CBA 101 Part 2: 35+ Contracts – The Chris Pronger Story

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One aspect of the Collective Bargaining Agreement which is near and dear to the Flyers’ heart is the 35-plus contract; which we’ll cover here in Part 2 of CBA 101.

A 35-plus contract is a contract of greater than 1 year, in which the player is 35 years or older when the contract takes effect. So what’s the big deal, right? The stipulation with this kind of pact is that no matter what happens, you can’t be rid of the player’s cap hit unless he is traded or claimed on waivers. Even if you were to send a player on a 35-plus contract to the minors, you only see a savings of $100k in cap space.

As defined in the CBA Section 50.2(c)(iv):

“All Player Salary and Bonuses earned in a League Year by a Player who is in the second or later year of a multi-year SPC [standard player contract] which was signed when the Player was age 35 or older (as of June 30 prior to the League Year in which the SPC is to be effective), regardless of whether, or where, the Player is playing, except to the extent the Player is playing under his SPC in the minor leagues, in which case only the Player Salary and Bonuses in excess of $100,000 shall count towards the calculation of Actual Club Salary;”

The big thing to note from this passage is “June 30 prior to the League Year in which the SPC (standard player contract) is to be effective”. This is the key sentence that Paul Holmgren and company failed to realize when they signed Chris Pronger to a seven-year extension after acquiring him from Anaheim.

The Flyers signed Pronger to a very long extension (it was all the rage at the time…so much so that this, and other contracts were investigated by the NHL), while he was 34 years old and still had one year remaining on his current contract. Unfortunately, Pronger’s extension qualified as a 35-plus contract because it took effect the following season, when he was 35 as of June 30.

Subsequently, the Flyers are stuck with Chris Pronger’s cap hit, and sadly, it appears it is a very strong possibility he may never play again. Their only hope is to place him on Long Term Injured Reserve (which I’ll get into in a future entry). Without getting into it now, LTIR is not the same as cap space. It allows you to exceed the cap if you need to, and it does have negative ramifications.

Also note that it says “regardless of whether…the Player is playing”, which means that retirement does not result in any cap savings either.

There are some that think the 35+ contract is a topic that could be re-visited in this summer’s CBA negotiations. Whether they’ll get rid of it, adjust the age, or allow for potential “outs” in the case of someone like Pronger, we don’t know.

In case you missed it:
CBA 101 Part 1: Waivers and Re-Entry Waivers