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Meltzer's Musings: Jagr Alternatives, Carle, LTIR, Larsson

June 28, 2012, 9:45 AM ET [739 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
There is nothing new to report on whether the Flyers will re-sign Jaromir Jagr on July 1 or go in another direction for next season. Jagr has publicly placed the decision in the hands of his agent, former Flyers defenseman Petr Svoboda, and hinted that he will make his decision based primarily on Svoboda's recommendation (just as it was Svoboda who swayed him to sign with the Flyers last year).

Barring other trades, if the Flyers re-sign Jagr, Matt Carle, Jakub Voracek, Marc-Andre Bourdon and their other free agents, they will pretty much be done for the summer apart from adding a new backup goaltender.

Unfortunately for the Flyers, Carle's open market value just increased yesterday with the massive contract that Calgary gave to Dennis Wideman. Unless there is already a handshake deal hammered out between the Flyers and Kurt Overhardt -- in which case, I don't think the Carle camp would do an about-face and demand more money -- one would have to think even the sub-market value deal the Flyers say they are so confident in has increased in cost since yesterday.

As for Jagr, the trade of James van Riemsdyk and the hefty trading price to acquire Bobby Ryan increases the importance of either bringing back the 40-year-old for one more season or finding an alternative option.

Most folks seem to be focused on free agents such as P.A. Parenteau or Ray Whitney (himself 40 years old) if Jagr does not come back and the club is unable to trade for Ryan. I understand the sentiment -- there is a concern over the Flyers losing too much offense from the top two wings between Jagr and JVR departing.

I view it a little differently. First of all, I'm not particularly enamored of Parenteau. The late-blooming winger has done a pretty good job on the Islanders' top line the last couple of years and has had some success against the Flyers (which sometimes contributes to a particular player being brought in) despite New York's poor record against Philly.

Parenteau is a good passer with good offensive instincts. But he is a poor skater, subpar defensively and not much of a finisher. At age 29, he is not suddenly going to morph into a more complete player.

Frankly, I think he's going to get overpaid by his next team and I would not be eager if I were Paul Holmgren to lock myself into a multi-year deal. Jagr might cost more for next season, but it will be only a one-year arrangement. As for Whitney or a discount option such as bringing Mike Knuble back to Philly at a reduced cost after a miserable season for the Capitals, they team also might as well just hammer out something with Jagr.

Unless the Flyers allow both Carle and Jagr to leave via free agency -- or else move out significant salary cap room in other ways -- they simply will not have the cap space (even with Chris Pronger's LTIR allowance available in Oct) to afford a competitive contract offer to Zach Parise. Even if they did create the space, the chances of Parise choosing the Flyers seem unlikely.

Other names that get tossed out there include Alexander Semin and Dustin Penner. I don't see Semin as a good fit in Philadelphia (he's too expensive for one thing, a questionable fit in the locker room for another). Penner, who underwent offseason wrist surgery, is a guy who seemed pretty much unwanted just a few months ago. He is coming off a contract with a $4.25 million cap hit. Penner had a decent playoff run for LA this spring but is two years removed from his 32-goal season for Edmonton.

As for his conditioning, let's just say that the 249 pounds Penner carries on his 6-foot-4 frame are not quite as well proportioned as the 240 on Jagr's 6-foot-3 frame. The latter works out like a man possessed, even at times where he'd have been better off taking it easy. The former notoriously suffered a back injury while eating a stack of pancakes.

I would not be completely opposed to seeing the Flyers take a gamble on Penner, but it would have to be for no more than Jagr got paid last season and I wouldn't want it to be on a contract that ran any longer than two seasons. While I think the soon-to-be 30 year old Penner could rebound to score at least 25 goals again, I'd be a little hesitant to see the Flyers go in that direction.

Thus, the alternative I would prefer if Jagr is not re-signed would be to focus on adding size and/or defensive presence to the third line and moving Voracek up into Jagr's spot on the Giroux line on a more permanent basis. The two benefits I see to this are:

* Improved team defense between the role-playing forward and the addition of Luke Schenn to the blueline

* A little more grit in the forward lineup, and

* Less cost on the salary cap with more flexibility to make an in-season move for wing scoring help if that proves necessary.

When talking about this category of player, whether it's someone such as Travis Moen or Adam Burish, there are also more options available on the marketplace at a lower cost.


There is a widespread misconception about how long-term injured reserve works in terms of the salary cap. I recommend that everyone read the straightforward explanation on the Capgeek website. Four key points:

* There is no such thing as LTIR during the summer. The player's salary counts in all salary cap calculations, both toward the in-season cap ceiling (temporarily set at $70.2 million) for 2012-13 and the summer maximum ($77.2 million)

* Even during the season, a player on LTIR's salary counts against the salary cap. It is not "bankable" money or freed-up cap space.

* LTIR money is not automatic. It is an allowance to exceed the salary cap if necessary to replace a player who is going to miss significant time. If a team does NOT need to exceed the cap to replace the injured player, it simply uses the necessary cap space to add another player.

* LTIR money is calculated by the injured player's salary cap hit MINUS (not plus) the available amount of cap space. For example, if a player's salary is $3 million and the club has $2 million of cap space available, they have a $1 million allowance to go over the cap. If they have $500,000 of cap space available, the allowance is $2.5 million. If they have $4 million of cap space, they don't need the allowance and can use their available cap space as they please.

Long-term injured reserve money is likely come into play for the Flyers in October when Chris Pronger is placed on the LTIR list. The club is likely to be close to the $70.2 million cap ceiling, and the team may have to use the allowance to exceed the cap to round out its opening night roster.


Under the current entry-level contract requirements for signing players drafted from European countries, it is a risk to take players regarded as long-term projects. Teams have just two years to sign these players before losing their rights, as is the case with players taken from Canadian Hockey League (OHL, WHL, QMJHL) afffiliated clubs.

In the past, teams held onto the rights of European draftees indefinitely. It was not at all uncommon for a club to wait three to five years (sometimes even longer) to bring a European draftee to North America. The soon-to-expire current CBA that ended the 2004-05 NHL lockout changed the rules.

Since that time, however, the NHL's international transfer agreement negotiated with the IIHF and ratified by the various European hockey federations has been scuttled. Sweden and Finland now each have their own agreements with the NHL but Russia and the Czech Republic do not.

As things stand right now, the NHL once again enforces the two-year limit on holding rights for players drafted from Swedish or Finnish teams. They have an indefinite hold on players drafted from Russian or Czech teams due to the lack of a formal process for bringing these players to North America.

That is why, for example, the Flyers still technically hold the NHL rights to Czech goaltender Jakub Kovar (drafted in 2006) but have lost the rights to Swedish goaltender Joacim Eriksson (drafted in 2008) and Swedish defenseman Simon Bertilsson (drafted in 2009).

While it is far from a primary issue of discussion between the NHL and the NHLPA, the next CBA is going to need to re-establish some set of standardized rules in lieu of a new all-purpose international transfer agreement. Whether the time limit will be two years, three years, five years or whatever, there needs to be something more systematic than the current mess.

Assuming the two-year time limit holds in place for players drafted from Sweden, I am not optimistic that the Flyers' fourth-round selection of Brynäs defenseman Fredric Larsson will result in anything more than a wasted pick.

Larsson, who spent the majority of the 2011-12 season at the J18 level, made tremendous progress over the course of last season. He showed he was ready for the J20 level and held his own in his games for Brynäs' top junior squad. Over time, Larsson has a decent shot at graduating from the junior program to Elitserien. From there, he might work his way up to consideration for a pro contract in North America.

However, the likely time frame of the young defenseman's potential readiness for NHL (or even AHL) hockey appears to be closer to higher end of three to five years than to the two-year evaluation window the Flyers are currently afforded.

Of course, it's possible Larsson's career could take off like a rocket and he could crack the Elitserien roster at some point in the second half of 2012-13, earn a spot at the World Junior Championships and become a solid regular in Elitserien the following season. It's possible but it isn't likely.

Larsson is still very raw and his game will take time to develop. He's a defensive minded defenseman with a physical edge to his game, an above-average sized frame (which still needs to fill out considerably), and decent skating skills. He'll never be a big point-getter.

As such, Larsson may eventually develop into the type of player who is worthy of a shot at the NHL. But I am not overly optimistic that he'll be ready for an entry-level contract within the current two-year time frame. Hopefully, the rules change to allow the Flyers longer to track and evaluate his progress.

Following the Draft, Larsson told the local newspaper in Gävle that he was uncertain that he would be selected in the draft. His agent advised him beforehand the odds of being picked were about 50-50.

The player plans to attend the Flyers' forthcoming prospect camp before returning home to play for Sweden. Larsson said that he will remain in the Brynäs system next season. While he'd love to someday play in the NHL for the Flyers, he realizes that there is a way to go before that time could come about for him.

European scout: "Larsson has good physical tools and he competes. He's not afraid to challenge forward physically and he moves around well. With most defensemen his age, except for the top few guys, they are going to be raw so you focus on the tools. You hope they develop over time."

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