If the Philadelphia Flyers are indeed intent on challenging their salary cap hit on Chris Pronger’s contract, it’s news to both the team’s GM and the NHL.
When Pronger signed his seven-year contract extension Tuesday, it was front-loaded the way almost all long-term deals are. The extension kicks in for the 2010-11 season and carries a salary cap hit of $4.92 million per season. Pronger will make $7.6 million in each of the first two seasons of the deal, then is scheduled to make $7.2 million, $7 million and $4 million in the next three seasons before dropping to just $525,000 in Years 6 and 7 of the deal, which are the 2015-16 and ’16-17 seasons.
Now, nobody in the game expects Pronger to fulfill the terms of this contract. With Pronger earning $33.4 million of the $34.45 million in the first five years of the deal, it’s a virtual certainty Pronger will retire after the 2014-15 season.
Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the Flyers would be on the hook for the entire $4.92 million cap hit for each of the next seven seasons regardless of whether Pronger retires or not, because the contract kicks in after Pronger turns 35 (he turns 35 this October). But there is speculation the Flyers believe that since Pronger actually signed the extension prior to turning 35, they might not have to absorb the cap hit if he retires.
“I don’t believe that and I don’t know who’s creating that notion out there,” Flyers GM Paul Holmgren told TheHockeyNews.com. “We signed Chris Pronger to a seven-year contract. As with any long-term contract, there are ramifications that come along with it, both negative and positive and we’re prepared to deal with those ramifications.”
While the wording of the CBA makes things rather ambiguous when it comes to players 35 and older, the spirit of the provision is solidly in place.
When it comes to players signing long-term deals at age 35, here’s what the CBA says:
“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’s 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)…shall count towards the calculation of the Actual Club Salary.”
On the one hand it says the contract has to be signed when the player is 35 and then goes on to stipulate that it comes into effect the year in which the SPC is to be effective, hence the possibility for confusion.
But the spirit of the provision is that it governs contracts that kick in when a player turns 35, not when it is signed.
“The league has sent out memo after memo after memo alerting teams about this,” said one former NHL executive. “If this is what they’re doing, they’re trying to drive a 747 through a loophole.”
The league has yet to hear from the Flyers about this and considers it to be unambiguous. And given that Holmgren has said the Flyers are willing to live with the negative ramifications of signing Pronger to a seven-year deal, it might not be an issue.
Then that just makes it a really bad contract.
The issue with respect to the possibility the Toronto Maple Leafs were guilty of tampering when coach Ron Wilson told a Toronto radio station prior to the Sedins becoming unrestricted free agents that the Leafs would make a bid for the twins really has nothing to do with the fact the Sedins still ultimately signed with the Canucks, anyway.
What the league will try to determine is how much, if anything, it cost the Canucks in contract negotiations. When the St. Louis Blues were guilty of tampering by signing Scott Stevens to an offer sheet in 1994, one that was matched by the New Jersey Devils, they were fined $1.5 million, $1.4 million of which went directly to the Devils to off-set the cost of matching the offer sheet. The Devils also received a first round pick.
“I think a third round pick and $500,000 would be appropriate in this case,” an NHL executive said.
Not likely. It will now be up to the league to determine whether Wilson’s comments ended up costing the Canucks more when they signed the Sedins. If so, the fine will be large. If not, as many suspect will be the case, a slap on the wrist will likely be the punishment.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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