Paul Holmgren brought Chris Pronger to the Flyers for his leadership, toughness and scoring ability. Prior to the 2010-11 season, Pronger signed a seven-year extension, despite being 34 years old at the time of the signing.
The deal would pay Pronger until well after his 42nd birthday.
Because his contract qualifies as a “35-and-older” deal, the NHL has rules in place to prevent teams from exploiting the salary cap system.
Based on the assumption that a player is likely to retire once they start pushing 40, the NHL requires that the salary cap number agreed upon in the contract will count against the team’s cap if the player does retire.
This is to defer GMs from paying big stars big money for a few years, but softening the blow of the cap hit by agreeing to pay only a few million in the last years of the contract (when the player may retire anyway).
Now that Pronger is out for the season with post-concussion syndrome, a condition that could threaten his career, the Flyers could potentially be saddled with a $4.9 million cap for the next five years, despite the fact that Pronger will have barely played two season of his seven-year deal.
Right now, Holmgren is dealing with a similar situation in the form of Ian Laperriere, who has been placed on Long-Term Injured Reserve each of the last two seasons instead of officially retiring.
Could Holmgren do this with Pronger, should the captain be unable to return?
As of now, Holmgren technically could keep Pronger on LTIR, provided that the defenseman did not choose to retire. But, this exploitation of the salary cap system is something that could be revamped in the upcoming CBA discussions, and Holmgren may find himself with a whole new set of problems on his hands.
When Holmgren hands out these shifty contracts, he finds himself just asking for trouble. If something goes wrong with Bryzgalov, the way it has with Pronger, the Flyers could find themselves paying $10 million of their cap to two players who aren’t on the roster.
Let’s hope Holmgren has something in his bag of tricks for this.