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.