Today was the day the Flyers had to take Michael Leighton off Long-Term Injury. After sending him on a conditioning stint and getting an extension, the Flyers had no choice but to return him to the active roster today. They could not do that, though, without making a move. Instead of making the smart move, they decided to make two instead.
First, as Chuck Gormley reported, the Flyers activated Matt Walker on Friday, pushing their active roster to 23 players. In order to activate Leighton and stay at the maximum 23 player roster, Paul Holmgren announced today that Matt Walker would likely go on Injured Reserve, removing him from the 23 man roster.
The problem, though, is that the Flyers would still be over the salary cap. So the team opted to place Ian Laperriere on the Long-Term Injured Reserve. What is important to remember here, is that this move does not take Laperriere off the Flyers salary cap. Instead, it gives the Flyers an exception up to his amount.
Because of this, the Flyers daily cap hit will not change. They will continue spending $4,071 over the salary cap every single day the roster stays as is. With Ian Laperriere out indefinitely, this means the club will be over the cap indefinitely. What gets interesting is the language used in the CBA.
Now, I'm not an expert on the CBA. But let's try and dive into it, try to understand it, and see if we can't figure some things out. According to Article 50.10(d)(ii):
The Player Salary and Bonuses of the Player that has been deemed unfit-to-play shall continue to be counted toward the Club's Averaged Club Salary...
This just means what was said above: Ian Laperriere's $6,272 daily cap hit still counts against the cap, keeping the Flyers $4,071 over the cap every day. But 50.10(d)(iii) starts to get interesting:
The total replacement Player Salary and Bonuses for a Player or Players that have replaced an unfit-to-play Player may not in the aggregate exceed the amount of the Player Salary and Bonuses of the unfit-to-play Player who the Club is replacing;
This seems fine, as I read it to mean the Flyers cannot place Laperriere on LTIR, then go get someone who makes more, in the aggregate, than Laperriere makes. BUT, look at the next section, subsection (iv):
The replacement Player Salary and Bonuses for any Player(s) that replace(s) an unfit-to-play Player may be added to the Club's Averaged Club Salary until such time as the Club's Averaged Club Salary reaches the Upper Limit...
Well, carrying 25 players (counting the 22 who were in Boston on Saturday, plus Leighton, Walker, and Laperriere) puts the Flyers already above the Upper Limit. This is just a prelude, since the Flyers don't have any cap space to start counting the "replacement" player. Continue:
A Club may then exceed the Upper Limit due to the addition of replacement Player Salary and Bonuses of Players who have replaced an unfit-to-play Player, provided, however, that when the unfit-to-pay Player is once again fit to play...
I cut that off since a) it's unlikely that Ian Laperriere becomes fit to play this season; b) even if he does, it's unlikely the Flyers determine Laperriere is fit to play; and c) it takes a long time for that section to say the team is then required to get under the cap.
What I take out of that section illustrated above is: The Flyers will still count Laperriere's salary against their cap hit, but they will be allowed to exceed the cap through replacement players up to the amount of Laperriere's aggregate salary. But those "replacement players" also have their aggregate salary counted.
It is at this point where I ask, does anybody disagree with this statement? Using the logic above, let's put some numbers to this then:
Since the Flyers are already above the Upper Limit - by $4,071 per day, or $757,206 over the course of the season - they should be found to already be using "replacement players" under the LTIR exception, with an "aggregate salary" of at least $757,206. I use "at least" because this is the amount over the cap, not including the amount up to the cap. This was okay though, while they had an LTIR cushion of up to $1.55 million due to Michael Leighton. Now that he's off and Ian Laperriere is on, that maximum amount becomes $1.167 million.
Put in terms of the daily cap - which is how it is officially calculated - by having Michael Leighton on LTIR, the Flyers were able to spend UP TO Leighton's $8,333 daily cap hit over the salary cap. They took advantage of this by spending $4,071 over. They are still spending $4,071 over, but instead of having $8,333 of excused overages per day, they will now have Laperriere's daily cap hit, which only allows them to exceed the Upper Limit by up to $6,272 per day.
Before, the Flyers were able to afford Eric Wellwood's $3,118 daily cap hit because the "replacement players" aggregate cap hit was less than $8,333 over the daily cap hit (take the $4,071 plus Wellwoo'd $3,118 and you get $7,189). Now that the Flyers will only be able to spend $6,272 over the daily cap hit - and they're already spending $4,071 per day over the cap - the Flyers will no longer be able to afford Eric Wellwood without removing more salary.
Now, I know that's probably confusing, but let's recap: The Flyers have been spending $4,071 more than the cap every day this year, but were able to do so because they had an LTIR cushion of $8,333 per day, due to Michael Leighton being on LTIR. With Leighton returning and Laperriere going on LTIR, they can now go over the salary cap by $6,272 per day. With the $4,071 in overages continuing - because nobody's contract has been removed - the Flyers now can only increase their daily spending by $2,201.
The NHL's league minimum salary for 2010-11 is $500,000. That's equal to a $2,688 daily cap hit, or $487 more than the Flyers can afford.
With this move, the Flyers have effectively prevented themselves from being able to afford anybody not already on the roster. Not a problem, right? With Jody Shelley suspended for two games, if any forward gets the flu and cannot play in those games, the Flyers will have to dress Oskars Bartulis as the 12th forward. They can't afford to call anybody up without making another move.
So I ask: Why must the Flyers insist on paying Matt Walker to not play? They didn't solve any problem by placing Ian Laperriere on LTIR, since all they did was barely get in compliance with the salary cap. Must the team hang onto their $1.7 million 8th defensemen, even with Danny Syvret, Erik Gustafsson, Kevin Marshall, and many others behind him? Is Walker three times as good as any of those, warranting three times the cap hit?
Something tells me Flyers Assistant General Manager Barry Hanrahan will disagree with these numbers, but until someone can explain how the Flyers can go over the daily cap by more than the amount they have LTIR, I will disagree with them.