The Philadelphia Flyers have made no secret of their ability to spend money. They’ve made free with the funds for years. This year they are the top spending team, next year they are the top spending team. This is a problem because with 19 players signed for next season, and the cap set to decline sharply, they will have $2,225,119.00 to sign the needed bodies. As things stand, they will need to add two forwards and a netminder. Of course if if you can get all three for league minimum of $550,000 each, you can rest easy with three fourths of a million left over. Well, you can rest easy if there’s no injuries in an 82 game season, no one misses a game due to illness or personal issues and of course everyone gives their all skillfully everynight and no one needs the motivation provided by the view from the press box.

So what is the problem? They overpaid their goaltender. A guy who has won nothing, has a spotty playoff record, and who had never played in the more skilled Eastern Conference.  Yet they signed him to a nine year contract with a cap hit higher than the two most recent Vezina trophy winners at the time it was signed. To make matters worse they gave him a full no movement clause.

Chris Pronger’s contract is not only a 35+ contract, it has a full no movement clause. Sure, Chris Pronger was a top 15 defenseman at the time he was signed, but he’d had several injuries even then. His injuries include time off the ice due to; knees, wrists, ankles, shoulders. Those are pretty important parts of the body to any player. To a defenseman who relies on hard hits and bad attitude to patrol the ice, they are doubly important. Add to that his suspension history, and the fact he was over 35 at the time and you have to wonder what exactly Holmgren thought he was doing when signing Pronger to a seven year contract to a guy over 35.

Kimmo Timonen is a favorite of a lot of NHL fans and proud son of Finland. He’s been there and done that in his time in the NHL. Unfortunately Timonen will be 38 years old in less than three weeks. His goal scoring has already slowed down. And guess what? Even without Pronger and with a real and desperate need for defensive prowess, Timonen’s ice time is down year over year every year. Not surprisingly his goal production is down. Because I have such bright readers I’m sure you will have figured out that yes he to has a full no movement clause.

As Frank Seravalli let us know, Danny Briere has no interest in waiving his no movement clause. This despite interest from two teams with much better chances of winning the Stanley Cup in the next two years than the aggressively mediocre Flyers. Briere unlike Pronger who isn’t playing at all, or Timonen who is declining could contribute to another team and get a good return. With just two years left on his contract if he stays healthy he could be back in Philly in two years when whatever return he nets the city where his heart is cold be contributing to the lineup.

These four players all have or had at least the potential to be in the top 10 or 15% of the of players at their position in the league. If they were the only ones who could put the kibosh on a trade I wouldn’t be writing this post. Unfortunately Brayden Coburn who is overpaid by about 30% has a no trade clause. Grossmann who is overpaid by about the same amount also has a no trade clause, and he’s barely fourth in TOI/G for Flyers defensemen. Scott Hartnell who has highly variable contributions year to year has a no trade clause, Ruslan Fedetenko does as well. All of these add up to a staggering $37,385,714.00 in cap space this season. It does not take an astrophysicist to understand that’s over 50% of this years cap space in contracts that are either impossible to move or can only be moved by going back on your word.

Not only does this stratospheric stack of handicaps make the team harder to improve through trades for roster players, because of who doesn’t have no trade or no movement clauses you can either shuffle third and fourth line players and 6-8th defenseman, or deal important roster players like Giroux or Simmonds who you might not want to move, but who you might not have any choice but to part with. With the current roster configuration the team can’t even afford to call up players on entry level contracts to fill in. Ones things for sure, someone in the Flyers power structure is going to spend the next three or four years cursing these deals as they will almost certainly be left with two equally unpalatable choices; sit idly by and let time solve some of the problems, or trade away talent for pennies on the dollar and hope against hope the farm system can fill the voids.

It’s that time of the season again when we need to take our first hard look at the NHL’s latest crop of wunderkids, studs, and future duds. Forwards, defensemen and goalies will be covered once more and compared to a well known NHL personality. This season the honor goes to the American Captain of last years Stanley Cup champions, Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings. The perennial 20 goal man is different breed of player than past selections Eric Staal and Ilya Kovalchuk. Brown is known more for a physical style of play and two way play than either of the rookie watch alumni.

Dustin Brown:

  • Will play his 600th NHL game Monday night against conference rivals and playoff  sparring partners the Vancouver Canucks.
  • Has started off the season 0-1-1 and a -4 as the Kings remind everyone they partied like royalty all summer, and fall long and work through their Stanley Cup hangover 1-2-1.
  • The Kings sit in 12th place.
  • Brown has a team worst -4, trailing grinder Kyle Clifford by 10, and sophomore by 1 game Jordan Nolan by 8.
  • Has 9 hits, 1 blocked shot and just 7 shots on goal through four games.

Goalies:

  • No rookie goalies have played a game yet this season.

Defensemen:

  • Matt Irwin of the Sharks has been putting in work to the tune of 19:07 average TOI, and has picked up 2 points, including an even strength goal, half a minute of short handed time on ice, and an assist. On this his first tour of duty in the NHL, the 6’2 210 blueliner has handed out 6 hits and blocked 9 shots while doing his Hockey East and AHL experience proud. He’s second in rookie defensemen TOI and 3rd in scoring.
  • Dougie Hamilton of the Boston Bruins is showing no signs of the collective malaise that sank Team Canada’s World Junior Championship hopes. The offensive minded blueliner has already earned some penalty kill time under the very conservative Claude Julien. The 11 shots he’s dished out go nicely with the 8 hits and three blocked shots. The 19 year old has averaged just over 18 minutes a night and is currently second in blueliner scoring.
  • Brendan Dillon of the Dallas Stars may not have scored any points yet, but the 16 hits through five games, make it quite certain the squads from Chicago, Detroit, Phoenix, Saint Louis and Minnesota know who he is. Two blocked shots add to the collection of bruises, and it shouldn’t be all that surprising that he leads his team in hits.
  • Justin Schultz of the Oilers was the most talked about college player in the NHL as he wound down his Wisconsin career and spurning the Anaheim Ducks who drafted him. He’s now skating behind the Oilers plethora of young talents at forward and has rolled to the top of the rookie blueliner scoring. The 22 year old is sitting atop the TOI pile with an average of 24:02.
  • Brendan Smith of the Detroit Red Wings is jumping back into the NHL this season. How well his recovery from last years derailing via a concussion. The soon to be 24 year old is not the only rookie on the blueline, and is middle of the pack in ice time on a blueline that has already skated nine defensemen and is one of just three to skate all four games.

Forwards:

  • Cory Conacher is leading the NHL rookie scoring race as a center for Tampa Bay. The highly compact forward has about the best mentor for someone his size in the NHL playing with Martin St Louis. 2 goals 5 assists and a +4 through four games makes the former Canisius College player another undrafted player in the running to leave league GM’s scratching their heads for decades to come.
  • Tye McGinn’s two points through 3 games for the struggling Philadelphia Flyers has got to be more than some expected from the 119th pick in the 2010 draft. The Fergus, Ontario native who spent last year in the AHL potted just 18 points in 63 game. The rookie is tied in team points with Sean Couterier, Ruslan Fedetenko, and Luke Schenn, and doing it in just over 11 minutes a night.
  • Nail “I do a great Theo Impersonation” Yakupov has brought a great deal of larger than life personality to the Edmonton Oilers. He’s also managed to pack in two goals, one a powerplay tally. This years 1st overall selection has spent 3:19 a night on the man advantage for one half of the Battle Of Alberta.
  • Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers much like his former Sea Dogs teammate Hamilton is off to a strong start. With 3 points in five games the former #3 pick is playing almost 16 minutes a night for the surprisingly struggling Sunrise squad.
  • Mikael Granlund of the Minnesota Wild is part of the avalanche of changes in this roster in the last year or two, and he’s popped in two points while earning more and more ice time. He started off at under 15 minutes and in his fourth game topped out at 18:30. The fancy Finn leads all rookies with an eye opening 56.4% faceoff win percentage.
  • Vladimir Taresenko is holding down a top spot with the Saint Louis Blues and is tied with Conacher for points, but has played one more game. The 21 year old Russian has been a big part of the Blues 4-1 start being even or +1 in all five games so far.

Worth watching:

  • Forwards: Mark Scheifele, Stefan Matteau, Sven Baertschi, Jakob Silfverberg.
  • Defensemen: Paul Potsma, Brian Lashoff, Mark Borowiecki, Korbinian Holzer, Patrick Weircioch

This feature will be run roughly every two weeks.

The eastern conference is deeper than the west this year, and I can’t really see any of the top six in the east falling out. Carolina and Atlanta may have a dog fight until game 82 is in the books, and the New York Rangers just need to stay healthy. The new wild card will be the Pittsburgh Penguins, with Malkin likely out for six month they could buy, sell, or do nothing. Any of the three could set off an avalanche of movement.

Carolina Hurricanes, they have a bit of a history of movement around the deadline. With the most goals allowed of any team currently in the eastern conferences top 8, it’s a no brainier what they should add. Where they are going to add a solid blueliner is a mystery, but one they probably need to solve. With Staal, Skinner, and Ward pulling the train they are unlikely to to get embarrassed in the playoffs. With less than a handful of others making an impact it’s hard to see them getting to the promised land.  Sending off one or two of their forward prospects for an NHL roster defenseman might be the best way to tighten up the back end and provide a mentor for Jamie Mcbain.

Atlanta Thrashers, despite their improvements on defense, their defense is still worrisome with 178 goals allowed, only the last place Edmonton Oilers have allowed more goals. It is highly unlikely they can somehow morph into the best defense in the league through any possible combination of trades and promotions between now and the playoffs. The good news is that with the tenth best offense in the NHL they probably don’t need to. With even a slight upgrade and the firm ministrations of coach Craig Ramsay, a better defense is more than just possible it’s highly likely.  The other area the team is lacking is in commitment. People just aren’t in it to win it. This can probably be traced back to a game against the Bruins in which they had their mojo broken over their heads. They need to get it fixed or see if they order some on Amazon or Ebay.

Despite the disappointing year for Ryan Miller and company they are just five points out of 8th place, and have four games in hand on Atlanta, and two on Carolina.  With new ownership, a ton of cap space and a great goaltender anything is possible. Trading Connolly to say Pittsburgh or Calgary or another team needing a center for the post season might be a good thing long term. If it could bring them back a solid pick, if a trade and sign deal could be worked a deal that exchanged him for Ottawa’s Karlsson might serve both teams well. This may just be the most interesting team to watch over the next three and a half weeks. Tweaking either their offense or defense a little probably gets them over the hump and in but not very deep, so it becomes a question of long term vs short term strategy.

I bet you didn’t know the Florida Panthers were 11th best in goals against right now. If you did, see the man at the door for a gold star. Sadly they are also 19th in goals for. The question of what this team does is anyone’s guess. Dale Tallon has shown a willingness to make moves that could lead just about anywhere. Maybe he swings a deal to send Vokoun out west to the San Jose Sharks, or goes digging for some former BlackHawks in Atlanta or Toronto. It’s even conceivable a team with enough injuries might decide they need Denis Wideman.  The team hasn’t made the playoffs in a very long time and was conversely widely criticized for holding on to Bouwmeester too long when his contract was ready to expire just a short time back. With little to offer but prospects and depth forwards, trades might be pretty hard to come by.  A little judicious movement could see the team slide back into the lottery where they could land next years Jeff Skinner or Kevin Shattenkirk.

New York Rangers need only stay and get healthy to stay in a nice spot. The with Fedetenko set to be back before the deadline, and Christensen having just climbed off the IR, they could be movers at the dead line upgrading here and there. With 3 million and cap space and a few movable assets, the blue shirts are in a position at least a dozen NHL teams would like to be occupy. With the part-time demotion of Michael Del Zotto to the AHL, one can’t help but wondering if he’d be available to teams shopping for a mobile blueliner.