Let's Play Hide The Contract
I’m relatively busy today, but I had a thought last evening that I wanted to put into words this morning, albeit briefly.
Lost amidst the Shea Weber discussion is the fact that the Philadelphia Flyers sit $7,806,627 below the salary cap, according to CapGeek.com. Weber’s contract comes with a $7.857 million cap hit.
It’s not difficult to see the contract puts the Flyers over the salary cap for the moment, and here’s the kicker: they still have to re-sign restricted free agent Jakub Voracek, who could command as much as $3 or $4 million based on going rates around the league.
The math just doesn’t add up.
That is, until you realize what the Flyers plan to do to free up cap space.
It’s widely known that Chris Pronger’s recovery from a concussion is not going well and that his career is likely over. Being that Pronger’s contract kicked in after his 35th birthday, the Flyers will remain on the hook for his entire cap hit whether he plays out his contract or retires.
The Flyers plan to have Pronger do neither.
Playing out the contract isn’t an option, and retiring would mean Pronger doesn’t get paid the balance of the money he is owed.
Instead, they’ll place him on Long-Term Injured Reserves (LTIR), which will allow the team to exceed the salary cap by his $4,921,429 cap hit — coincidentally, enough to re-sign Voracek and have enough buffer space for in-season transactions.
While this maneuver is well within the rules of the league’s current collective bargaining agreement, the way the Flyers plan to use it is a clear example of cap circumvention that should be scrutinized in the ongoing labor discussions.
LTIR should be for players who have a future in the NHL, for players that anticipate playing the game of hockey again.
In Pronger’s case, that seems far from likely.
To me, LTIR should come with an expiration — especially for players who sign over-35 contracts — as it becomes a very easy way to play “hide the contract.”
Pronger has five years left on his contract that, when signed, was curious at best. Discussion at the time was that Pronger wouldn’t play out the contract, but that the Flyers would be saddled with his cap hit.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that will be the case, and with Comcast’s big bank account, paying Pronger his annual salary won;t be an issue.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a loophole the Flyers are smart enough to exploit — and they should.
But it’s time the NHL takes a look at LTIR and puts a one-year limit on it. Anything longer and it’s just rule circumvention.