As the Flyers await a series ultimatum Friday, front office officials know that, regardless of the outcome of the game, the team may be flying their last magic carpeto ride. Financially, the salary cap numbers spell out one phrase: do or die. Should Philadelphia fail to advance deep into the playoffs, they will be forced to abandon ship.
One of the factors leading to the Flyers downward spiral will be the decline in play of forwards Scott Hartnell and Vincent Lecavalier. Both are on the wrong side of thirty, and have shown clear signs of age. Lecavalier has been nullified for much of the playoff series, and Hartnell has aggravated fans with his lack of effectiveness on the ice. Lecavalier, 34, did record an assist in the second game of the series; however, a player earning $4.5 million per year—fourteen percent of the total forward cap hits—needs to record more than a single point in the three biggest games of the year. In the future, Lecavalier’s salary will continue to have an impact with the Flyers cap flexibility, as they move to extend the contracts of their younger attackers.
Likewise, Hartnell, who occupies over fifteen percent of the forward salary, will block the Flyers in their efforts to keep their young guns around. The only solution would be to trade one of the two(if not both), but their poor performances will ground Lecavalier and Hartnell(1 assist in the series) in Philadelphia.
The proverbial elephant in the room has to be the short commitment made to the Flyer future. Jak Voracek, Michael Raffl, Sean Couturier, and Brayden Schenn are all within three years of free agency. In a sport like hockey, players can acquire short shelf lives if they accumulate too many lasting injuries such as concussions and leg injuries. Players in the NHL are always seeking security, and the agents of these fine young men will be calling general manager Paul Holmgren with contract offers as soon as this summer. The most feasible result is that the Flyers extend some, but not all of their rising stars.
Even if Homer is able to wield his magical pen and recreate the magic of the Odyssey, the Flyers will be pinned to the roof of the salary cap. Assuming Voracek gains $500,000 from his new deal, Couturier $1.25 million, Schenn $3 million, and Raffl $1.5 million, the salary cap would encumber a 20% increased hit once the contracts are negotiated. Not accounting for the likely raises for forward Jason Akeson, who could command $1.5 million more once he hits restricted free agency this offseason, it’s clear that the Flyers can’t maintain their forward depth for too long.
If the cap remains around $71 million by the time these deals are done, the Flyers would be in danger of exceeding the limit significantly. Thus, the 2014 playoff run may well be the last rodeo for this team. Four forward lines this deep may never be seen again, and it would be a shame to see the lowly Rangers end a possibly prolific playoff attack.
Note: all statistical figures included have been verified through various sources.