DeNicola's Dekes: Injuries & Compliance Buyouts

by Michael DeNicola


Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013



Injuries:


The keys to being successful through this abbreviated season revolve around a roster's depth and ability to stay healthy. Right out of the gates, our Philadelphia Flyers have already been hobbled by injuries, and I'm not just talking about Chris Pronger -- who's been on the LTIR shelf since early last season with post-concussion syndrome. 


Injuries are every part of sports as their respective fields of battle. In hockey, it's no different. It's how a team faces the adversity that builds its winning character, or its tragic road to annihilation. 


Right now it's entirely too early to tell where the Flyers stand. Perhaps they're teetering on the fine line between overcoming their IR affliction and resigning fate, but one thing's for sure.... we'll have to clamor through a tough schedule, in a condensed amount of time, without a couple of monarch players. 


Scott Hartnell will not see the ice for another 4 - 6 weeks while nursing a surgically repaired broken foot. Andrej Meszaros will be spending a month away from an already depleted blue line due to a shoulder injury he suffered against the Rangers on the 24th. 


Our 2011-12 leading goal-scorer and one of our most utilized defensemen are gone through the hefty make-or-break meat of the schedule. 


Short of making a very cap-complicated trade, there's no replacing Scott Hartnell, only an attempt to slow the bleeding. Enter NHL veteran Mike Knuble and his freshly signed 1yr, $750K contract with the Flyers.


Knuble is a very dependable, serviceable forward. Like Hartnell, he'll spend most of his time around the opposing twine, seeking dirty goals and second-chance garbage pucks. Knuble's a big body, standing at 6'3", 240-pounds. Most of that is put to work screening the goalie, and it's tough to push Mike around deep in the slot.


As for Meszaros, his roster spot will be filled in by the recalled Andreas Lilja, who may be making his first start of the season this evening against the Rangers. 


Meszaros has puck-moving and offensive-defenseman attributes that Lilja couldn't pray on matching. Lilja's been spending the past two weeks buried in the AHL with the Phantoms, and for good reason. The 37-year old Swedish blue liner serves more as a turnstile than he does as a defenseman. As I mentioned before, our d-line is already depleted and lacking effective slot presence in our own zone. With Andreas rounding out the third pairing, look for d-men like Braydon Coburn, Niklas Grossmann, Luke Schenn and Kimo Timonen to carry the extra load.


It's no secret these injuries will affect our performance at both ends of the ice. Right now, it's a question of how our experience and discipline from the remaining key players will aid us through the dark age. 



Compliance Buyouts:


What's the definition of compliance?  The state or fact of according with or meeting rules or standards.


The NHL's latest Collective Bargaining Agreement is nothing but a hockey bible of rules and bylaws that binds the Players and Owners together. According to this CBA, in Year 2 of its 10-year lifespan, the salary cap ceiling will be lowered from its current $70.2-million figure to $64.3-million. 


Every single NHL Club must come under that number. There is a bank of teams who will have no issue abiding by that mandate, but franchises like the Philadelphia Flyers will struggle with the certainties of having to throw a couple of necks on the chopping block. 


With the newest edition of the CBA came every team's ability to use a quantity of (2) Compliance Buyouts in the upcoming 2013 offseason. The compliance buyout allows a team to buy out a player's contract without incurring the contract's hit on the club's salary cap. [The Blueshirts Blog]


By the end of this League Year, influential chunks come off the books. Players such as Jody Shelley ($1.1M AAV), Matt Walker ($1.7M AAV), and Ruslan Fedotenko ($1.750M AAV). However, the biggest subtraction from the Flyers salary after this season is Kimmo Timonen, who carries a sizable $6,333,333 cap hit against the Club.


With the names mentioned, that's a combined 10,883,333 in Cap Dollars saved, bringing us under the Year 2, $64.3-million ceiling by 6,580,525 Cap Dollars (given the present numbers on CapGeek).


That's assuming none of those previously stated players re-sign with the Flyers. Not to mention low budget upcoming free agents like Zac Rinaldo, Tom Sestito, Brian Boucher, Michael Leighton, Kurtis Foster, Andreas Lilja, and Mike Knuble don't extend their stay here either. 


What am I getting at?


This team is going to need all the cap room they can possibly muster. We're built for the future in players like Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier who each become a free agent before the start of the 2014-15 League Year. Re-signing these three talents must be this franchise's top priority.


Ilya Bryzgalov may be having a damn fine start to the 2012-13 season, but his annual average salary ($5,666,667 AAV) is a crippling factor unless he becomes a consistent game-changing backstop. His contract goes on until the year 2020. Right now, Bryzgalov is a very good goalie who's being paid like an elite one. Considering the upcoming drop in the salary cap and the fact that this Club must comply with the ceiling, it'd behoove our organization to use a compliance buyout on Ilya's contract this summer. We simply do not have the time to sit around and hope Bryz morphs into a shutdown Philadelphia netminder.


Danny Briere chews on our salary cap the most of any Flyer. 


Ol' Danny Boy sports a $6.5-million cap hit that doesn't run out until after 2014-15. That's two seasons from now, not including this one. By that time, Briere will be the graying age of 37. Does it make any sense at all for a player in his twilight hockey years to be a potential threat against re-signing Sean Couturier? Brayden Schenn? Or worse -- Claude Giroux? 


I know Mr. Playoffs is a fan favorite in this town. The mention of his departure will probably cost me readers. But like my suggestion with buying out Bryzgalov's contract, these two players getting the compliance axe this summer is strictly a business decision, and one that puts us in a more flexible circumstance down the road. 


It's nothing personal. 


So, if Bryzgalov gets bought out, who do I allege gets his spot in the cage? My answer is simple -- I don't know. This team has a lot of needs (quite the understatement), but I prioritize them according to what benefits the Flyers the most while perpetuating along the immutable laws of the CBA. 



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