by PuckStopsHere on 09/19/08 at 02:24 PM ET
The Philadelphia Flyers are one of the teams that will have to deal with salary cap issues this season. The Irish Blues salary cap pages list them as being over a million dollars above the cap right now. In order to fix this, there have been rumors that the Flyers may trade a player, most likely Mike Knuble and his $2.8 million salary cap hit. Doing so would get them under the salary cap, but they wouldn’t have much room to maneuver throughout the season. Room to maneuver will likely be obtained by clearing Derian Hatcher’s salary. Hatcher has a cap hit of $3.5 million that can be cleared if he is becomes a long term injured reserve exemption.
Hatcher has been suffering from knee problems for a while, but nevertheless was able to play for the Flyers last year in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He is reportedly unable to play and will not participate in training camp. He is reportedly considering retirement now that he is on the injured reserve. While I have no doubt that Hatcher suffers from chronic right knee problems that have affected his play (it is quite clear that the post-lockout Hatcher is a shell of what he once was and is clearly in decline), I think he probably could play and his injury is being exaggerated for salary cap purposes.
Any player who plays competitive hockey at the NHL level for sixteen years as Hatcher has will have chronic injury problems. Hatcher’s knee problems go back to the 2003/04 season when he was a Detroit Red Wing. He hurt his knee early in the year and was limited to only 15 games played that season. He has been able to play with it ever since, even if it is a degenerative condition that is slowly getting worse. Any doctor who examines Hatcher will definitely notice that he has a bad right knee. The doctor will clearly see that when Hatcher plays hockey, he plays in pain. It nearly impossible to give a medical opinion as to whether or not Hatcher should be playing hockey with his knee issues, but given the decision as to whether or not Hatcher is hurt and should be allowed as a long term injury exemption, it is clear that Hatcher is hurt. It is clear that almost any veteran NHL player is hurt. For liability purposes, a doctor would not want to claim the player is not hurt and send him out to play only to have his knee (or other injury) cause permanent problems. That does not mean that Hatcher cannot play. In fact, Hatcher probably can play. The problem is the Philadelphia Flyers do not want him to.
This is essentially a loophole in the salary cap. If a team has an NHL veteran that they don’t want, instead of buying out his contract, they can play up his injury. The team will have to comply with the salary cap at the beginning of the season, but then can replace the “injured” player with another player and exceed the salary cap by the injured player’s salary, if necessary. In many cases, insurance will pay the injured player’s salary, so this is cheaper than a buyout in terms of salary cap hit and in terms of actual cash paid by the team.
This is the Philadelphia Flyers attempt to keep up with division rival Lou Lamoreillo of the New Jersey Devils in creative salary cap avoidance. It is a shame to see the career of Derian Hatcher comes to an end under these terms, but the Flyers have made the decision to part ways with him. There is little chance that they will be able to clear enough salary cap space to allow him back into the lineup at mid-season should Hatcher decide he is well enough. The Philadelphia Flyers salary cap situation is the reason Derian Hatcher’s career is ending and his knee injury is the excuse. We will see more and more cases like this in the salary capped era.
Here is TSN’s story on the Hatcher situation
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