Archive of Orange and Black Pack Articles

by Michael DeNicola

Friday, May 24, 2013 --

On Thursday afternoon, the orange & black galaxy erupted over a piece of news that really isn't news. Hockey's lifestyle magazine, The Fourth Period, reported that according to "a source close to the situation, TFP has learned that the Flyers are planning on buying out Briere's contract this summer." [TFP, Article]

As you all know, under the latest labor agreement, each NHL organization has been granted a quantity of two (2) compliance buyouts which may be used between 2013-June, 15 through 2013-June 30, and 2014-June 15 through 2013-June 30. In fact, any ordinary-course buyout can only be spent in these intervals of every League Year. Compliance buyouts (or also known as "amnesties") follow the same breadth and formula of an ordinary-course buyout but do not count against a team's sum of average annual value (salary cap payroll).

When the NHL and Players' Union finally came to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement, the public was made aware of these two compliance buyouts. To Philadelphia Flyers fans, there was no bigger candidate than the aging forward, Danny Briere. 

Briere's average annual value is 6.5-million cap dollars; what are cap dollars? 

In the summer of 2007, GM Paul Holmgren sought after the League's biggest unrestricted free agent, Danny Briere. Holmgren threw an enormous front-loaded proposal in front of Danny, who instantly accepted. This contract was worth 8-years, and a grand total of $52-million in salary. 

Now, a player's cap hit (average annual value) is calculated by taking the total sum of monies (52) and dividing that number by the length of the contract (8). Thus, the newly acquired free agent forward leaned heavily against our salary cap at 6,500,000 cap dollars.

Fast forward six years later -- Danny's still commanding that much off the salary cap. What's wrong with this picture? Well, four things, really....

  1. Briere's production has plummeted like an iron balloon over the last two seasons. His subpar points totals and streaky performances aren't anywhere near worthy of a $6.5m AAV. Regardless if he may a fan favorite among the Philadelphia populace, money always comes first.... and Briere's sucking a boat load of cap dollars like a collapsing, dying star in space.
  2. Briere's age -- the man is 35 years old, and turning 36 before the 2013-14 regular season gets underway. It's blatantly obvious that, at this point in his career, he's on a very steep decline. There are no signs that he'll return to 25+ goals/season form. And to be honest, the Flyers cannot afford to flirt with time. Which leads me to...
  3. The cap ceiling is dropping from the current $70.2m to $64.3m beginning next League Year (July 1, 2013). As it stands today, by that time the Flyers will have a 25 man roster, a $70,737,262 cap payroll, and projected cap space of negative-$3,269,762. Paul Holmgren and the rest of the Flyers management have one HELL of an offseason headache to push through this summer. Taking a seat above all other concern is the fact that each NHL team must be cap compliant; they have no choice. It HAS to happen. So, the Flyers will be forced to shed some weight this offseason. And if you're going to shed weight, you start with that heavy, bulbous beer gut first -- the largest of contracts.
  4. Let's not forget about the future. I'm talking about the coming seasons after 2013-14 when very important pieces of the team are up for contract extensions. Players like Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Matt Read, and even Tye McGinn and Zac Rinaldo are all due to become restricted free agents. Buying out Danny Briere's contract, which has two more seasons under its belt, would free up the base capital that could absorb two or three of these players' newest AAV's. 

I know what you may be thinking; 'The salary cap ceiling is due to rise after next season, and should continue to annually rise over the life of the newest collective bargaining agreement.'

Theoretically, yes, that's correct. And I'd almost guarantee that it will, but I'm no expert in hockey economics. The NHL's salary cap is completely dependent on hockey-related revenue (HRR). 

What is HRR? The CBA creates a fixed relationship between the League's revenues and the amount that is available to be paid out to players. Basically, "hockey related revenues" is the money that is generated from revenue streams that are directly or indirectly related to the playing of NHL games, including ticket sales, concession sales, broadcasting agreements, etc. In addition, if player's names and likenesses are used (video games, etc), they will participate in those revenue streams as well. [Dave Manuel,]

So, basically, the stronger the HRR, the higher the salary cap ceiling will be the following season. This should explain why the NHL's decided to implement six outdoor games in 2013-14, but that's another discussion for another day. 

Anyways, due to the 2012-13 season being cut short by the latest work stoppage, the 2013-14 (Year 2 of the CBA) salary cap will take a cut as the League, the Owners and Players recover from the lockout. It's simple economics. 

And since the Philadelphia Flyers habitually operate at (and sometimes over) the cap ceiling, changes will have to be made to their salary books, starting immediately this offseason. These situations are exactly why the NHL Owners were rewarded two (2) compliance buyouts to spend, as a result from this winter's labor negotiations. 

My apologies. Sometimes I get too into detail. But like a Bob Ross painting, ya gotta take care of the background imagery before you start brushing all the happy little trees and brooks in the foreground. The more in-depth information you know, the better you can come to grips with what's probably going to happen. 

Now, after all of this, you still may have some questions floating around in your head. Questions like -- 'Why can't Danny Briere and the Philadelphia Flyers restructure his contract?'

Restructuring an NHL Player's STP (standard player contract) is completely out of the realm of possibility. The bylaws of the CBA forbids this. This is not the National Football League where a team and its players are able to revamp the terms of an existing contract that binds the player and the organization together (example: Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles). That's just simply NOT how things work in the NHL, or else Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks would have ventured through the process moons ago

Another question you may have is -- 'Okay, if the Flyers spend a compliance buyout on Briere's contract, why can't we just re-sign him immediately afterward for less money?'

Don't worry, that's a very good question. 

The CBA forbids an NHL Club of re-signing a Player they've just bought out. If Danny were to ever rejoin the orange and black, abiding by the bargaining agreement, the Flyers and Briere must wait one League Year after the contractual buyout. This prevents the NHL's general managers from taking advantage of yet another loophole. 

So, if the Philadelphia Flyers amnesty Danny Briere this June, the earliest he could re-sign with the Flyers would be when free agency opens up next July, 2014. Same goes in a trade situation; the Flyers -- for the next League Year -- will be prohibited from trading for Danny Briere during the 2013-14 season. 

Once again, even after all of this information, you still may have a lingering question; 'Alright, so why don't the Flyers just trade Danny Briere instead of burning a compliance buyout on a contract that only has two years left on it?'

Another solid question. 

Most of you know that Danny Briere's contract encompasses a strict no-movement clause (NMC); this clause prohibits the Flyers from trading Briere to anyone at any point in time of his contract, unless Briere, himself, waives his NMC under circumstances negotiated between him and the Club. 

Briere's already gone on record saying he'd prefer to play-out his contract here in Philadelphia. Being a 35-year old father of two young boys, he's already established a life here in the Philadelphia area. His kids go to school here, they've made friends here.... they're entire life is here in Philadelphia. It is incredibly unlikely that Danny Briere will waive his NMC and allow Paul Holmgren to ship him off elsewhere. 

'But if he's going to be bought out and play for someone else anyway, why not just waive the clause?'

Boy, you're a sharp tack!

Travis Hughes of Broad Street Hockey has already answered this question the best way possible; "There are probably few teams that would be interested in acquiring him via trade even despite his cap hit, but there was a reason Briere didn't waive his no-movement clause back at the trade deadline, and he's not likely to do so now. For starters, if he's bought out he'll become a free agent and will have the choice to pick from any team in the league that's interested. He'll get a new contract as well, obviously, and he'll still be making money from the Flyers. He has more control over the situation AND more money. Hard to imagine him putting that control in Paul Holmgren's hands."

I hope that covers everything. And for all you Briere lovers out there, you can still cling to fact that this is all just speculation anyway. The Fourth Period states that a "source" closest to the situation has made them aware of their plans to buy him out. But that source hasn't been revealed, nor will they be. 

Then again, knowing that the Flyers must do a lot of financial pruning this summer, Briere is more than likely going to be bought out. This isn't anything personal. Hockey is, after all, a business first above all things. And teams like the Flyers in this situation are forced to examine the highest cap hits first, weigh them against performances and projected performances, and then implement their decisions from there. 

I know Danny Briere's a good guy. Scratch that.... he's an amazing human-being. I've had the luxury of personally discovering this face-to-face. Lucky for me, a former Briere hater, I have a totally new-found perspective of the man. No one can tell you that he doesn't deserve to live out the rest of his tenure as a Philadelphia Flyer. But unfortunately this is the way it works.

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Giroux and Briere.jpg 

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