Maxime Talbot

Flyers’ summer of zaniness continues as rumors float that Max Talbot’s deal violates the CBA


More and more, it’s starting to feel like the Philadelphia Flyers’ front office might actually resemble a laboratory for mad scientists. I went on a limb during the playoffs while arguing in favor of their big picture approaches about building hockey teams only to see them throw logic out the window like shredded paper at a ticker tape parade during this off-season.

After trading away Jeff Carter and Mike Richards while taking a huge risk on Ilya Bryzgalov, it seemed like the Flyers might be capable of anything during this free agent weekend. They certainly didn’t disappoint, either, signing Jaromir Jagr and Maxime Talbot to deals that seemed to antagonize their in-state rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins as much as they improved their team. (Quick aside: the Jagr deal is the better move, in my opinion, because it’s only a short-term risk.)

Of course, when it comes to the Flyers, the drama never seems to stop. TSN’s Gord Murphy points out that Talbot’s relatively modest five-year, $9 million deal could violate the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Here’s a quick summary of the structure of Talbot’s new deal in salary form (it would be a $1.8 million cap hit) with the offending span in bold.

2011-12 salary: $2.5 million
2012-13 salary: $2.25 million
2013-14 salary: $2.25 million
2014-15 salary: $1 million
2015-16 salary: $1 million

SBN Philly’s Geoff Detweiler explains why the 2014-15 salary drop could violate the CBA and why it shouldn’t be a big issue if the NHL decides to void the deal.

Briefly, according to Article 50.7 of the CBA, a player cannot have their salary decrease from year to year by more than half the amount of their first two year’s salaries. In the reported Talbot contract, he has a salary of $2.25 million in the second year, but sees his salary decrease from $2.25 million in the third year to $1 million in the fourth year. That $1.25 million decrease is more than half the amount of the lowest salary during the first two years.

While this is clearly a problem, it is relatively easy to fix. If true, the NHL will void Talbot’s contract and make him a free agent again. At which point, the Flyers can simply offer him another five-year, $9 million contract, but this time have him make $2.5 million each of the first two years, and $2 million the third (rather than $2.5 million the first, $2.25 million each of the next two.) Same cap hit, same length, same dollar amount, same two-year bookend.

Either way, it’s a pretty embarrassing mistake by the Flyers and it’s not the first time they’ve … struggled with the CBA. The franchise signed Chris Pronger to what they thought would be a loophole deal during the 2010 off-season, only there was an issue: his deal is a 35+ contract. If Pronger decides to retire once his salary shifts down to $525K per year in 2015-16 and 16-17 – which seems like a safe bet, but not a guarantee – the Flyers would still deal with his $4.92 million cap hit.

The league will generate a new CBA after the 2011-12 season (and maybe bail the Flyers and other teams out of these types of mistakes), but fundamental mistakes with Talbot and Pronger’s deals make you really wonder how carefully teams structure contracts. Unlike Pronger’s potentially problematic 35+ deal, the Talbot gaffe will probably just be a trivial but embarrassing blunder, though.

We’ll let you know if the NHL forces the Flyers to tear up that contract at all, but either way, Philly’s front office might look a little wacky again. They shouldn’t sweat it, though: it’s all harmless fun in the grand scheme of things.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”