For the next three seasons, the National Hockey League's salary cap ceiling and floor are likely to remain flat. In his Exit Day media availability on Thursday, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher discussed how the flat cap will create challenges for many teams, including Philadelphia, to do much maneuvering to fill needs via unrestricted free agency while also ensuring that notable internal restricted agents coming off their entry-level deals are appropriately compensated in their next contracts.
"There's a lot of teams right now that don't have cap space already. The teams that do have cap space over the next three years, every one of them has some young players that are going to get raises, potentially big raises. Teams that spend money on UFA's this summer and have young players aren't necessarily going to have any more money in year two and year three," Fletcher said.
"Eventually by the time you get to year three, how much liquidity is there really going to be in the system? It's going to be tight for everybody. Does that mean prices come down on free agents? Does that encourage more hockey trades, dollar for dollar trades? Possibly. I think that from a logical standpoint, that could make sense, but we'll see. There's several teams worse off than we are. We're one of a group of teams that has enough room to do our business but not a ton of room. Then there's a handful of teams that do have some room. Some of them may not even spend at the cap, depending on the realm of their internal situations. There's not a lot of liquidity in the system at all, so it's going to be interesting to see how it plays out."
For these reasons, Fletcher said that he does not anticipate the Flyers being aggressive in going after the biggest names in the unrestricted free agent market in the near future. That does not mean the situation could not change or that he would not look for potentially beneficial UFAs who are available at team-friendly terms.
In terms of the trade market, Fletcher said that he plans to work the phones and see what opportunities exist. Trades, of course, also carry salary cap implications both in the average annual value (AAV) being absorbed or divested and in the remaining term on the deal(s) in question. This can also affect flexibility to pursue unrestricted free agents.
Here's a look at the Flyers' own free agents this offseason, both restricted and unrestricted. We have also noted which RFAs are eligible to file for salary arbitration.