Having re-signed Jeff Carter to an 11-year, $58-million contract extension – thus finally snuffing out the trade rumors that have dogged the sniper for three years – Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren now turns his attention to winger Ville Leino, who’s eligible for unrestricted free agency in July.
The problem for Holmgren is he now has more than $57.5 million committed to 18 players for 2011-12 and while a new contract for Leino won’t kick in until next season, Holmgren cannot spend more on his ’11-12 payroll than the current salary cap of $59.4 million – otherwise he’d be in violation of the league’s “tagging” rule.
Holmgren’s available cap space becomes even smaller if players qualify for bonuses this season. So if he wants to re-sign Leino during this season he’ll have to clear salary by demoting or trading one or two players.
That’s also led to the suggestion Holmgren will be forced, either during this season or prior to July 1, to trade one of his high-priced defensemen. That would free up sufficient cap space for Leino plus leave enough money to re-sign and/or replace other free agents, including Dan Carcillo, Nikolay Zherdev, Andreas Nodl and Brian Boucher.
Leino currently accounts for $825,000 against the cap and given how much his stock has risen since his breakout performance in the 2010 playoffs, he’ll be due a hefty raise – one he can easily get on the open market if he’s unable to re-sign with the Flyers.
If the salary cap for next season doesn’t increase substantially Holmgren’s headache will get even worse as he’ll be forced to shed even more payroll to remain cap compliant and still ice a 23-man roster.
Holmgren has, however, shown a remarkable ability to retain his best players, while staying under the cap. It would be hasty to assume he’s bitten off more than he can chew this time.
WHAT’S AVAILABLE FROM THE NEW YORK ISLANDERS
THN.com pundit Ken Campbell recently characterized the New York Islanders’ firing of coach Scott Gordon as yet another misguided move by a team “stuck with an incompetent owner, a GM who is clearly way in over his head, a coach with no experience and a roster full of young players who are learning nothing more than how to lose and veterans who simply are not NHL worthy.”
It’s probably only a matter of time until the Islanders start popping up in the rumor mill, though to be brutally honest, the club doesn’t have much that will attract rival GMs.
Sophomore center John Tavares would certainly be a target for other clubs, but unless he or his agent starts suggesting his performance would improve if he were playing for a better team, he’s not available.
Ditto for sniper Matt Moulson, who potted 30 goals last season and entered this week tied with Tavares for the team lead in goals with six.
Veteran goaltender Dwayne Roloson will be an unrestricted free agent next summer and has garnered praise this season for his steady performance (2.39 GAA, .915 SP) despite a 2-7-1 record in his first 10 games.
The 41-year-old Roloson has been the main reason the Isles have managed to keep scores close in most of their recent losses. The earliest he’ll be available for trade would be late January if, as expected, it becomes apparent the Islanders are out of the playoff chase by that point.
The same goes for defenseman James Wisniewski, who entered this week as New York’s leading scorer, with 13 points in 15 games. His offensive and physical play certainly makes him attractive to contending teams, but they’d likely prefer to wait until later in the season when the Isles have paid at least half of Wisniewski’s $3.25-million salary.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.