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.

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”

Best of NHL: Bryan Rust notches hat trick as Pens score 8 in win

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Best of NHL: Bryan Rust notches hat trick as Pens score 8 in win

PITTSBURGH -- Bryan Rust had his first career hat trick, Sidney Crosby added his NHL-leading 17th goal and the Pittsburgh Penguins raced by the Ottawa Senators 8-5 on Monday night.

Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel each had a goal and two assists for Pittsburgh, and Matt Cullen and Justin Schultz also scored. The Penguins poured in six goals over the final 32 minutes after spotting the Senators a 4-2 lead. Matt Murray made 17 saves after coming in for an ineffective Marc-Andre Fleury in the second period.

Pittsburgh has won three straight overall and improved to 7-0-2 in its last nine against the Senators.

Matt Stone had a goal and two assists for Ottawa. Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone and Dion Phaneuf also scored for Ottawa, which lost in regulation for just the second time in its last eight games (see full recap).

Capitals rally late for OT win over Sabres
WASHINGTON -- Marcus Johansson scored the tying goal late in the third period and got the winner midway through overtime to lift the Washington Capitals to a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.

The goals were Johansson's third and fourth in his last five games. He has 11 for the season.

Jay Beagle added the Capitals' first even-strength goal in three games, as Washington snapped a three-game losing skid. Braden Holtby made 31 saves in the victory, the Capitals second over the Sabres in an 11-day stretch.

Kyle Okposo scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season to give the Sabres the lead in the second period. Zemgus Girgensons also scored early for Buffalo, and Robin Lehner made 30 stops for the visitors (see full recap).

Blue Jackets sweep series from Coyotes
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sam Gagner had two goals and two assists to help the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Arizona Coyotes for the second time in three days, 4-1 on Monday night.

Nick Foligno and Zach Werensky also scored for the Blue Jackets, who won for the fourth straight time and ninth of their last 12. Columbus picked up its 500th win in franchise history in sweeping the two-game season series with the Coyotes.

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 17 shots for Columbus.

Arizona backup goaltender Louis Domingue had 30 saves, two days after the Blue Jackets hammered starter Mike Smith with a franchise-record 60 shots in a 3-2 shootout victory in Phoenix.

Arizona struck first 9:28 into the game when Alex Goligoski fed a pass on a power play to Tobias Reider, who slammed it past Bobrovsky's glove side from between the circles (see full recap).