The Flyers agreed to a three-year, $8.25 million contract with Dan Cleary, according to a league source. (USA Today Images)
So what’s the impact of Dan Cleary on the Flyers' roster once he formally signs a contract?
It’s complicated, but it can be sorted out.
First off, the Flyers and Cleary agreed to a three-year, $8.25 million contract late Monday night (see story). His cap hit (AAV) is $2.75 million. An NHL source confirmed The Detroit Free Press story on the transaction.
GM Paul Holmgren confirmed only that Cleary would attend training camp on a tryout.
Because the Flyers are already $2 million over the $64.3 million salary cap for the coming season, they can’t sign him yet without making a trade to lose salary.
Rather than go the trade route, what the club is doing is, as stated, signing Cleary first to a PTO -– a tryout deal. That gets the veteran left wing into camp and keeps him here.
Remember, the Flyers can’t utilize Chris Pronger’s LTIR money -- $4.921 million -- until the season starts in October. Pronger has to be on the official roster that goes into the league office on Sept. 30.
This is where the Flyers have to play a shell game whereby they move a couple players to the Phantoms and then, when the season opens in October, they officially sign Cleary and bring back whatever player(s) they have room for under the cap.
One club source said Tuesday morning that it’s entirely possible that the team would send either or both Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn to the Phantoms at month’s end, then recall them once Pronger can be placed on LTIR. Schenn and Couturier have two-way deals.
Given how stacked the Flyers are on defense –- nine players on one-way contracts -- they could also waive Bruno Gervais, who may or may not get picked off.
Going into training camp, which opens 8:30 a.m. on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center, Gervais projects as the No. 8 defenseman and the Flyers figure to keep just seven on the roster.
One Flyers source said last week that the club “wouldn’t mind” if someone made an offer to take a defenseman off their hands to gain more cap space and loosen the log jam of players on one-way deals.
All it takes is an injury in camp to change that scenario. Or an injury from another club whereby the Flyers might be able to trade a defenseman away.
Whatever happens, Cleary’s presence has an impact in several ways. First, it kills any chance of Simon Gagne coming back.
Second, it likely means the Flyers now will carry one less young player on their roster.
Scott Laughton is projected to make the team. So is Tye McGinn. Based on expected lines, that would give the Flyers 14 forwards. Assume seven defenseman and two goalies and there’s your 23-man roster.
With Cleary added to the picture, that’s one forward too many. Someone has to go.
Cleary spent eight years as a Detroit Red Wing and was highly regarded in the dressing room as a glue guy that general manager Ken Holland believed was essential for his club to win in postseason. Cleary has one Stanley Cup with the Red Wings (2008).
“That’s what we heard,” one Flyers source said. “He’s a really good teammate.”
He would be a nice fit with Matt Read and Couturier, but again, some young player loses out.
A native of Carbonear, Newfoundland, Cleary projects to put up 18 to 20 goals and 40 points, if you take his last five years in Detroit while throwing out the lockout-shortened season.
At 34, however, Cleary will be 37 in his final year. Again, general manager Paul Holmgren has given out a contract that is likely a year too long.
Holmgren has done a lot of that in the past and even this summer raised eyebrows by awarding 33-year-old Vinny Lecavalier a fifth year, which will see him even older than Cleary in his final year of the deal.
Of course, none of this will matter if Cleary and even Lecavalier can do the things they did with their former clubs and push the Flyers to a Cup.
If you’re wondering about the salary cap hit in the shell game: Schenn is $1.69 million; Couturier is $1.375 million; Laughton is $1.10 million; McGinn is $775,000; Gervais is $825,000. Other possibilities to play the shell game are Marc-Andre Bourdon, whose cap hit is $612,500 and Jay Rosehill, whose hit is $512,500.