to get spendy. Could that drive up the price on Bryzgalov?

With that in mind, if the Flyers really want Bryz to be their man, it was a good move to acquire the rights to start the talks before the floor was announced today, as well as having exclusive ability to negotiate through July 1 (including just before the draft day trade festivities). Although no agreement was made during last week’s meeting, it seems progress was, and there’s no indication that the two sides are far apart.

MOVE ON UP?
Switching gears to the league’s other big item this week, Flyers  fans are probably pretty used to the club not having many high picks when the NHL draft gets underway. At present, that is certainly the case in 2011, with the Flyers not set to be on the clock until pick #84, which falls in the third round.

That may change come draft day though. When asked whether he’d want to have a pick in the first two rounds on a conference call on Monday, GM Paul Holmgren gave the obvious answer that anyone would, but he also indicated that the Flyers will try to trade up.

“[We are] drafting at 84 right now and we’d like to move up, absolutely,” Holmgren said. “Are we going to be able to? I don’t know, we will see how it goes.”

Nothing too earth-shattering here besides the Curtis, but the draft bit dovetails nicely with the salary cap picture. In addition to their need to restock their depleted prospect ranks, the Flyers may also need to clear some cap space this season in order to complete all the signings they’re targeting, even with the cap increase.

Homer said he doesn’t feel the Flyers are in a position where they have to clear cap space. But, that really depends on the demands of the players they’re targeting. If in fact they do “choose” to shed some salary though, one appealing return would be to acquire a draft pick or two, given that they’d add the potential for future depth while also lowering the current salary mark. Of course, in order to do that, they’d have to shed a rostered player and deal with the subsequent hole left behind.

Two of the names you most hear linked to being sent away are Jeff Carter and Kris Versteeg, but while the need for cap space may be real, everything the Flyers have done with respect to these two players to date would indicate they want to keep them in the fold. Carter is a young, talented scorer with a manageable cap hit for the next decade. (I could go on, but I’m assuming most Flyers fans don’t need a primer on Carter.) My guess is both sides made that deal in the hopes that Carter will be a career Flyer or close to it. Dealing him would surprise me, but nothing is out of the question after the debaculous end to the team’s meek Cup run last month.

The cost of obtaining Versteeg was high (a first and a third), which is important for two reasons. First, it indicates the Flyers really wanted him. Versteeg’s a versatile young player who can be chiseled in for 20+ goals per season, and, importantly, he is under contract at less than $3.1 million next season, after which he’s still a restricted free agent. His career as a Flyer has been unceremonious so far, but there’s been nothing to indicate the team doesn’t want him going forward. And there shouldn’t be. He’s a good player who just turned 25.

The Flyers would also have trouble recouping what they paid for him. A player’s value and a team’s willingness to pay in picks for him is dependent in large part on the desire of the team trying to get him, which can involve a little desperation at the trade deadline with the playoffs looming, rather than the draft, when there’s more time to tinker.

But with the Flyers probably looking to move up and possibly aiming to add some more prospects to their cupboard, it’s a safe bet someone will be on the move soon.

It’s already been an interesting off-season for the Flyers, but things are about to start moving pretty fast. The team meets with Bryzgalov again tomorrow, and Friday’s draft, when many deals will happen league-wide, is looming on Friday. With all of the above forces acting on the Flyers at once, they’re bound to be in the headlines a few more times heading into the weekend.