Saturday, September 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Clowe traded to Rangers

It's all about something called "tagging space," one of the vagaries of the NHL collective bargaining agreement.

Clowe traded to Rangers

On the first day after the lockout officially ended, Paul Holmgren made a pair of moves, signing unrestricted free-agent defenseman Kurtis Foster and reacquiring goalie Brian Boucher in a deal with Carolina. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
On the first day after the lockout officially ended, Paul Holmgren made a pair of moves, signing unrestricted free-agent defenseman Kurtis Foster and reacquiring goalie Brian Boucher in a deal with Carolina. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

UPDATE (7:00 pm) - The Sharks have traded Ryane Clowe to the New York Rangers in exchange for a 2013 second round pick, 2013 third round pick and 2014 conditional pick. If Clowe is re-signed by the Rangers OR the Rangers win two playoff rounds, the conditional pick will be a second round pick. If neither of those conditions are met, it will become a fifth round pick.

Nonetheless, the info below about the Flyers' tagging space (with a look toward next year) is valuable for reference.

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Last year, the Flyers wanted to re-sign defenseman Matt Carle – and held numerous discussions with his agent – but could not.

Two years ago, the Flyers negotiated with forward Ville Leino on a contract extension, only to find out that they could not complete one.

In both instances, the “tagging space” rule has gotten in the way.

What is “tagging space”?

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It’s a component of the NHL’s salary cap under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which prohibits teams from exceeding this year’s salary cap to players committed for next season.

Why is that important now?

It may just prohibit the Flyers from bringing in forward Ryane Clowe via trade from the San Jose Sharks.

As we reported in Tuesday’s paper, the Flyers were given the green light on Monday by the Sharks to negotiate a move with Clowe’s agent, Kent Hughes.

Clowe, 30, is a pending unrestricted free agent. He would like be signed to a long-term extension in his new city, something the Sharks are apparently unwilling to do to keep him.

The Flyers could afford to acquire Clowe for this season, as he finishes off a 4-year, $14.5 million pact, but do they have the capability to immediately sign him to a long-term extension?

The answer is unclear.

Tagging space is both an interesting and an intricate discussion. The new, finalized CBA is not yet available for public consumption. And this abbreviated season, with a temporary salary cap, does not lend itself to easy answers.

Generally, the rule was that you could not exceed this year’s salary cap ($70.2M) in salary commitments for next season. The reason for the rule is that the next season’s salary cap figures are not put into the place until the offseason, just before free agency. However, we already know – thanks to the 119-day lockout – that the cap is sliding down to $64.3M in 2013-14.

Here’s what I’ve been able to gather from a league executive with knowledge of the tagging rule:

  • Teams will be allowed to spend to $70.2M right now in 2013-14 salary.
  • In the offseason, teams will be allowed to still spend up to 10 percent over the $64.3M cap (up to $70.7M), but must be under the hard figure by opening day in October.

So, the Flyers have $64.9 million committed in 2013-14 to 19 players, already $1.6M over the allowed cap.

But which players count in the tagging space requirements?

According to a league executive with knowledge of the rule, the answer is:

  • All players under one-way contracts for 2013-14.
  • All players currently on the long-term injury list. The reasoning is that if there are no games in the summer, the player cannot be injured. (For the Flyers, that includes Chris Pronger.)
  • The combined daily salaries of all players (on two-way and one-way contracts) who appeared on the Flyers’ roster for at least a day in this shortened season. (That includes players like Andreas Lilja, Erik Gustafsson, Tye McGinn, Oliver Lauridsen, etc.)
  • Any bought out players who will count against the cap next season. (Oskars Bartulis’ $100K)
  • And, last but perhaps most importantly overlooked, any pending restricted free agents who will be due qualifying offers in the summer. (That would include players like Lauridsen, Gustafsson and Zac Rinaldo).

So, calculating tagging space isn’t as easy as saying: “Well, the Flyers have $64.9 million committed in salary next season, so that would leave them $5.3 million in available money to sign Ryane Clowe to an extension.”

It’s tough and tedious to calculate exactly how much the Flyers spent on daily salaries of call-up players and what the maximum qualifying offers due to restricted free agents would be.

By my rough (remember, I was an English major) ballpark estimate, the Flyers can afford to sign a player like Ryane Clowe to an extension with a salary cap hit of less than $4 million per season.

That’s likely not enough to get it done, unless Clowe goes for a max-length deal. Clowe’s cap hit is $3.625 million this season and he’s averaged 54 points over the last 4 complete seasons.

Scott Hartnell, by comparison, averaged 55 points per year over the last 4 complete seasons and his 6-year deal which begins next year is worth an average of $4.75 million. They are actually two very similar players, in style of play, points and they’re the same age.

What does all of this mean?

Clowe holds all the cards with his no-trade clause. Boston has dropped out of the race after adding Jaromir Jagr. The Canucks acquired Derek Roy, but aren’t finished just yet. The Rangers and Canadiens are still in the mix, along with the Flyers, for Clowe.

Assuming that the Flyers have the goods that San Jose requires for the trade and they are not moving pieces that would add tagging space, is Clowe willing to wait until the offseason to sign a new extension in Philadelphia? Or does he want that guaranteed? The Flyers will have more (but not much) flexibility then.

Winning isn’t likely in the cards for Clowe this season if he comes to Philadelphia. Is he less hell-bent on getting an extension immediately, going to play for a team in contention and possibly signing a richer deal in the offseason?

There are a lot of moving parts to a Clowe trade, which can partially explain why it has taken so long. And, the tagging may ultimately explain another destination if Clowe does not land in Philadelphia.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers

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