Photo credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)
Given the Flyers recent stretch of play, this series isn’t exactly about selling, but rather about clearing money for two goals. First, reactivating Kimmo Timonen in the short term and second, having money moving forward for signing other players to improve the team.
Today’s lucky mover is RJ Umberger. Umberger’s second stint with the Flyers is nowhere near his first. Umberger’s been, at best a disappointment, and at worst, a reason why the Flyers aren’t closer to a playoff spot given the drop-off in skill and performance from Scott Hartnell.
That said, for the good of the future, the Flyers need to consider moving him.
Umberger’s performance this season has been, quite frankly, bad. Despite seeing basically top 6 minutes, he barely qualifies as a fourth line player in terms of impact on possession. And he does this while carrying a contract that lasts three more years at 4.5 against the cap.
So, how do you move this guy? The answer is simple: take back a contract more toxic and damaging but actually less hurtful to your team in exchange for it. Take back: David Clarkson.
David Clarkson has probably the worst contract in the league. This isn’t in dispute. That said, if the Maple Leafs want out of so badly, Ron Hextall might actually be able to convince the Leafs that taking two less terrible shorter term contracts with no retained salary. Package Umberger with one of Lecavalier (expiring 2018), Grossmann (expiring 2016) or if you’re willing to give up an extra asset, Andrew MacDonald (expiring 2020) plus a 2nd round pick in 2016 and the Flyers could actually dump money and spread it out over term, basically executing a buyout, but keeping on a player who can, possibly, find his way onto LTIR to allow the Flyers to circumvent the buyout cap penalty.
In the short term, let’s assume Umberger+Grossmann go to Toronto for Clarkson. The Leafs will probably need to tank next season, so Grossmann and Umberger would help with that and Grossmann being an expiring deal would allow them to gain an extra asset renting him at the 2016 deadline. The Flyers would receive cap space now to activate Timonen and take a run at the playoffs. Effectively, this deal is about management of the salary cap. The Leafs get cap space when they will be ready to contend again in 2017/18 while the Flyers get short term cap space by selling off 8M-9M in cap dollars in one fell swoop. It’s effectively two teams agreeing to a trade solely to help their respective cap situations.
Also, despite the contract being terrible, Clarkson is an improvement in talent over Umberger.
Clarkson is a better possession player but just has hands of stone and is never able to actually score. He’d be no worse than Umberger in the short term and if the Flyers are “lucky” they’d be able to recoup the cap-space at the end via Long Term Injury should Clarkson get injured again.
Clarkson has a full no move, so this deal might be a pipe dream on that alone.
There is however, another scenario. Send Umberger back to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Nathan Horton. Horton’s career is likely over due to neck and back injuries. The Blue Jackets are a budget team who may want to cut payroll by ridding themselves of Horton’s contract. Remember, LTIR players still collect their salary, the team is only granted cap relief. The Flyers have money to spend, so acquiring Horton just to circumvent the cap is something that would work financially. The biggest issue with this deal is the possibility that the NHL steps in and voids it as pure cap circumvention since the Flyers would basically be buying cap space.
The final scenario, and probably the most likely is the Flyers package Umberger and a mid round pick for a 7th round pick, essentially allowing a team to move up in the draft by taking on the deal, even then, it’s likely the Flyers would have to eat some of Umberger’s salary to do this. That said, at this point, just about anything is better than Umberger on the team. As shown in the Prospect series, the Flyers could easily call on Taylor Leier, Nick Cousins or in a couple years, Radel Fazleev to fill in.