Obviously the Flyers need a little more time to figure out their salary cap situation.
Why else would they need to send Danny Briere on a rehab assignment to the AHL?
This isn't completely unconventional, but at the same time, it's not a practice that has been regular in the past. Players coming off injuries have usually just jumped right back into the lineup - especially a player of star-quality like Briere.
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said Briere would play two games with the Phantoms - Wednesday and Friday - before returning to the Flyers.
Curious timing on all this - especially with the Flyers having four days off after Friday's game before one game with Atlanta the following week and then the All-Star break. That gives Holmgren a lot of extra time to figure out how all this is going to work.
Holmgren released a statement this morning saying Briere was completely receptive of the idea, but I can't imagine that's the case.
Just yesterday, Briere told reporters he could probably play tonight against Pittsburgh but wanted a couple more practices before he returned and was looking at one of the games in Florida later this week.
Problem is, the Flyers are having a hard time creating enough room for Briere on the roster salary-wise.
They may deny that, but it's the only thing that makes sense right now.
Holmgren has insisted the Flyers only need to clear "about 2 million" off their salary figure to get Briere back on the active roster, but that number is likely closer to $3 million, if not more.
Here's the breakdown of the cap hit of active Flyers' players, and then some math to prove Holmgren's numbers a bit faulty.
All salaries are in millions of dollars
Kimmo Timonen $6.333
Mike Richards $5.750
Simon Gagne $5.250
Jeff Carter $5.000
Scott Hartnell $4.200
Marty Biron $3.500
Matt Carle $2.902
Mike Knuble $2.800
Randy Jones $2.750
Joffrey Lupul $2.312
Braydon Coburn $1.300
Andrew Alberts $1.250
Antero Niittymaki $1.225
Scottie Upshall $1.225
Ossi Vaananen $1.000
Glen Metropolit $1.000
Lasse Kukkonen $0.875
Luca Sbisa $0.875
Andreas Nodl $0.731
Arron Asham $0.625
Riley Cote $0.550
Claude Giroux $0.477
Darroll Powe $0.450
Those salaries add up to $52.380 million. However, the Flyers are also on the hook for money spent on players who played for the Flyers this season but are not currently with the team. Those estimated figures are as follows:
Steve Eminger $0.187
Steve Downie $0.062
Jared Ross $0.054
Scott Munroe $0.026
Nate Raduns $0.009
Boyd Kane $0.008
That brings the total to $52.726 million, which is slightly less than $4 million below the cap number.
Jonathon Kalinski ($583,000 cap hit) and Josh Gratton ($411,000 cap hit) are both on the long-term injury list, so their salaries are excluded.
What remains unknown is how much, if any, players like Ryan Parent and Josh Beaulieu counted against the cap. They were both injured in preseason and the date they were actually placed on long-term IR is not available.
According to NHLnumbers.com, a very reliable salary cap Web site, despite a disclaimer protecting their information to the contrary, the Flyers had to count Beaulieu for 36 days on their cap, creating a cap hit of $96,000, and carried Ryan Parent on their roster for 80 days, creating a cap hit of $368,000.
With those numbers, an additional $464,000 is added to the Flyers $52.726 salary base, bringing the total to $53.19 million.
That would leave the Flyers $3.51 million under the cap. Briere costs them $6.50 million. Meaning $3 million would have to be cleared out for Briere to return.
Even considering sending Kukkonen to the Phantoms now that he's cleared waivers, and sending Sbisa back to junior hockey, that's still nowhere close to the number they need to get to.
They could also send a pair of forwards with two-way contracts back to the Phantoms, Andreas Nodl and Claude Giroux would give them the most cap room, but both would have pro-rated numbers count against the cap based on time spent with the big club. This is the difference between NHL-only and two-way contracts for minor league players.
Also, that would leave them really thin on active numbers with only 2o players on the roster.
Even then, the Flyers will have only made up about $2.6 million, and would have to find another $500,000 or so to shed.
They couldn't send another guy to the Phantoms, because they'd then be short players, so the only alternatives are to try an waive another player, clear him through, send him to the Phantoms and replace him with a more cost effective minor league player, or make a trade.
Obviously, that's why Holmgren needs time. That's why he has to hold Briere out for at least another week. Not because Briere isn't ready, but because the team isn't ready for Briere.
Ultimately, this works out for the organization, because it gets Briere back in game condition and buys them time, but the precedent for star players coming back have rarely included a short jaunt to the AHL at a conveniently opportune point in the schedule.
But, don't be bamboozled. Holmgren needed time to get the house in order. And oh yeah, despite what Holmgren said, don't believe Briere is all peachy-keen about going back to the AHL on a conditioning assignment when he's been busting his butt in practice with the Flyers for a couple weeks now.
At least, that's what my sense of it is. And frankly, numbers don't lie.