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.