On Friday night, hours before fans lustily booed commissioner Gary Bettman at the Wells Fargo Center, the NHL released the figure of $69 million as the final cap figure for the upcoming season.
That number was $2 million less than the $71 million estimate given to the NHL Board of Governors in December, thanks to a Canadian dollar that has plummeted. The cash flow from the $4.9 billion Canadian national television rights contract won't have a positive impact on the salary cap until the 2015-16 season.
That won't help the Flyers now.
"It affects us for sure," Hextall said. "It affects every team that is close. We've got to find a way to get below it. It was a little lower than we thought and hoped."
The Flyers are already over the $69 million limit and they only have 19 players signed - 11 forwards, seven defensemen and goalie Steve Mason. They need at least two forwards, one possibly being 2012 first-round pick Scott Laughton, a defenseman and a backup goaltender.
They are $236,429 over the hard limit. That figure includes Chris Pronger's whopping $4.94 million salary-cap hit. That number will come off but should be included because Pronger will need to fit under the limit for the first day of the regular season before he can be removed for injury-exception purposes.
Claude Giroux, Matt Read, Brayden Schenn, Andrew MacDonald and Mason all received significant raises to eat away at the $5 million the cap rose this offseason.
The window to begin courting free agents began at midnight last Wednesday. Hextall said the Flyers have spoken to a few but haven't physically met with any of them - probably because they don't have the space to negotiate.
So far, the Flyers have been unsuccessful in their attempts to deal Vinny Lecavalier. Despite the Flyers' willingness to eat a bunch of his salary in a trade to perhaps Florida or Nashville, Lecavalier is due a $2 million signing bonus tomorrow, which has teams pumping the brakes.
Hextall already has granted Lecavalier's agent, Kent Hughes, permission to work out a trade.
"I'm going to repeat it again, it's an internal issue," Hextall said. "If I have something to report, I will. Otherwise, Vinny will be with us in September. I didn't expect anything to happen [during the draft]."
With so much attention focused on Lecavalier, the Flyers' better option to clear cap space is staring them in the face. Newly reacquired forward R.J. Umberger is second only to Giroux in salary-cap hit among forwards.
Umberger is a prime buyout candidate.
The Flyers do not have any compliance buyouts remaining (executed on Ilya Bryzgalov and Danny Briere in 2013), but they can still use a "regular-course" buyout.
It would cost them $9 million in cash over the next three seasons to buy out Umberger. His current $4.6 million salary-cap hit would become $1.6 million for the next 3 years, then $1.5 million for the next 3 years after that. It's an immediate cap savings of $3 million.
With that Canadian television deal kicking in, the salary cap is expected to rocket to $75 million in 2015-16. Meaning that $1.6 million in dead space due to Umberger would be an increasingly smaller drop in the bucket each year the cap grows, which it will with continuously record-setting revenues.
So, why would the Flyers buy out Umberger after just trading for him? He's a lot cheaper to buy out than Scott Hartnell, who had 2 years more left on his deal. That's a savings of $10 million in cash for a team that is now internally pulling on the purse strings. The fourth-round pick in last week's trade would just be a bonus.
Umberger was in town last week and was not given any indication he would be bought out. Players must be bought out by 5 p.m. today.
Since the Flyers are desperate to rid themselves of a bad deal, Umberger makes even more sense than Lecavalier. A bad year for Lecavalier is 20 goals; it would be a borderline career year for Umberger to climb over that mark again.
This is not an easy process for the Flyers, throwing away good money after bad, after spending many months auditing their recent hockey-operations spending. Yet, with a smaller-than-planned cap, eating a portion of a contract will be a necessity for the Flyers this summer. It's just a matter of who and when.
Here's a player-by-player breakdown of the Flyers' current salary cap situation:
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