The Philadelphia Flyers find themselves at the top of the news cycle today after signing defenseman Travis Sanheim to a new deal prior to arbitration. It’s an important deal for the team, as they’ve assured one of their best young players is under contract for the next two seasons.
But with his $4.675MM cap hit come some financial consequences for the Eastern Conference squad. The signing puts them roughly $650,000 over the salary cap Upper Limit of $81.5MM. While perfectly legal during the offseason, Philadelphia won’t be able to carry a full 23-man roster into the season as it stands. The good news is that the team and general manager Chuck Fletcher have two main options to become cap-compliant, but each of those carries some consequences of its own.
The easiest option would be to purely not carry the full 23-man roster with three healthy scratches. Philadelphia has three fringe players, all forwards, currently listed on the 23-man roster who aren’t waiver-eligible: Tanner Laczynski, Jackson Cates, and Morgan Frost. It’s easy enough to send one or two of these younger players down to the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms, creating a cap-compliant opening night roster for Philadelphia. But there’s a certain risk that comes with the convenience of the situation, most notably demonstrated last season by a similar salary cap dance performed by the Vegas Golden Knights. Since having a 22-man roster with just one of these players sent down still only leaves them with $200,000 to $300,000 in cap space, a barrage of short-term injuries could easily force Philadelphia to ice a shorthanded game roster of fewer than 18 skaters. However, if Fletcher feels as though it’s a risk he’s willing to take in order to maintain the strength of his current healthy roster, it’s still a very viable course of action for the Flyers.
The more complex and unlikely option is an additional trade. The Flyers already made one large cap-clearing transaction this summer, dealing Jakub Voracek to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Cam Atkinson. But as additional relief is needed after Sanheim’s contract, both James van Riemsdyk and/or Travis Konecny could find their way back onto the trade block. Konecny was rumored heavily to be on the move over the past few seasons after falling out of favor at times with head coach Alain Vigneault. His younger age and lower cap hit as compared to van Riemsdyk would likely make him the more attractive option in a trade for teams looking to deal. van Riemsdyk carries significant upside of his own, though, despite his age. He’s still an extremely competent scorer, potting 43 points in 56 games this season. His $7MM cap hit could be tough to swallow for some teams, though, unless it’s more of a true hockey trade like the Voracek deal.
What’s for certain is that Philadelphia will need to make a few changes before they’re ready to go for opening night. While the scale of these are unknown, Philadelphia will look to enter the 2021-22 season with a much-needed refresh to the team’s roster.
All salary cap figures come from CapFriendly.com.