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Chris Pronger’s contract could make things awkward for Philadelphia

Dec 16, 2011, 8:00 AM EDT

Chris Pronger Getty Images

The ramifications of Chris Pronger being knocked out of action for the season and playoffs with severe post-concussion syndrome for Philadelphia are many. The effect it could have on GM Paul Holmgren and how the team can budget their payroll, however, is massive.

Pronger’s contract is a 35-and-over deal that comes with a cap hit of $4.9 million for the next five seasons. That means his cap hit isn’t going anywhere whether Pronger is playing or not. If Pronger is forced to retire from his ailment or if he takes his time and returns next season or the season after, that cap hit is there no matter what.

What can the Flyers do about that? They don’t have many options, but as Bob McKenzie said on TSN’s Insider Trading last night, Philadelphia could follow in the Boston Bruins’ footsteps in how they’ve handled Marc Savard‘s post-concussion absence.

Rather than seeing Pronger retire and leave a cap hit the team can’t do anything about, they can keep him on the roster and put him on LTIR to free up his cap hit to make use of. Savard doesn’t have a 35+ contract, but the Bruins are able to use LTIR to their advantage and not have to worry about Savard’s contract to make a move when needed thanks to it

It might seem like a sneaky way of getting around a rule that was meant to ward teams off from giving older players long contracts, but loopholes were meant for exploiting. After all, they’ve been using this move already in handling Ian Laperriere‘s extended absence, and using it for Pronger would make too much sense.

  1. Chris Fiorentino - Dec 16, 2011 at 8:11 AM

    Trade him and a good young player to a team with a low team salary so that you are not only helping yourself but that team by giving up a good young player as well. How could the league possibly complain about that type of move? Do they want to look like the NBA?

    • tjv027 - Dec 16, 2011 at 9:09 AM

      This makes absolutely no sense. What team would do that? I understand the logic that teams like the Panthers will be scrambling to get to the cap floor every offseason, but there are plenty of overpaid players in the NHL that they could acquire for peanuts that can AT LEAST physically play.

      The LTIR is a very viable solution, unless they change it in the CBA and don’t grandfather in old contracts. If the Flyers applied for the cap exemption after putting Pronger on LTIR, precedent would suggest that it would be granted (the Laperriere situation is identical, Pronger is just more expensive and locked in for longer). That way, Pronger doesn’t count against the cap, they just have to keep signing his checks, which, for this team, has never been a problem. It’s the obvious move if the league doesn’t squash it.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Dec 16, 2011 at 10:05 AM

        True, but the point is that they would have dead money on the cap because Pronger would retire and they wouldn’t have to pay him anything at all. That’s the only way it would work. If he retires as a Flyer, it would kill their cap for the next 4 years because they couldn’t even use the LTIR option. Whereas, if the Panthers are consistently trying to get to the cap floor, they could get a guy like JVR, and Pronger…then Pronger retires and they don’t even have to pay his salary and it counts against their cap. Which is a plus for any cheap owner out there.

        Or maybe I am wrong in how it would work. I don’t know. Not the biggest salary cap guru for the NHL.

      • dwil12 - Dec 16, 2011 at 11:42 AM

        yea lets trade JVR and pronger to the some team just to make cap space. what kind of a stupid trade is that. lets just get rid of one of our best young players because we need to get cap relief. also good luck having the NHL let a trade go through with a player they know will never play hockey again if that is indeed the case. only hope the flyers have in this situation is LTIR or hope they get the roster exemption in the new CBA or hopefully pronger can get healthy and return. pronger will not be traded (and neither will JVR for that matter). and to be honest i highly doubt pronger will mess up the flyers future by retiring when he can just essentially be retired and still collect a paycheck by going on LTIR.

    • drewsylvania - Dec 17, 2011 at 11:32 AM

      The article says that Pronger counts against the cap no matter what. Is this true?

  2. cmutimmah - Dec 16, 2011 at 8:24 AM

    Chris Fiorentino – I was thinking the same thing. Teams well under the cap would take on his salary and get one of Philly’s prospects (as payment to take on the salary). That team could trade a 3rd rounder and grinder back in return and the league probably wouldn’t decline it.

    It would be a good move for a low budget team, but from what I have seen on salary stories of the past, there aren’t many of those.

    I hope Pronger is OK. I’ve always hated the guy but have a respect for him also. I want to see him turn into a useless pilon in his older years!

  3. triplepropalm - Dec 16, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    Getting a cap floor team to take a bad contract is easier when there aren’t 5 more years remaining on the deal like in the Pronger case.

    I can’t see any team taking on Pronger’s contract just to get a prospect as I can’t see the Flyers moving guys like Couturier or JVR in order to get the Pronger contract off their books.

    The biggest problem with trading the deal away is that the team that picks up Pronger still has to pay his salary.

    Pronger will get paid $7.2M in 2012-13, $7M in 2013-14, and $4M in 2014-15. Pronger will be attractive to cap floor teams in the summer of 2015 when his salary drops to $525k for the final two seasons of the contract and his cap hit is $4.9M.

    My guess is that the Flyers suck it up, lose the bulk over their 10% overage in the offseason, place Pronger on LTIR once the season starts, and then they move him for a pick in the summer of 2015.

    Or they can hope there is a way to jettison the contract as part of a new CBA………

    • drewsylvania - Dec 17, 2011 at 11:46 AM

      Disagree. If a team signs huge, guaranteed contracts, they deserve to reap the rewards of their folly.

  4. botlecap - Dec 16, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    I don’t consider the LTIR a loophole. Savard and Pronger are both dealing with long term injuries. It’s not like they’re faking it or just decided to hang up the skates ’cause they were tired of hockey or too old.

    • emoser - Dec 16, 2011 at 8:38 PM

      Exactly. It’s not a loophole. The 35+ rule was made so teams don’t sign players to contracts going until they’re 50 knowing the player will retire well before then. It’s meant to be a disincentive to teams to exploit the rules in this way, not to punish teams that have players with they’re careers cut short by injury.

  5. mojosmagic - Dec 16, 2011 at 10:28 AM

    Of course they will do just that and probably for more then one season. Ian Lapier is still on their roster and he hasn’t played in two years.

  6. phillyphever - Dec 16, 2011 at 10:37 AM

    As I said yesterday, I’m hoping for an amnesty clause in the next CBA that can get that contract off our books.

    • drewsylvania - Dec 17, 2011 at 11:46 AM

      Disagree. If a team signs huge, guaranteed contracts, they deserve to reap the rewards of their folly.

      Let’s not turn into the NBA.

  7. chaseutley - Dec 16, 2011 at 1:09 PM

    Exactly.
    Pronger will sit on LTIR for the entirety of his contract if it comes to that. As mentioned, the Flyers are currently doing this with Ian Laperriere, and I’m sure that they discussed it with Pronger before sending him to the IR.

    From Pronger’s perspective it works because he gets paid.

    From the Flyers’ perspective it (the LTIR option) works because they save money up against the cap and don’t have to give up a young player (as suggested above) for the privilege of ridding themselves of Pronger’s contract: essentially giving up two players for nothing if Pronger comes back healthy.

    While the natural rebuttal to this is “No team would EVER eat that big of a contract for that long. They should just ask him to retire.”, this is the Flyers.

    With all due respect to small market teams and their fans, the Flyers could and would spend well over the salary cap every year if the cap weren’t there. They can afford to wait out Pronger’s injury if possible and eat his contract if necessary.

    If the Flyers were an aging team, primed for a rebuild, sure, maybe you’d take another course of action. But with guys like Giroux(23), Couturier(19), Read(25), Schenn(20), JVR(22), Voracek(22), Simmonds(23), and others forming a solid, young nucleus, eating Pronger’s deal and acquiring a player (with his cap space) that might help push you a round deeper into the playoffs doesn’t sound like that bad of a deal.

  8. cshearing - Dec 16, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    Yeah, I am not sure why Pronger would retire over deciding to just stay on LTIR as long as it takes. He gets paid either way, but only the retirement would really screw the Flyers cap position. Maybe there is something I am missing, but I do not see why this would be an issue.

    • chaseutley - Dec 16, 2011 at 8:57 PM

      Quote:
      >>”He gets paid either way, but only the retirement would really screw the Flyers cap position.”<<

      I'm under the impression that the 2 options here are…..

      1) Pronger goes to LTIR. The Flyers still have to pay him (although, it'd be my guess that they may have some sort of insurance that helps them pay). And going to the LTIR allows the Flyers to eliminate his salary from their cap.

      ***VS***

      2) Pronger retires. He doesn't get paid. And it screws up the Flyers' salary cap for years.

      ***Note*** – I'm completely guessing on that insurance thing. All I'm basing that on is the fact that baseball teams often save on payroll through insurance in cases of long term injury. If true, I'm sure that somebody who gets paid to write will tell us all about it sooner or later.

      If not, you'd think it'd be something that teams would look in to. If /when Pittsburgh loses Crosby for good, the value of that franchise will go down considerably.

  9. matthews4 - Dec 17, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    I am not entirely sure, but i think in order for a trade to go through players must pass a physical. This would obviously make trading Pronger a slippery slope for the league. I can also imagine the bad press it would cause, teams essentially screwing concussion victims out of their contract money. There would be no real way the league could spin that. I mean can you imagine a story about how Marc Savard can’t remember last week, yet he is physically cleared to play, and oh by the way if he doesn’t he loses all of the remainder of his contract. Just Bad.

  10. drewsylvania - Dec 17, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    ” If Pronger is forced to retire from his ailment or if he takes his time and returns next season or the season after, that cap hit is there no matter what.”

    I had no idea there was an age clause preventing a team from gaining cap room on an injured player. This makes the long, long-term deals even dumber.

  11. drewsylvania - Dec 17, 2011 at 11:53 AM

    Still find it amazing that the Bruins won the Cup without Savard.

  12. danb10 - Dec 17, 2011 at 2:40 PM

    My question with this whole thing is you’re saying he has a 35+ contract but he signed the contract when he was 34. I remember hearing something about how that avoided the money counting against the cap if he were to retire. I don’t know enough about contract rules to say I’m right, but that is what I remember hearing when he signed the contract

  13. killerpgh - Dec 18, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    He signed the contract extension at 34. But the contract did not take affect until after pronger turned 35. So it is a 35+ contract.

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