Monday, May 21, 2012

Could Parise and Weber be in Flyers' future?

Now that the gut-wrenching disappointment of that second-round manhandling is finally working its way out of our systems, we Flyers faithful can safely turn our attention to the offseason ahead. And my, what an offseason it could be.

The two undisputed gems of the free agent class are Devils forward Zach Parise and Predators defenseman Ryan Suter. Flyers fans seem to largely be clamoring for a push to land Suter, while the Inquirer's Sam Carchidi penned a strong case for the Flyers to pursue Parise.

Quick math says the Flyers can't really afford both, even in the event that both wanted to sign in Philadelphia. But what if there were a way to pair Parise with another dominant defenseman, while maintaining the team's cap flexibility in the near term?

Enter Shea Weber.

Per the wonderful website, the Flyers' current cap number stands at just a hair over $64 million. The cap is expected to rise to about $69 million for next season, and teams are allowed to overspend that number by ten percent (around $6.9 million) in the offseason. That would put the Flyers' projected limit for spending this offseason at right around $76 million.

That means the Flyers could conceivably add around $12 million in salary this offseason, but would have to cut around $7 million of that before next season started. $4.9 million of that relief could come from Chris Pronger, if he's again placed on long-term injured reserve.*

*For the purposes of this article, we'll assume that Chris Pronger won't play next season. His $4.9 million cap hit counts against the team during the summer, but if he remains out with post-concussion syndrome, the Flyers could place him on long-term injured reserve on the first day of next season. That would move his cap hit off the books. So while he counts against the cap now, we'll assume he won't for the coming season.

Even with that cap room, it would be exceedingly tough to add both Parise and Suter. Their combined cap hit for this past season was $9.5 million, and that number should rise significantly with both on the open market. Signing both might preclude the Flyers from bringing back Jakub Voracek and/or Marc Andre Bourdon, both of whom are restricted free agents, and would leave the team with little wiggle room.

But there's a third potentiality that I haven't heard anyone consider yet. I can't figure out why it wouldn't be a possibility--albeit an unlikely one--and the thought of it makes me giddy.

What if the Flyers could both sign Zach Parise AND trade for Weber, Nashville's other defensive jewel?

Let's say the Flyers could offer two first round picks and another mid-rounder, plus James van Riemsdyk, Matt Read, and, say, Eric Gustafsson or Bourdon. That's three picks and three young, promising, NHL-caliber players with several seasons left under team control. That's also considerably more than the Flyers gave up for Pronger, reflecting the added value of Weber's relative youth.

Why would Nashville consider that deal? Starting next season, they will owe Pekka Rinne $7 million per year. Suter and Weber can each expect to earn close to that number on the open market. To retain all three, the Predators would be tying up nearly 30 percent of their cap space with three players, something they may not be prepared to do.

If they don't want to do that, then trading Weber becomes the most palatable option. And even if they don't mind spending $20+ million per year on three players, the Predators run the considerable risk of losing either Suter this year or Weber next offseason and getting nothing in return.

With the depth and salary relief provided by the aforementioned trade, the Predators could safely increase their offer to Suter in order to help ensure his return, as well as guarantee themselves greater long-term cap flexibility.

The Flyers, of course, would immediately sign Weber to a long-term extension. Let's estimate that the deal would be worth around $7 million per year on average, or just about what Drew Doughty and Zdeno Chara earn. The Flyers would have dealt away $6 million off of next season's cap in JVR, Read, and Gustafsson/Bourdon.

Again assuming they've got about $12 million to play with this offseason, that leaves them more than enough room to lure Zach Parise. Let's assume he earns around $6.5 million per season, which would put his salary in line with Brad Richards and Ilya Kovalchuk.

Add it all up, and the Flyers are left with a cap number of about $71.5 million. That would leave the Flyers with $4.5 million to take care of Jake Voracek and, if he weren't included in the Weber deal, Bourdon.

Of course, the moves would preclude the re-signing of Matt Carle and Jaromir Jagr, but even after their departure the Flyers would possibly boast the following lines:



Even after Pronger were put on LTIR, the Flyers would still likely need to make a move or two to get under the cap--perhaps trading Sergei Bobrovsky or shuffling around Jody Shelley or Andreas Lilja.

But part of the beauty of the deal is that with a combined $10.5 million coming off the books after next season when Hartnell's and Timonen's contracts expire, the team would still have the flexibility to take care of their other young players in the long term.

Meanwhile, the Flyers would boast perhaps the league's most dynamic offense and deepest blue line at the same time, featuring both one of the league's best players in Giroux and one of its top shutdown defensive units in Weber and Coburn.

It may be a pipe dream, and there's no guarantee that Nashville would be willing to make the deal or that Parise would want to come to Philadelphia. But the money works out, and Nashville would probably have to at least think about that trade before they turned it down.

Paul Holmgren has done a masterful job of bringing in young, impact players on the cheap. This summer could be where that cap flexibility pays off.

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