The Philadelphia Flyers have a decision to make.
Well, they have many. But in particular, the National Hockey League’s buyout window opened on July 1 and teams can exercise their right to buy out players until July 12 by first letting them pass through unconditional waivers.
Flyers General Manager Chuck Fletcher has surely checked his buyout options and there aren’t too many that make too much sense, at least financially.
Except for one. And it comes at a price. Not the price of losing assets or kicking the can down the road. It would be a public relations price and a gut-wrenching one at that.
Oskar Lindblom enters the final year of his three-year deal this fall. It was a deal inked by Chuck Fletcher in 2020 shortly after Lindblom returned from beating Ewing sarcoma. It was one of the great stories in the league and it was one of the few bright spots for the Flyers, who have missed the playoffs two seasons in a row since it happened.
How badly do the Flyers want to clear cap space this season for the “aggressive retool” that is supposedly going to take place this offseason. A Lindblom buyout of a $3 million cap hit could be the start of it.
Because he is 25, Lindblom’s cap hit is only a one-third buyout option, meaning the Flyers would be on the hook for one-third of Lindblom’s salary during his final year and the cap hit would be stretched over two seasons. And because Lindblom’s salary structure was back-loaded, as he will make $4 million in actual salary this year against a $3 million cap hit, the Flyers would save a total of $2.67 million. They would actually see a rare cap credit of $333,333 this year and would then have to deal with $666,667 in dead cap space next year. Unless the unlikely scenario that Lindblom is snagged on the waiver wire, in which his entire contract would go to his new team.
To say it bluntly, Lindblom has struggled to regain his promising form since returning from cancer treatments. He has registered 20 goals and 20 assists in 131 games (including two playoff games) since he returned and is a minus-22 in that time. He has spent large chunks of his time playing in the bottom six.
With all that being said, it makes total sense to buy out the final year of Lindblom’s contract purely on financial reasons, as they simply can’t afford to use $3 million of cap space on a fourth-line player in their current situation.
But how on earth do you cancel a contract on a guy who has been through so much? It would certainly be a tough pull, especially since Fletcher was the one who rewarded him with the three-year deal. And it’s pretty tough to yank $2.67 million of real money from a guy who budgeted his life for $4 million.
Lindblom could then sign with another team and try to recoup some of what he would potentially lose. But it’s a gamble for any team that might not be convinced that he will return to full health.
Hockey, like all sports, is certainly a business. And teams often look at the bottom line when it comes to personnel decisions, and we forget that players are human. Lindblom is a special case. And it will be a tough decision for the Flyers. It’s certainly one I wouldn’t want to make. ••