With the signings of Bruno Gervais and Ruslan Fedotenko, the Flyers now sit at 50 contracts, with two that slide, resulting in 48 of their allowed 50 contracts.
It seems like every year the Flyers operate at or near the 50-contract limit. It is the reason why people, myself included, sometimes question what may appear to be frivolous, long-shot signings, such as with a total unknown like Andrew Johnston out of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
It isn’t that I distrust the Flyers scouts; afterall they’ve recently hit on players like Matt Read, Harry Zolnierczyk, and Erik Gustafsson. Even someone like Ben Holmstrom, should be considered a very good signing. I just tend to prefer a more cautious approach overall, and if the Flyers only have precious few contracts remaining, I’d rather they not use it on someone from the SJHL.
It is this slight disregard for space on the reserve list that often leads to the Flyers having to make a maneuver or two to stay compliant. Last year in the Pavel Kubina trade (hindsight says “yuck”), the Flyers had to send Jon Kalinski the other way because they were at the reserve limit. Just two weeks ago the Flyers bought out Oskars Bartulis at the cost of $100k in dead cap space. The only logical explanation for doing so is to either A) give him a shot elsewhere B) gain a contract or C) both (I’d argue C). It certainly wasn’t the one remaining year or $600k cap hit that was a burden; he was going to spend the year in the American Hockey League anyway (unless he were to be claimed on waivers). I also doubt it was the extra $500k in summer cap space when they currently sit with almost $15 million under the summer cap (temporarily increased by 10% in the summer).
So all of this got me thinking, are the Flyers alone in operating so close to the limit, or is it the norm? I decided to take a look at the reserve list for every team (note: I pulled these numbers late last week so they could have slightly changed since).
As you can see, there are only two teams that have more contracts than the Flyers in Minnesota and Nashville, and two teams that match them with 48 in Toronto and Montreal. So it certainly appears as if the Flyers are in the minority in being so close to the contract limit. In fact, the NHL average at this point in the offseason is 44.3.
Now as we progress through the offseason and the remaining attractive free agent options find teams, it becomes more and more likely that the Flyers stick with what they have. So I’m probably fussing over nothing; but chances are they will add another contract or two throughout the course of the season and then they’ll once again be back in the position of having to worry about contract space. Perhaps I’m overreacting to having to find takers for the Jon Kalinskis of the world, but I’d just rather not limit myself unless absolutely necessary.