Is it realistic to keep Joffrey Lupul in an orange and black sweater?
Lupul’s NHL salary cap number currently sits at $2.31 million for 2008-09, but beyond this season his salary will escalate to $4.25 million annually for the remainder of his contract, which extends through the 2012-13 season.
As the roster currently stands, going into the off-season next summer the Flyers cap number will be at $51.2 million. Key players such as Martin Biron and Mike Knuble will be available for unrestricted free agency, with secondary players such as Antero Niittymaki, Andrew Alberts, Ossi Vaananen, and Lasse Kukkonen also designated UFA status.
Scottie Upshall will be a restricted free agent, with only a 10 percent increase in his $1.25 million salary necessary to retain his services.
Assuming the Flyers re-sign Biron and Upshall, Paul Holmgren will likely find that he will be in the familiar situation of bumping into the same exact salary cap obstacles that prevented Philadelphia from competing for marquee UFA players last summer, most notably Brian Campbell.
With the need to upgrade the blue line and procure a reliable backup goaltender (or retain Niittymaki at a significant raise over his $1.25 million salary), the Flyers could once again find themselves on the outside looking in as other teams swoop in and sign a deep class of UFA defensemen that includes Jay Bouwmeester, Scott Niedermayer, Jaroslav Spacek, Sergei Zubov, Darryl Sydor, Filip Kuba, Philippe Boucher, Mattias Ohlund and Derek Morris.
As a third line right wing that has a history of struggling with consistency in his game, at $4.25 million will Lupul be overpaid? When comparing his production with high-end players at his position in other NHL cities, it would seem so.
Below is a list of other players at the right wing position with salaries comparable to what Lupul will earn when his salary escalates to $4.25 million next season.
Alexei Kovalev ($4.5 million)
Shane Doan ($4.5 million)
Daniel Alfredsson ($4.3 million)
Milan Michalek ($4.3 million)
Ales Hemsky ($4.1 million)
Brian Gionta ($4 million)
Pierre-Marc Bouchard ($4 million)
J.P. Dumont ($4 million)
Patrick Sharp ($3.9 million)
Milan Hejduk ($3.9 million)
Justin Williams ($3.5 million)
Miroslav Satan ($3.5 million)
Dustin Brown ($3.1 million)
Jonathan Cheechoo ($3 million)
Teemu Selanne ($2.6 million)
Petr Sykora ($2.5 million)
In terms of scoring and consistency, with the exception of Jonathan Cheechoo, Lupul’s production does not approach any of his peers, yet he is poised to earn more than many of them.
Not included on the list above are players such as Steve Bernier ($2.5 million), Marek Svatos ($2 million), and Kyle Wellwood ($1 million), who each produce offensive numbers approaching (but not exceeding) Lupul’s offensive production, but as of next season, each of those players will seem vastly underpaid in contrast to the salary numbers of their colleague in Philadelphia.
With Claude Giroux waiting for his opportunity in the big league at a salary of $812,667 and the Flyers in need of one more high-end defenseman to solidify their blue line, it begs the question: Can the Flyers afford to keep Joffrey Lupul next season?