Bad contracts hurting Flyers as much as underperforming players

Image c/o Frank Fimmano

Image c/o Frank Fimmano

Today is a knee-jerk day, where reactions from fans and writers alike are calling for the heads of every skater on this team. It is time to take a step back and catch our collective breath. Let’s remember that this is a transitional year and that fans need to take Ron Hextall’s approach of being patient and waiting for the future.

Yes, Brayden Schenn has been inconsistent. So has [insert name of almost any other player here]. Could they be traded? Probably. Would you get full value for these players? It’s tough to say considering that Hextall would not be dealing from a position of strength.

Putting the team’s poor play aside, one reason Hextall’s back is against the wall is because of the mess he inherited from Paul Holmgren, as it was perfectly stated by Elliotte Friedman on Sportsnet 960 this morning.

The Flyers are eating roughly $9 million in dead cap space to play Vincent Lecavalier five minutes a night and to bury Andrew MacDonald in the AHL. That’s painful and plays a big factor into the limited cap space the team has available (~$670k). As a result, the team does not even have the option of bringing up prospects like Shayne Gostisbehere from the AHL to tweak the lineup.

Hextall is not without fault, though. He dealt Scott Hartnell away for RJ Umberger and rushed to re-sign the borderline sixth defensemen, Nick Schultz, to a contract extension. That’s just about another $7 million out the window.

Between these four players who add a minimum of nothing to a maximum of very little to this team, $16 million is just gone. Poof. That’s enough money to sign two superstars or four pretty good players.

The end result of this is a season where the team is just stuck where it is this season. They’ll have ups and downs. There will be bad slumps like this one.

And so it goes. The team will likely miss the playoffs and there’s nothing Ron Hextall can really do about it. Everyone just needs to wait for the slump to end. This is admittedly very frustrating. If the team was not so cap strapped, there would be room to make moves and add complementary role players. If the Flyers had that ability, nobody would be concerned about trading Brayden Schenn, Michael Raffl, Matt Read or Wayne Simmonds. Nobody would have to cringe at the thought of Schenn and Lecavalier on the same line.

Instead, Hextall would have had the money to add depth players in the offseason at reasonable prices that bolstered the lineup. It is reasonable to assume that, with a deeper team, these Flyers would not be so exposed and would produce on a more consistent basis. Nobody would be left hung out to dry.

The good news is that the Flyers have five players who will be unrestricted free agents and three who will be restricted at the end of this season and none of the players are absolutely essential to the future of this team. If they are not traded first, Luke Schenn and Sam Gagner will walk. Mark Streit is a prime candidate to be traded at the deadline. It is hard to believe Radko Gudas and Brandon Manning will be back either.

Hello there, $13.67 million in cap space! With that kind of money, the Flyers could afford to buyout Lecavalier and even Umberger if they felt it necessary. Sure, those roster spots need to be filled but it’s nice to know there are prospects like Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov just waiting to fill them.

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