Philadelphia Flyers Face Tough Choice With Streit’s Return

The 2015-16 Philadelphia Flyers are stuck in purgatory. They’re a team which might be good enough to push for a playoff spot, but still in need of a high draft pick. They’ve got a lot of solid talent on their current roster, like forwards Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek, but remain held back by a porous blue line.

They’re also about the feel the impact of the $71.4 million salary cap, as defender Mark Streit is about to return from injury. His $5.25 million cap hit has been off of their salary cap since he underwent surgery to repair a public plate detachment on November 14th, 2015.

Streit has been out for the last six weeks and is about to return, only there is a problem, the Flyers don’t have the cap space to add him to the roster. Currently, Philadelphia has $4.325 million in salary cap room and they have a ton of options to open up space. Only Claude Giroux and Vincent Lecavalier have full no-movement and no-trade clauses and R.J. Umberger, Wayne Simmonds, Luke Schenn and Streit have limited no-trade clauses.

Philadelphia Flyers Have Options to Clear Cap Space

One of the most explosive players for the Flyers has been the rookie defender Shayne Gostisbehere. He’s scored three game winning goals in 3-on-3 overtime, which has given the Flyers six points in the standings. Gostisbehere has not been perfect, but in a confusing season for the Flyers, he has not been part of their woes. But at the same time, his entry-level contract has a salary cap hit of just $925,000, which is just enough to allow Streit to return.

Some have worried that general manager Ron Hextall might send Gostisbehere down to the minors to clear cap space, but that does not appear to be the case.

Panaccio elaborated on his thoughts on why demoting Gostisbehere would be a mistake.

Sending him down to the minors would send a terrible message to his teammates. Namely, the club is willing to suffer the consequences on the ice in the name of four more months of maturation in the minors.

It’s not an outright tanking of the season like the Sixers are doing, but to the fan base, that’s exactly how it would be interpreted. That’s a public relations and marketing nightmare for the Flyers.

And everything he’s said is true. Sending “Ghost” down to the minors would be a horrible move and would show the fanbase that the team is not interested in even trying to make the playoffs this season. Gostisbehere still has a lot to learn, but he will learn much faster playing against NHL competition and his on-ice contributions are more positive than negative.

There are other defenders that could simply be traded and the list starts with Nick Schultz and Radkos Gudas. Both are solid second or third pairing defenders, but might be at the end of their tenure in Philadelphia. Schultz, 33, still has a year remaining on his deal after this season concludes, but he accounts for $2.25 million against the cap. On the other hand Gudas is a restricted free-agent at the end of 2015-16 and could easily be moved due to his low cap hit of $991,666.

Here’s an option that hasn’t been discussed very thoroughly, why not consider moving Streit? He does not have full trade protection, is a desirable offensive defender and has a cap hit that most teams could accommodate. On the one hand, Streit would help the 2015-16 Flyers, but he’s also 38-years old. The odds of Philadelphia seriously competing for the Stanley Cup this season are low, very low. Next season, they have a few defensive prospects that could be ready to make the jump to the NHL and Streit could block them.

At 38-years old, Streit’s play won’t improve, it will slowly degrade as he continues to age. The last thing the Flyers want is another situation like they have with Andrew MacDonald where he was visibly hurting the team, but his contract is impossible to trade.  Streit is rapidly heading towards the end of his career and it’s unlikely he will be able to keep up his high level of play.

The Philadelphia Flyers are already stuck with MacDonald and his $5 million cap hit ($4.05 million when buried in the AHL), the conservative approach would be explore moving Streit now, or after he has a few strong games after returning from injury.

Only Ron Hextall knows what he plans on doing Wednesday when Streit is projected to return, but two things are certain, he has a lot of options in order to clear cap space and don’t expect Gostisbehere to be sent down for Streit.

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