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Chris Pronger To LTIR

The big news story of yesterday was that Chris Pronger will miss the remainder of the season due to post-concussion syndrome.  Chris Pronger is a Philadelphia Flyer defenceman who is signed to a problematic contract.  He is signed through the 2016/17 season with a salary cap hit of almost $5 million dollars a year.  This is a 35+ contract which means that it stays on the Flyers books no matter what.  If Pronger retires or is sent to the minors, this nearly $5 million salary cap stays with the Flyers.  There is only one way out.  Pronger has to be on the long term injured reserve.

The Philadelphia Flyers have a long history of placing essentially retired players on LTIR for years.  Currently, Ian Laperriere and Blair Betts have been on the Flyers LTIR all season.  Neither is expected to play in the NHL again.  Laperriere missed all of last season on the LTIR as well.  Darien Hatcher and Mike Rathje also spent significant time on LTIR when they were essentially retired.  Rathje spent almost four years there.

The Flyers being a big market team are able to hide contracts of retiring players on LTIR.  This isn’t to say that the players are not injured when they first got put there.  The Flyers had no interest in ever bringing them back.  They let the player retire while still paying him.  The player usually got put on the LTIR when his salary cap hit became a problem and the extra cap room would help the team.  It is very suspicious that several Flyers have had this happen to them and no other team has had a similar situation.  This appears to be a salary cap management method.

In the October thread I wrote about this commenter steviesteve wrote:

If anyone wants more evidence of the Flyers using this exception to get out of crap contracts, just wait two or three seasons. Unless the CBA changes this loophole or the way 35+ contracts or buyouts are handled, I can guarantee right now that Chris Pronger will be LTIRed—not retired.

It looks like he is right.  Chris Pronger looks like he will be retired to the LTIR instead of coming back and playing.  Perhaps the injury came a little earlier than the Flyers hoped, but this is the way they will get out of his contract.

I argue that it goes against the spirit of the salary cap to keep an essentially retired player on the LTIR for seasons so that his salary cap hit won’t hurt the team.  I argue that there should be a buyout forced for the player, at least for salary cap purposes.  There should be a cost to the team for the contract.  This should not be a way to get out of unwanted contracts.  The Philadelphia Flyers have used this loophole many times already and seem poised to do so to get out of Chris Pronger’s salary hit, which would otherwise stay on their books until 2017.

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Comments

Savage Henry's avatar

This doesn’t bother me so much so long as the player is legitimately injured.  If they have to retire early because of injury, I don’t have a problem with their cap hit being taken away.  Especially if they (or their insurance company) continue to pay the player.  It may not hit their cap number, but it will hit the bottom line.  Even a big market team is going to feel $5M - $10M/year (or more) off of the bottom line.

Future CBAs can probably address this more elegantly that it is currently, but the root of the problem is the fact that 35+ contracts stay on the books if the player retires, no matter what.  There needs to be a solution that discourages teams from signing guys into their mid-40s but gives cap relief to teams that have legitimately injured players.  Personally, I’d like to see a system where a player’s cap hit is their salary that particular year.  Once you eliminate the average salary cap hit nonsense, a lot of other problems solve themselves.

Posted by Savage Henry on 12/16/11 at 08:30 PM ET

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I don’t see the problem here Philly may be big market but according to Forbes team value is down and an unproductive Pronger contract replaced but some other paid player(s) is enough to make the team unprofitable this year.

I suppose you could argue that one season perhaps you could force a buy out but that seems a like reacting to just one team. And it ignores the fact that maybe a long term recovery period might really save a players career and that team still does want him.

Savage - I really disagree on the contract thing (but than again I have no desire for enforced parity yo -yo teams). The contract average allows a team to make a strategic choice lock in a player long term and take the financial risk or not.  It seems to me the post Kovalchuk rules keep the process from becoming ludicrous and thus it remains fair.

Posted by paulklos on 12/17/11 at 07:01 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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