Blackhawks Spy Games: A Look East-Keystone State Edition
Ray Shero has been putting together a solid team for a while now, but will the 2013-2014 cap crunch throw a wrench into his plans? Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Occasionally I like to look into other team’s workings, mostly because there isn’t much going on with my own team currently. Bowman tends to make ripples while others are making waves, so I have some spare time. There are two teams in the East that I wanted to focus on today: Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Both teams are in the top three for money spent towards the cap. The Pens have a little over 4 million to spend, and the Flyers have $421,478 left. These two teams intrigue me, because they seem so different from each other, not only from an on ice perspective, but a financial one as well. I’m not here to determine which team has the “best player in the world”, but rather just to give Blackhawks fans something to think about for next season.
Pittsburg Penguins: The Pens just locked up Malkin, Letang, Kunitz, and Dupuis to long term deals. They have 4 million to lock up eight players from their current roster. Compare that to Chicago, who now has 9 million to lockup seven players, but it’ll be closer to four since Bowman has all but announced he’s bringing up the youth. The core of the Pens is set for a long while, but their role players will now be in question. If their four big name players, Murray, Morrow, Iginla, and Cook (Cook is a role player but he is too well known) wanted to resign without taking a raise, they would need 14.85 million. That doesn’t include some of their lesser known guys which would total to 2.48 million. While you can argue most of those names could be replaced without much damage, it doesn’t always work out that way. Look at the Rangers for example, giving up their gritty blue collar players for Nash. They lost an integral component of their team, even though on paper it shouldn’t have mattered. Cook was a jack of all trades for them, and his reformed play was of use to the team. The one-two punch of the core will remain dangerous, but they may struggle with their third and fourth lines next season. Final Prognosis: Pens will struggle outside their top lines, but that will be a non-issue after next season. All they have to do is get through the lowered cap year and they’ll have wiggle room. Expect the Pens to be a top contender for years, but I wouldn’t anticipate a cup next season.
Philadelphia Flyers: Oh, those silly Flyers. They gave us a cup a few years back and since then, they have been a bit of a mess. Bryzgalov and Danny Brier were bought out to free up some cap space. Bryz of course was a sideshow and wasn’t entirely great in net for them, so this buyout makes perfect sense. The Briere one makes sense as well, but this might hurt the locker room and the fan base a bit. But this is business, and what’s the best way to make big contract mistakes disappear? By giving out a large contract! Lecavalier signed a long-term contract with a cap hit of 4.5 million per year. And still, they have yet to find a goalie (backup? starter?) and sign eight RFA/UFAs. The total cost to resign the eight players without a raise would be 9.4 million, and that doesn’t including finding a true starter (is Mason a legit starter still?). Maybe it’s just because I’m not in Philly, but from an outsider’s perspective, they need some depth at the blueline. They saved around 2 million in much needed cap space by signing Lecavalier and dropping Briere, but he’s still another star in his decline. I don’t understand what Holmgren is doing, but maybe there is method to his madness. Final Prognosis: Next year will be another rough season from my perspective. The Flyers still have a decent offensive core, but they need their back end to stabilize. Bryz being gone is a step in the right direction, but Mason wasn’t great in front of an okay Columbus defense. I don’t see it getting any easier for the Flyers in the next few years, unless Giroux finds some magic again.