NHL Salary Cap Announced, Holmgren Wants to Move Up in the Draft

NHL Salary Cap Announced, Holmgren Wants to Move Up in the Draft

We've all been waiting with bated breath for the announcement of the NHL's 2011-2012 salary cap, primarily to see how much space the Flyers will have in order to sign goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and any of the restricted free agents they'd like to retain. TSN is reporting that the cap will be $64 million, with a floor of $48 million. Last year's cap was $59.4 million, and $64 million represents about the highest anyone was expecting the cap would be.

In other words, good news for the Flyers, who need as much room as possible.

Below, we'll take a look at the implications of the cap number, as well as the Flyers' hopes to move up in this Friday's NHL entry draft.

Frank Seravalli of the Daily News put together a nice contextual look at this year's cap as compared to previous seasons since its application in 2005 (even more interesting is a reminder of what the Flyers paid out before the cap was put in place). In 2011, the salary floor is $9 million more than the 2005 cap. Frank also points out that this season's floor may have a big impact on the market, forcing teams at the bottom to spend up:

It may sound crazy, but the biggest number reported on Monday may be the salary cap floor number. Why? Small market, low budget teams like Florida, who have just $18 million committed in salary for next season, will need to spend at least $30 million just to be cap compliant. They may be willing to take on a little more salary than normal off a team like the Flyers looking to dump.
 
I don't disagree, but I also wonder if the other side of that coin could hurt the Flyers in their attempts to negotiate. With both the cap and the floor increasing, so too could the demands of available, sought after players. Meanwhile, teams unlike the Flyers (ie, against the floor rather than the cap) may want to target a marketable big fish in free agency, and they just got a mandate to get spendy. Could that drive up the price on Bryzgalov?

With that in mind, if the Flyers really want Bryz to be their man, it was a good move to acquire the rights to start the talks before the floor was announced today, as well as having exclusive ability to negotiate through July 1 (including just before the draft day trade festivities). Although no agreement was made during last week's meeting, it seems progress was, and there's no indication that the two sides are far apart.

MOVE ON UP?
Switching gears to the league's other big item this week, Flyers  fans are probably pretty used to the club not having many high picks when the NHL draft gets underway. At present, that is certainly the case in 2011, with the Flyers not set to be on the clock until pick #84, which falls in the third round.

That may change come draft day though. When asked whether he'd want to have a pick in the first two rounds on a conference call on Monday, GM Paul Holmgren gave the obvious answer that anyone would, but he also indicated that the Flyers will try to trade up.

"[We are] drafting at 84 right now and we’d like to move up, absolutely," Holmgren said. "Are we going to be able to? I don’t know, we will see how it goes."

Nothing too earth-shattering here besides the Curtis, but the draft bit dovetails nicely with the salary cap picture. In addition to their need to restock their depleted prospect ranks, the Flyers may also need to clear some cap space this season in order to complete all the signings they're targeting, even with the cap increase.

Homer said he doesn't feel the Flyers are in a position where they have to clear cap space. But, that really depends on the demands of the players they're targeting. If in fact they do "choose" to shed some salary though, one appealing return would be to acquire a draft pick or two, given that they'd add the potential for future depth while also lowering the current salary mark. Of course, in order to do that, they'd have to shed a rostered player and deal with the subsequent hole left behind.

Two of the names you most hear linked to being sent away are Jeff Carter and Kris Versteeg, but while the need for cap space may be real, everything the Flyers have done with respect to these two players to date would indicate they want to keep them in the fold. Carter is a young, talented scorer with a manageable cap hit for the next decade. (I could go on, but I'm assuming most Flyers fans don't need a primer on Carter.) My guess is both sides made that deal in the hopes that Carter will be a career Flyer or close to it. Dealing him would surprise me, but nothing is out of the question after the debaculous end to the team's meek Cup run last month.

The cost of obtaining Versteeg was high (a first and a third), which is important for two reasons. First, it indicates the Flyers really wanted him. Versteeg's a versatile young player who can be chiseled in for 20+ goals per season, and, importantly, he is under contract at less than $3.1 million next season, after which he's still a restricted free agent. His career as a Flyer has been unceremonious so far, but there's been nothing to indicate the team doesn't want him going forward. And there shouldn't be. He's a good player who just turned 25.

The Flyers would also have trouble recouping what they paid for him. A player's value and a team's willingness to pay in picks for him is dependent in large part on the desire of the team trying to get him, which can involve a little desperation at the trade deadline with the playoffs looming, rather than the draft, when there's more time to tinker.

But with the Flyers probably looking to move up and possibly aiming to add some more prospects to their cupboard, it's a safe bet someone will be on the move soon.

It's already been an interesting off-season for the Flyers, but things are about to start moving pretty fast. The team meets with Bryzgalov again tomorrow, and Friday's draft, when many deals will happen league-wide, is looming on Friday. With all of the above forces acting on the Flyers at once, they're bound to be in the headlines a few more times heading into the weekend.

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- Four people were killed Sunday when bus carrying Dallas Cowboys staffers but no players collided with a van on a northwestern Arizona highway.

The fatalities were passengers in the van, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said. But the bus occupants emerged uninjured.

"All on the bus came through OK with some bumps and bruises," Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple (DAHL'-rimp-ul) said in an email.

Dalrymple said the bus was only carrying members of the franchise's staff but would not say how many. There were no players on board.

The two vehicles collided in the afternoon on U.S. 93, about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, according to DPS.

The crash shut down at least one lane of the highway that serves as the main route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The bus was on its way to a Dallas Cowboys fan event in Las Vegas. Charles Cooper, manager of GameWorks entertainment center in Vegas, said the session with 50 to 75 fans was scheduled for 3 p.m. PDT. People were already waiting when the president of a Las Vegas Cowboys fan club called to relay news of the accident. The event was subsequently canceled. Cooper says the team mascot was supposed to appear.

After the Las Vegas stop, the bus was scheduled to go on to Oxnard, California for the team's training camp. Members of the organization typically take a bus two weeks before the camp starts and make stops along the way.

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson may be staying in the NL East past the trade deadline. 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are scouting the Marlins' minor league teams in advance of a possible Hellickson deal. 

This comes on the heels of a report from a radio host in Miami that Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen may need Tommy John surgery. Chen left with an elbow sprain during Wednesday's loss to the Phillies and was placed on the disabled list. Ironically, Chen was starting against Hellickson, who will face Jarred Cosart in place of Chen on Monday.

Hellickson's value rebounded significantly this season after struggling in Arizona and Tampa Bay the last few seasons. After dealing with a shoulder injury, Hellickson pitched to ERAs above 4.50 in each season from 2013-15, leading to the Diamondbacks trading him to the Phillies for limited value. 

However, in 20 starts, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, bringing a 3.84 ERA over 119 ⅔ innings into Monday's scheduled start. He also has a nearly career-best strikeout rate and has regained his signature command that made him a strong performer with the Rays.

The Phillies are aided this trade deadline by a lack of starting pitching options available on the market. With many teams in contention looking for an additional starter, Hellickson is an attractive piece who could help a team in a pennant race.