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.

Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

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USA Today Images

Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After watching the San Jose Sharks miss the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, general manager Doug Wilson set out to remake the team last offseason.

Individually, none of the moves sent shockwaves through the NHL. The Sharks hired a coach who made the playoffs once in seven seasons as an NHL coach, traded a first-round pick for a goalie who had been a backup his entire career, added two playoff-tested veterans for depth at forward and defense and signed an unheralded Finnish rookie.

Together, the additions of Peter DeBoer, Martin Jones, Joel Ward, Paul Martin and Joonas Donskoi to a solid core that had underachieved proved to be the right mix to get the Sharks to their long-awaited first Stanley Cup Final appearance.

"I thought this team has a lot of the pieces of that puzzle," Martin said. "Doug did a great job bringing guys in that he did, to make that push for it. I don't think many people would have guessed that we'd be here right now, but I think we believed."

The players all said the disappointment of blowing a 3-0 series lead to Los Angeles in 2014 and then missing the playoffs entirely last season served as fuel for this season's success.

DeBoer also credited former coach Todd McLellan for helping put the foundation in place that he was able to capitalize on. The Sharks became the second team in the past 10 seasons to make it to the final after missing the playoffs the previous season, joining the 2011-12 Devils that pulled off the same trick in DeBoer's first season in New Jersey.

"Everyone was ready for something a little bit fresher and newer, not anything that much different," DeBoer said. "The additions that Doug made, it just came together. I inherited a similar team in New Jersey when I went in there. First time they missed the playoffs for a long time the year before I got there. I think when you go into that situation, when you have really good people like there was in New Jersey when I went in there, like I was with this group ... they're embarrassed by the year they just had, and they're willing to do and buy into whatever you're selling to get it fixed again. I think I was the benefactor of that."

The transition from McLellan to DeBoer wasn't seamless. As late as Jan. 8, the Sharks were in 13th place in the 14-team Western Conference and seemingly on the way to another missed postseason.

But with Logan Couture finally healthy after being slowed by a broken leg early in the season and the move by DeBoer to put Tomas Hertl on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, the Sharks rolled after that and made the playoffs as the third-place team in the Pacific Division.

In-season additions of players like depth forwards Dainius Zubrus and Nick Spaling, physical defenseman Roman Polak and backup goaltender James Reimer helped put the Sharks in the position they are now.

"With the new coaching staff we needed to realize how we needed to play to win," Thornton said. "Once that clicked, and that probably clicked maybe early December, I think after that, we just exploded. I think that's really when we saw the depth of this team. Everybody plays a big part."

That has been especially true in the playoffs when longtime core players like Thornton, Couture, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau got the support that had often been lacking during past postseason disappointments.

Jones has posted three shutouts in the playoffs, including the Game 7 second-round clincher against Nashville and back-to-back games in the conference final against St. Louis. He has proven more than capable of being an NHL starter after serving an apprenticeship as Jonathan Quick's backup in Los Angeles.

Ward scored two goals in each of the final two games of the conference final and has 11 points this postseason. Donskoi exceeded expectations just to make the team as a rookie and has solidified his spot on the second line with five goals and nine points.

Martin's steady play has allowed offensive-minded defenseman Brent Burns to roam at times and given San Jose a strong second defensive pair that had been missing in previous seasons.

Zubrus and Spaling played a big role as penalty killers and on the fourth line, while Polak has been one of the team's most physical players.

"Doug did a great job this summer, this season," Couture said. "A lot of credit needs to go to him for the guys he brought in."

Flyers defensive prospect Ivan Provorov named CHL Defenseman of the Year

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Flyers defensive prospect Ivan Provorov named CHL Defenseman of the Year

Flyers prospect and Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman Ivan Provorov on Saturday afternoon was named the 2015-16 Canadian Hockey League's Defenseman of the Year.

Provorov, who the Flyers drafted with the seventh overall pick in 2015, recorded 21 markers, 73 points and was a plus-64 in 62 games with Brandon during the regular season.

The 19-year-old beat out Windsor's Mikhail Sergachev and Shawinigan's Samuel Girard for the honor. Both Sergachev and Girard are eligible for this year's draft, which is June 24-25 in Buffalo, New York.

In 21 playoff games with the Wheat Kings, Provorov added three goals and 10 assists. Brandon beat the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL Championship Series to capture the Ed Chynoweth Cup. However, in the Memorial Cup, Brandon lost to the Red Deer Rebels on May 25.

What's next for Provorov?

The defenseman will come to Flyers training camp in September with his eye on making the roster. Many believe Provorov is ready to make the jump to the NHL, but Flyers general manager Ron Hextall has built a reputation of being patient, especially with his defensive prospects.

Provorov is one of five prospects in the Flyers' system that has created excitement, joining Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin, Robert Hagg and Philippe Myers, an undrafted free-agent signing who made noise this season. Could Provorov — or any of the other prospects — join Shayne Gostisbehere on the Flyers' blue line in 2016-17?

After the Flyers' season ended with a playoff series loss to the Washington Capitals, Hextall hinted he'll continue to be patient with his prospects (see story).

“What we're building towards remains the same,” Hextall said after the season. “I'm not an impatient guy by nature. Maybe I was a little bit on the ice, but I've been off the ice for 17 years or whatever it is, so the whole thing that we started to build two years ago — our vision is the same and we're on a path.

“And we're a lot closer than we were two years ago."

But all eyes will be on Provorov come training camp. Can he force Hextall's hand?

MLB Notes: Braves place Erick Aybar on 15-day DL

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The Associated Press

MLB Notes: Braves place Erick Aybar on 15-day DL

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves have placed shortstop Erick Aybar on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised right foot.

Aybar left Friday night's game in the fifth, one inning after he was hit by a pitch from Miami's Adam Conley. The Braves said Friday night that X-rays were negative.

Aybar, acquired as part of the offseason deal that sent shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Los Angeles Angels, is hitting .182.

Daniel Castro is starting at shortstop in Saturday's game against the Marlins.

In a corresponding move, the Braves recalled right-hander Aaron Blair from Triple-A Gwinnett to start Saturday's game.

Royals: RHP Chris Young activated off DL
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Royals have activated right-hander Chris Young from the disabled list before Saturday's game against the Chicago White Sox.

Young, who had been out since May 9 with a right forearm strain, was placed in the bullpen after beginning the season in the rotation. He was 1-5 with a 6.68 ERA in seven starts, allowing 13 home runs and walking 11 in 32 1/3 innings.

The 37-year-old Young earned the victory in the first game of the 2015 World Series, working three scoreless innings in relief as the Royals beat the New York Mets 5-4 in 14 innings.

Kansas City optioned left-hander Brian Flynn, who was 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in five relief appearances, to Triple-A Omaha.

Indians: Brantley unsure when he'll return
CLEVELAND -- Indians outfielder Michael Brantley has no timetable for his return from the shoulder injury that has sidelined him for the second time this season.

Brantley spoke to reporters Saturday for the first time since being placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 14. He began the season on the DL following surgery for a torn right labrum in November. Brantley hit .231 with seven RBIs in 11 games before being shut down again.

Brantley, who received an anti-inflammatory shot in the shoulder two weeks ago, doesn't think he returned from the surgery too soon. He has been hitting off a tee but isn't sure when he will begin taking swings in the batting cage.

Brantley finished third in the AL Most Valuable Player voting in 2014 when he hit .327 with 20 homers and 97 RBIs. He batted .310 with 15 homers and 84 RBIs last season.