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Welcome to salary cap hell, Philadelphia: Flyers take Leighton off LTIR, put Laperriere on LTIR

Dec 13, 2010, 8:45 PM EDT

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Tim Brent, Darroll Powe

The Flyers made a couple of moves today that likely flew under the radar for fans as they activated goaltender Michael Leighton off of LTIR and put injured forward Ian Laperriere on it with post-concussion syndrome issues. In order to get Leighton on to the 23-man active roster, the Flyers also put defenseman Matt Walker on injured reserve. While this is just arranging things so Leighton can rejoin the Flyers this week and the team rolls with three goaltenders on their NHL roster, the other implication in this applies to their salary cap.

The Flyers couldn’t activate Leighton until they cleared the cap room for him, so Laperriere  was the obvious choice since he’s been out all season long and doesn’t appear likely to return this year thanks to post-concussion syndrome. The seemingly simple salary juggling here isn’t all that it appears to be as SBN Philly’s Geoffrey Detweiler discusses at length today. After crunching the numbers and sifting through the legalese of the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement, Detweiler came up with this conclusion as to why the Flyers are pretty boned right now under the salary cap. Get your abacus out to deal with some money issues.

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.

This puts the Flyers in a similar position that the Devils found themselves in earlier this year when they could only suit up the bare minimum (or less than that) number of players for a few games so they couldn’t be caught circumventing the salary cap.  As we’ve seen this year, regardless of how many players the Devils have been able to ice this year it hasn’t helped them win games. The Flyers have been doing much better than that this year and are near the top of the Eastern Conference but not having the flexibility to make moves when you need to hurts.

As it is, the Flyers will wait things out to see if Leighton can come back and work well before deciding on who goes as the third goalie. There’s no real need to have a third goalie on the roster. The hang up there is that both Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher have played well this year. Go figure, tough decisions will be hard to make. Of course if someone gets injured in goal in the meantime, they’re all set. Anywhere else on the ice and things get dicey fast. Wonder if the Flyers would like an advance on that boosted salary cap that’s supposed to happen next year.

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