Philadelphia Flyers 2010-11 cap situation: Now or later?

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for jeff carter.jpgThe Philadelphia Flyers are probably still a little sore about Wednesday’s loss. After all, they were one overtime goal away from preparing for a penultimate Game 7 bout tonight. Instead, their season is over, two wins short of a Stanley Cup.

Still, as I’ve written many times before, this team exceeded most people’s expectations. They also saw key contributions from a few expected sources (Chris Pronger, Mike Richards) but also the rise of some young players (Claude Giroux, Ville Leino) and heroism from unexpected guys (Danny Briere, Michael Leighton).

Yet while everyone is harping on the Chicago Blackhawks salary cap situation (jeez, guys, I was obsessing about that last year), few people have given much of a look at the very interesting situation the losing Cup finalist is in. Here’s a screen capture of the next few years of commitment for the team, from the always valuable CapGeek.com. (Click to enlarge)

flyerscapscenario.JPG

Here are a few other important tidbits. Keep in mind these numbers are based on CapGeek’s active roster, with no assumptions about minor league players filling roster spots.

2010-11 Cap space: About $8.83 million

Needed: 1 forward, 2 defensemen and 1 goalie + 2 reserves.

Biggest free agent(s): Braydon Coburn (restricted)

The Flyers’ 2011 summer might look a lot like the Blackhawks’ pending headache-filled July. It’s true that the team can put off most of its toughest decisions until then, but if they’re forward-thinking, they’d recognize that the franchise is at a true crossroads right now. After the jump, I’ll take a look at some of the most fascinating questions.


Now or later?

As I said before, the Flyers almost seem like last year’s Blackhawks. Chicago – to me at least – clearly made a decision to go for the Cup at the possible expense of their future last summer. With three major deals set to expire after next season, the Flyers are going to get some bargain seasons next year. Should they see how that pans out or take a long-term view? Let’s expand on that.

Giroux and Leino

One of the stories of Philly’s run was the emergence of Ville Leino and Claude Giroux. Each guy brought plenty of skill and productivity to the table in a lost cause. There’s some good news and bad news about their cap situations. On one hand, both are making less than 900k next season, giving the Flyers two resounding bargains (especially if they can be anywhere near as effective as they were in the playoffs). Of course, there’s a catch; both only have one more year on their contracts (Leino will be unrestricted while Giroux will be restricted). The team could roll the dice short-term by letting them play out their contracts or gamble long-term by signing them now.

Certainly, it will be interesting to see how Philly handles those two.

Move Jeff Carter or Danny Briere?

If Giroux and Leino prove to be consistent scoring threats, the Flyers might need to move a contract or two to keep them with the team.

That brings me to two interesting cases: Carter and Briere.

In the case of Carter, his affordable $5 million cap hit will come off the books after this season. The sniping, right-handed center brings some undeniable skill to the table but I’ve always had some misgivings regarding his overall usefulness when games get a little tighter.

Briere, on the other hand, made a lot of critics eat some crow after he scored more points than any other player in this year’s playoffs (more on that later, maybe). You could look at his resurgence two ways; either he’s a special weapon suddenly worth his $6.5 million cap hit or – conversely – his highly productive playoff run could really boost his trade value.

Conclusions

Putting myself in Paul Holmgren’s shoes, my first act would be to sign Michael Leighton to a short, cheap deal (or find another goalie who will be frugal). I’d probably let Leino and Giroux prove they could produce now that they’re not flying under the radar. Then I’d seriously consider trading Carter or Briere, possibly for a solid young defenseman who could ease some of Chris Pronger’s blueline burden.

What do you think about the Flyers’ cap situation? Would you go for broke next year or try to arrange the team for a brighter future? Share all in the comments.

Senators, Panthers fail to gain in Eastern playoff races

OTTAWA, CANADA - FEBRUARY 7: Jay Harrison #44 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates his game winning overtime goal with team mate Jeff Skinner #53, during an NHL game at Scotiabank Place on February 7, 2013 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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PHT already touched on the Florida Panthers falling to the Calgary Flames on Friday, but in tandem with the Ottawa Senators losing to the Carolina Hurricanes, it makes for a night of teams failing to gain valuable points out East.

With the Montreal Canadiens failing lately, the Senators had a chance to take first place in the Atlantic by tying the Habs in points while holding games in hand. Instead, they’ll need to wait.

For the sake of simplicity, here are the Atlantic rankings, with emphasis on the top five.

1. Canadiens – 72 points in 61 games played
2. Senators – 70 in 59
3. Maple Leafs – 68 in 60

Bruins – 68 in 61
Panthers – 66 in 60
Sabres and Lightning have 62 in 60, Red Wings have 58 in 60

You can see the Panthers hanging around the perimeter of the top three; a point or two would have made them a bigger threat to Toronto and Boston. Alas, even with a heavier slate of home games lately, Florida has lost two straight at home.

Here’s an updated look at the wild card races after the Panthers failed to make up some ground:

1. Blue Jackets – 79 in 58, more concerned with Metro races
2. Islanders – 68 in 60

Bruins – 68 in 61
Panthers – 66 in 60
Flyers – 63 in 60

Tiebreaker situations would have meant that the Panthers would have ended tonight technically outside of the playoffs anyway, but a win or even a “charity point” congests an already snug situation. Instead, they stayed put and wasted a game.

Ottawa’s still in a solid situation to overtake Montreal or at least maintain a round of home-ice advantage as the second seed in the Atlantic. So while both teams are kicking themselves for their losses, the Panthers have more to be upset about.

Ultimately, some of the biggest winners in the East were teams that didn’t play or that have a lot less to play for.

(Perhaps the Hurricanes feel a little more optimistic, by the way, as 58 points in 57 games played means they could at least theoretically fight their way back into the discussion.)

Road warriors: Flames move to first West wild card spot with win vs. Panthers

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 24: Troy Brouwer #36 of the Calgary Flames celebrates his second period goal against the Florida Panthers with Lance Bouma #17 and Matt Stajan #18 at the BB&T Center on February 24, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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The road has been doing both the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers quite a bit of good lately.

Calgary moved to the first wild card spot on Friday after beating the Panthers in Florida by a score of 4-2. So far, they’ve grabbed at least a point in every game during a road trip that ends in Carolina on Sunday:

Feb. 18: 2-1 OT loss at Vancouver
Feb. 21: 6-5 OT win at Nashville
Feb. 23: 3-2 win at Tampa Bay
Tonight: 4-2 win at Florida

You can’t totally blame the Panthers if they almost miss their road trip.

They rattled off five straight wins through what seemed like a brutal road haul on paper, but now they’ve lost back-to-back home games in regulation. With five of six and six of seven slated in Sunrise, the Panthers need to make the most of these opportunities. So far … not so good.

Here’s how the West wild card situations look now:

1. Flames – 68 points in 62 GP
2. Predators – 67 points in 60 GP

Kings – 62 in 60 GP
Jets – 62 in 63 GP

(The Blues could easily slip below the Predators into the wild card spot, as they also have 67 points in 60 games but hold wins and ROW tiebreaker advantages.)

So, Calgary might not manage to maintain its hold over the first wild card spot, but this streak makes a playoff berth look far more likely.

Capitals could make home-ice advantage a serious edge in playoffs

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 01: Brett Connolly #10 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his goal with teammates against the Boston Bruins during the third period at Verizon Center on February 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Look, there’s no escaping the naysayers who will dismiss just about any Washington Capitals accomplishments with snark about past playoff letdowns.

All the Capitals can do is march forward and lock down as many edges as they can.

With 89 standings points after a tight 2-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday, the Capitals look increasingly likely to have home-ice advantage either through the East (seven-point edge on the Penguins or the entire playoffs (five-point edge on idle Wild, who only hold a game in hand on the Caps).

Now, it’s fair to argue that home-ice (or home-court) advantage matters less in hockey than some other sports. Sure, you can line-match more often with the last change, among other advantages. Still, the biggest edges might be mental.

That said … those small edges might be enough for a team as loaded – and with as much urgency – as this rendition of the Capitals.

Heeding the call at the Verizon Center

They’ve now won 13 games in a row at the Verizon Center, improving their overall home record to 25-5-1.

The Capitals are still a strong team on the road (16-7-6), yet that home record is lofty. It also could come in awfully handy, particularly if they face off against the Penguins again. Pittsburgh’s 24-4-3 home mark contrasts sharply with a more modest 13-10-5 road record.

Perhaps this talk is all small potatoes. Still, when you consider how close things have been – in this age of parity, and in the extremely competitive Metropolitian Division specifically – it could be quite the edge.

In short, the Capitals are a pretty scary group possibly with home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. At least as of right now.

As far as the Oilers go, they’re locked in a tight race for second in the Pacific, as the Ducks currently hold the ROW tiebreaker. Grabbing at least a standings point in this one would have helped … but that’s a tall order against the Caps in their own backyard.

It wasn’t all good news for Washington, tonight:

Loss vs. Pens at Stadium Series could push Flyers to sell at trade deadline

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  Chris Pryor, Director of Scouting (R), and Ron Hextall General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers (L) sit at their team table on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Is a cross-state, historic NHL rivalry not enough to drum up interest in Saturday’s 2017 Stadium Series between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins? Maybe a trade deadline hook will do it for you.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi reports, Flyers GM Ron Hextall already rules his team out as buyers. That leaves two options, really: standing pat or going into “sell mode.”

Hextall provides an interesting nugget in that regard: it might just come down to what happens against the Penguins tomorrow, via NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman:

It seems odd to imagine that the difference between generating zero versus two standings points might dictate a team’s direction, but it also shows the power of parity in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Granted, it’s not like Hextall locks himself into one direction based on the result. Still, it sounds like that game could have some power in swaying his decision.

The Flyers have some interesting trade chips if they do decide to make a move. Michal Neuvirth fears being moved, while Steve Mason at least needs a new contract, leaving their goaltending future up to question.

There are some other interesting UFAs, particularly in defensemen Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto.

Some Flyers fans believe that they should indeed be sellers, though it’s tough to imagine many of them rooting for the Penguins to win just to make it happen.