Ask a Philadelphia Flyers fan for their favorite moment from the 2013 season and most will be hard pressed to think of one. A 23-22-3 season that ended without a playoff birth rendered few bright spots. One particular moment of elation came on Feb. 26, when the Flyers traded a fourth-round draft pick to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for former Flyer and fan favorite Simon Gagne. It now appears unclear whether or not the Flyers will create enough cap space to re-sign the veteran left winger.
Drafted 22nd overall by the Flyers in the 1998 NHL Draft, Gagne and fans alike enjoyed a 10-year career with the Flyers that included two All-Star game appearances, seven seasons with more than 20 goals and a stunning go-ahead goal in Game 7 of the second round of the 2010 playoffs against the Boston Bruins.
The 33-year-old posted five goals and 11 points in 27 games with the Flyers in 2013. Gagne, who is currently an unrestricted free agent, has repeatedly expressed his desire to remain a Flyer. Last season, he earned $3.5 million, a figure that is not only unrealistic for the aging winger but also incompatible with the Flyers’ salary cap.
As of July 12, the Flyers are $2.05 million above the salary cap with 25 players signed. NHL teams are permitted to exceed the salary cap by 10 percent during the offseason. When the season begins, players placed on the Long Term Injured Reserve are removed from the salary cap. This includes defenseman Chris Pronger, who is set to earn $4.9 million per year through 2017.
It’s entirely feasible for the Flyers to re-sign Gagne once players are placed on LTIR, at a significant price drop. General manager Paul Holmgren has remained characteristically vague on the subject, stating “It’s pretty difficult to say right now. We don’t have a lot of cap space.” The Flyers are still desperate for additional men on the blue line, signing Oliver Lauridsen to a two-year, $1.2 million contract on July 10.
Despite his age and decreased production, the Flyers have a need for talented wingers, and Gagne still shows flashes of brilliance. A perennial fan favorite and veteran leader, Gagne deserves to remain a Flyer, a sweater he wore well for 10 seasons in his prime.