Forget the rumors of partying, leadership issues, and any other theories regarding why the Flyers decided to move their major centerpieces this past summer. It’s all overblown hype and bs. When the Flyers say it’s a hockey move, they are not lying about it. They just are not revealing their entire thought process behind it. And this comes down to is money and the future of the team. It had to do with dumping long contracts that the Flyers felt these players would not live up to.
While the total value of Mike Richards’ and Jeff Carter’s contract is substantial ($69M and $58M, respectively), it’s the cap hit that teams care about. And in terms of the cap hit, both guys were at a fair price, for now. Richards is already three years into his 12 year deal, and has 9 more years at $5.75. Carter’s new 11-year deal will be worth $5.27M once it kicks in this season. At the time each deal was signed, everyone commented on how it was a long term investment by both parties. The organization believed it had a pair of players worth locking up long term because they would continue building teams around them. And the players were in a city they enjoyed, and played for a team committed to winning. It was a wonderful situation for both parties.
But the thing is, both guys are already approaching their late 20’s. These deals run out when the guys are in their mid 30’s. The Flyers must have realized that the contracts are simply too long, and got out of them early rather than late. It’s a difficult argument to make given that we have several other players that are locked into long term deals: Danny Briere, Kimmo Timonen, JVR, Chris Pronger and Ilya Bryzgalov. But you have to look at the timing and external factors regarding all of those deals.
The Flyers had to give Briere a big contract to lure him to a team coming off the worst season in club history. Timonen also had to be locked up after we traded for him during that same time period. It was necessary to overpay a bit to make sure the Flyers improved quickly in the short term. The long term issues were on the back burner. Pronger got a lengthy contracted that was front loaded. The term was stretched out make a friendlier cap hit. JVR is 22, his deal runs out when he’s 28. Bryzalov is 31, but the Flyers have to be looking at Tim Thomas in Boston and thinking that age affects goalies in a different way than it does skaters.
Which brings us back to why we had to move Richards and Carter. Simply put, the club is a in a good position overall, in regards to talent and depth. They both have a ton of trade value and there is too much unknown with them in terms of long term potential. And that is not their fault, but that is the problem with long term contracts. Long deals pose a significant risk, that most of the time is not worth taking. Take a look around the league over the last 20 years and think about how many players could have gotten long term deals but didn’t. And look at how many guys got the big contracts, only to have things go wrong. Here’s a few examples (note: I’m only looking at terms and not $ because with more money being tossed around, the market value would change too much for me to predict right now):