Analyzing the Flyers Cap Situation with Schlemko Bought Out
July 1st is almost here. With it comes joyous celebration for our neighbors to the north, and brings 31 NHL franchises the opportunity to make massive financial commitments that usually wind up regrettable. Years ago, teams were free to spend as much as they chose. However, the salary cap, instituted in 2005, has made these decisions much more complicated.
CapFriendly is one of the best resources you can find for salary cap and player contract information. According to the trusty website, the Philadelphia Flyers have spent just under $66 million out of the $81.5 million cap for the 2019-20 campaign. That number just went down a bit with the Flyers buying out defenseman David Schlemko.
Many casual fans may not have even realized Schlemko was ever a Flyer. He was acquired as part of the Dale Weise trade from Montreal and played all of his 18 games in the organization with the Phantoms. Schlemko was supposed to be making $2.1 million for this year; however, the Flyers could bury him in the AHL, cutting his cap hit in half. Instead, they will pay a $900,000 penalty this year, and $600,000 the next.
To fill the depth role that Schlemko would have fulfilled, Nate Prosser, a depth defenseman with the Wild who Fletcher signed out of the WCHA, is reportedly being targeted by the Flyers. Prosser spent last year bouncing between the NHL and AHL, and could be a fine depth player on a two-way contract (or cheap one-way deal) in the minors. Even if signed, Prosser will almost certainly not have any impact on the Flyers cap situation - any contract worth less than $1.025 million cap be buried in the AHL with no cap penalty.
While $15.6 sounds like a lot of cap space to have (and it is), that number is going to go down soon. The Flyers still have four restricted free agents without a contract. Nicholas Aube-Kubel likely won't command much and could very well be a Phantom for most off, if not all of next year. Scott Laughton, coming off a career-high 32 point season, probably will not get much more than $2 million either. Neither will hardly break the bank.
The other two RFAs are the key. Travis Konecny has been one of the Flyers most consistent forwards over the last two years, recording back-to-back 24 goal seasons. Ivan Provorov leads the Flyers in time on ice in that span, and though he struggled last year, he is just one removed from a 17-goal season that tied the NHL lead amongst defenseman. Both are very good players who will command upwards of $4 million (more in Provorov's case) on a bridge deal, and even more long-term.
Evolving Wild is another great source for cap related information. The twin brothers that run the account have created a model to determine contract projections for all free agents this summer. The model, which takes into account age, production, free agent status and more, creates what it feels is the most likely contract for any given player.
The model projects Ivan Provorov to sign a 6-year deal worth just over $6.6 million (we'll round to make it easier). Konecny, on the other hand, comes it at a 2-year deal worth about $3.3 million. To round things add, we'll add in the 2-year, $1.7 million deal predicted for Laughton.
Those three add up to $11.6 million, leaving the Flyers with about $4 million in cap space heading into free agency. That takes the Flyers out of the running for all of the top free agents, unless they were to trade another roster player with a large enough cap hit to make a difference. Shayne Gostisbehere, who makes $4.5 million, has been in tons of rumors so far, but it still feels like moving him would be a mistake. It seems unlikely Fletcher gets more value in a trade involving the Ghost.
As of now, the Flyers only obvious weakness is third ling right wing. There are plenty of internal options that could solve that problem. Joel Farabee and Morgan Frost are both former first round picks with tons of skill and speed - both project as future stars. Frost is a year older and is more bulked up than last year. German Rubtsov is a smart two-way forward who could slot in as well. And NAK and Mikhail Vorobyev both got NHL reps a year ago and could be solid in a bottom-six role.
If they look to free agency, there are still some cheap options the Flyers could fit in. Brett Connolly is coming off a career-high 24 goals with Washington. Joonas Donskoi (my preferred choice) has a solid scoring and play-driving track record. Tyler Ennis is small, but has speed and can score a little. Colin Wilson is a solid veteran with a good two-way game. All four (and others) could be effective options.
If Chuck Fletcher looks to the trade block to fill the void instead, there are new options. It's a lot harder to know exactly who's available. However, one name that has been consistently in rumors, and that I think would be a good fit, is Toronto's Connor Brown.
Brown scored 20 goals as a rookie in 16-17, but his usage (and therefore numbers) have dropped the last two years because of the Leafs' stacked lineup. He has played in every single Leafs game over the last three years, too. The best part? Brown makes just $2.1 million this year, and is an RFA in the summer, allowing the Flyers to keep beyond this year if they choose. The asking price shouldn't be very high since Brown is coming off a down year and everybody knows the Leafs are in cap trouble.
While buying out Schlemko does not save much money (only $125K if the Flyers were to bury him in the AHL instead), it does signify that maybe Chuck Fletcher isn't done just yet. The Flyers have been one of the busiest teams in the NHL to this point, eating up cap space at a rapid pace. It's possible the Flyers sit July 1 out and trust the one of the many kids is ready to make the jump. But if we've learned one thing so far this summer - don't count Chuck Fletcher out just yet.