On Tuesday, the Flyers raised a few more eyebrows when they locked up Pronger to a seven-year contract extension that will reportedly pay him close to $35 million. The key phrases to repeat are "35-year-old" and "seven years."
In terms of the cap hit, it comes out to nearly $5 million per season, which is actually a $1.25 million decrease from his current deal that counts $6.25 million against the cap. In the short-term, that's a pretty sweet deal for the Flyers. If he were a free agent this offseason he would certainly get more than $5 million per season.
But would he get seven years?
This is becoming a rather common trend in the NHL, as teams have started giving out longer, front-loaded contracts to help soften the hit against the salary cap. Detroit has done it with Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen, while Chicago recently signed Marian Hossa to a 12-year deal on July 1. All of these contracts, Pronger's included, will take the players into their 40's. That is, assuming they play that long.
Based on the new CBA, the Red Wings and Blackhawks are protected because of the "over-35 rule." Because Zetterberg, Franzen and Hossa had their contracts start before they turned 35, their cap hits will come off the books should they retire before the contracts run out. This may not be the case with Pronger.
Here's what the CBA states: All Player Salary and Bonuses earned in a League Year by a Player who is in the second or later year of a multi-year SPC which was signed when the Player was age 35 or older (as of June 30 prior to the League Year in which the SPC is to be effective), regardless of whether, or where, the Player is playing, except to the extent the Player is playing under his SPC in the minor leagues , in which case only the Player Salary and Bonuses in excess of $100,000 shall count towards the calculation of Actual Club Salary.
Follow that? We tried to get clarification from the NHL as to whether or not Pronger's extension falls under the "over-35 rule," but have yet to receive a response. Darren Dreger of TSN, however, reports on Wednesday that it is an over-35 deal, and that the cap hit will remain, even if Pronger retires after next season. The Flyers, reportedly, disagree.
According to the NHL, the answer is yes. The seven-year, $35 million extension Pronger agreed to on Tuesday doesn't commence until after June 30, 2010. Pronger will be 35 at that point and any remaining salary will remain on the cap.I have no doubt that Pronger will be his regular dominant self for, at least, two or three more seasons. But seven? Into his 40's? Consider this: of the over 1,000 players to play at least one game in the NHL this season, only eight were over the age of 40: Chris Chelios, Claude Lemieux, Gary Roberts, Curtis Joseph, Mark Recchi, Teppo Numminen and Brendan Shanahan. Only one, Recchi, played more than 60 games. Not looking very promising.
If it turns out that the cap hit stays on the books this could prove to be a costly mistake by the Flyers' brass.