Injuries are a bitch. Especially injuries to important players, like top-six forwards. And especially to two top-six forwards at the same time. And most especially when those two top-six forwards are offensive linchpins; highly sought after and handsomely paid guys. Unless, of course, you’re the Philadelphia Flyers.
Danny Briere and Simon Gagne are both injured right now – Briere with a groin strain that is, so far, a day-to-day thing, Gagne with hernias in his right groin. The latter is scheduled to go under the knife Tuesday. It’s the same area he had repaired surgically prior to the 2007-08 season, in which he was limited to just 25 games. Gagne is expected to be on the shelf for two months recovering and is on the injured reserve list.
Now, in no way am I suggesting the Flyers are happy with this scenario. Briere and Gagne are both talented players any team would want on the ice. But the pair hadn’t come out like gangbusters to begin the season; Briere is eighth in team scoring, Gagne 11th. And Philly is deep, able to absorb these losses.
The Flyers have youngsters Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk champing at the bit for more ice time, world-class forwards in Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, a 20- to 30-goal plugger in Scott Hartnell, offensively-inclined blueliners Chris Pronger, Matt Carle and Kimmo Timonen, and a host of other steady players.
What these injuries do for the Flyers is – literally – buy the team some breathing space. According to capgeek.com, Briere’s daily salary cap hit is almost $34,000, Gagne’s is a shade over $27,000. Briere is yet to be placed on the IR – and I’m sure the Flyers hope it doesn’t come to that. But every week Gagne remains on the IR, the Flyers save $190,000-plus on their salary cap. If he’s out eight weeks, that’s more than $1.5 million – enough to pay for some added depth at the trade deadline, just what any championship-caliber team needs to make a long playoff run or shore-up an injury-depleted lineup.
If Briere’s injury is more than just a tweak and he goes on the IR, add his daily cap hit to the Philly bank as well. And with defenseman Mike Rathje already there – and not expected to ever come off it – the Flyers are already saving his $2.9 million cap hit. They’ve also managed to divest themselves of half of blueliner Randy Jones’ cap hit by allowing him to go on re-entry waivers to Los Angeles, saving $1.375 million. The numbers have begun to add up quickly.
Assuming Philadelphia can weather the injury storm – and my guess is they will – these cap breaks are good for the team long-term. They’ll allow the Flyers to ice a full squad of true pros all season, something they couldn’t do last year because of cap constraints. That means there will be no David Sloane-type experiments in 2009-10.
(The defenseman came out of Colgate University, played one American League game and one NHL game, all because the Flyers couldn’t afford anyone else. This year he’s playing for Kalamazoo of the ECHL.)
And that’s a good thing. Philly GM Paul Holmgren didn’t look very astute last season with Sloane having to play, nor when he lost current Canadiens center Glen Metropolit and now Kontinental League defenseman Ossi Vaananen to cap-related problems. Neither are big-time players, but both were useful.
In this day and age, cap management is as important as anything else a GM does, and a little break here or there surely doesn’t hurt. The Flyers will miss Gagne on the ice and in the room, but not in their ledger.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.