Our 37-year old captain has gone down with injury and will not return for the remainder of the regular season or the post-season.
We all heard the news last week between periods of the 4 - 3 win over Montreal. Since then, many a Flyers fan has gone to the internet bidding Pronger a safe recovery. Some have even voiced their opinion that our star defenseman should hang up the skates for good and officially retire after this league year.
To those specific few, I ask you to bite your tongue.
Though retirement is certainly a possibility for Chris, we must revisit the reasons why the re-signing of Pronger was under such scrutiny in the first place.
In the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement, there is a section describing the 35 Or Older rule which is:
Players who sign multi-year contracts when they are age 35 or older (calculated on June 30 of the season the contract begins) count toward the cap under all circumstances, regardless of where (or if) the player is playing. ~ CapGeek.com
Chris and his current contract (7-years, $34,450,00) fall under this rule. He re-signed with the Flyers before the beginning of the 2010-11 season at the veteran age of 35. Thus categorizing his contract as a Type 35-Plus Contract.
These types of contracts were implemented into the league's latest version of the CBA to prevent an NHL Club and a 35-year old (or older) Player to enter into a heavily front-loaded contract with both parties knowing the Player will NOT play the latter seasons listed in the indenture.
Basically it's the league telling its teams and participants that they're not going to get away with their wily, cockamany loopholes. If you want to sign an older gentlemen to a long-term stay in attempt to thin down his seasonal cap hit, then you better consider the risk.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the mother of all risks because it's come back to bite our front office in the ass. Hell, it may take both cheeks completely.
Pronger is signed until the end of the 2016-17 league year. If he were to retire today or after this season (according to the 35 Or Older rule) his average salary would remain against the Flyers' $64.3-Million cap as a hit.
What's his average cap hit, you ask?
That's nearly 5-million "cap dollars" spent per year on a mirage in the shape of #20. And for the next five-and-a-half years!
Okay, let me backtrack for a moment; That hit will count against our cap regardless if he stays on the roster or retires. THAT'S the penalty enforced by the CBA. Whereas (for example) if a younger player like Sidney Crosby were to retire today or after this season, his contract would be completely eliminated from the books. No ifs, and's, or buts.
So if Pronger's salary is going to continue to count against our cap, what are some ways around it?
Moving him to the minors:
Even if management was able to talk Pronger into waiving his NMC (No-Movement Clause), loaning him to the Adirondack Phantoms would only permit $100K of relief off his cap hit. So instead of seeing a $4,921,429 sum of money eating away at our space, we'd see a $4,821,429 cap hit. Not exactly a blissful answer to our inconsolable prayers.
Buyout his contract:
Well, buying out Pronger's contract "saves the team financially but does not reduce the player's cap hit," per CapGeek.com. The Flyers would wind up paying the same amount of cap dollars until 2017, but spread the actual monies owed to Chris Pronger over the course of 10 more years.
Either way, it's not practical to the Flyers' financials.
What about LTIR (long-term injured-reserve)?
Now we're getting somewhere.
Remember Ian Laperriere? Sure you do. Every male Flyers fan has a bro-crush on the guy. Well, his contract is also considered a type 35-Plus contract.
We all know he won't play another NHL game, so why didn't he retire? Exactly the same reason why Pronger shouldn't; For the benefit of the Flyers organization's salary cap.
Laperriere has been riding the LTIR for awhile now. While a player is on LTIR, the player's club is rewarded an LTI-Relief allowance. For a much more detailed definition and description, I go back and lean on CapGeek.com --
Teams receive cap relief when a player is considered to have a "bona-fide long-term injury" — injuries that cause a player to miss at least 10 games or 24 days. This is one of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of the CBA.
Just because a player is on LTIR does not automatically grant the team extra cap space. In the event a player is placed on LTIR, his cap hit still counts toward the team's overall cap payroll. Relief only comes if replacing the player's salary pushes the team's cap payroll to date over the cap. The amount of relief is limited to the amount the team has gone over the cap (less the amount of payroll room the team had at the time the LTIR transaction took place), not the entire amount of the injured player's salary.
I hope I haven't lost ya.
So as long as Chris Pronger remains on the LTIR, the Philadelphia Flyers (by the laws of the CBA) are allowed to replace Pronger with one or more players as long as the combined replacement salary does NOT exceed Chris Ponger's cap hit.
Alright, as of today (December 19, 2011) the Flyers have a total of $1,379,159 in LTIR Room. That number is not extra money the Flyers have to simply play around with. That is just what the league has allowed them to go over the $64.3-Million cap ceiling with players like Pronger, Betts, Laperriere and Gustafsson listed as bona-fide long-term injured players.
How 'bout an example?
- Let's say Team A is below the cap ceiling by exactly $1-Million ($63.3M).
- Player A plays for Team A, and his cap hit is $4-Million.
- Player A suffers an injury and is placed on LTIR.
- Team A goes out and acquires Player B from free agency to replace Player A.
- Player B's cap hit is $2-Million.
- Team A is now paying a total of $65.3-Million in salary which is $1-Million above the cap and $1-Million in LTI Relief.
It's not even close to being that easy in this case. In a perfect world my example holds true, but the Flyers do not operate in a vacuum. There's much more ins and outs than a Player A & B/Team A example.
The point is -- If you want Chris Pronger to retire, you need to put your opinion back in the oven because it ain't done yet.
Yes, riding the LTIR for the remainder of this year and the next five is (without question) the best case scenario for the Broad Street Bullies. And I use the word "best" very loosely here. There's nothing best about it.
It was basically comparing a few colossal turds and figuring out which you'd rather put in your mouth....
....you're welcome for that image