In an expected move, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher announced Saturday that the team was parting ways with veteran defenseman Andrew MacDonald.
MacDonald, who will turn 33 on Sept. 7, played parts of six seasons with the Flyers but fell victim to a youth movement on the back end — and the fact they could use more cap space to improve the team this summer.
The Flyers placed him on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating the remaining season on his six-year, $30 million contract.
It’s expected that MacDonald won’t be claimed and the Flyers will buy out the last year of his deal. The buyout is spread over two years and is two times the length of the remaining year on the contract.
“It was a difficult decision and it was solely cap-related,” said Fletcher, who called MacDonald a consummate professional. "We asked a lot of Andrew. And by that, I mean he played the left side, the right side. He’d [sometimes] be a healthy scratch and then we took him back in the lineup. We asked him to play with young players and mentor them and bring stability to our back end.”
Per CapFriendly.com, the Flyers will have a $1.17 cap hit for MacDonald this season, and a $1.92 million cap hit in 2020-21. He would have had a $5 million cap hit this season if he remained.
The $3.83 million cap-hit reduction this season can be used in the free-agent market.
“We wanted to maximize our cap flexibility,” said Fletcher, who is trying to sign center Kevin Hayes before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
On Friday, the Flyers added to their cap by acquiring Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen ($5.75 million cap hit) for Radko Gudas ($3.35 million) — and agreeing to pay about $1 million of Gudas’ salary.
MacDonald had no goals, nine assists and a minus-5 rating in 47 games last season.
“He’s just a quality person and a guy who played a very effective two-way game for our team,” Fletcher said, “but we are in a cap world and we made that tough decision today to try and reallocate some of those dollars to maximize our chance to stay in the hunt on some players over the next couple weeks.”
Fletcher said he was “continuing to look at every option” on defense, “but I will say that with the move [Friday], it allows us to slot players in their proper places.”
He said he envisioned Phil Myers taking Gudas’ spot as a third-pairing defenseman next season.
Fletcher was asked if he felt he still needed to add a first-pairing defenseman in the offseason.
“They’re not easy to find,” he said. “Certainly if we can find a guy who can play in our top four that we have the ability to acquire, we’ll look at it.
"I will say that we have some really top-end defensemen here who have the potential to grow into that role. If you’re looking at Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim, and Philippe Myers has shown upside. Shayne Gostisbehere is a young man that has been very effective in his young career so far, and by bringing in Matt Niskanen, we feel we have some quality defensemen.”
Added Fletcher: “You’re always looking to upgrade if you can, and whether we can acquire that player” is unknown.
Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba, a pending restricted restricted free agent, is on the trade market. If Fletcher can put together the right package — which might include dealing the team’s first-round draft pick (No. 11 overall) — many feel he would fit perfectly alongside Provorov on the Flyers’ top pairing.
Trouba, 25, shoots right-handed, and he had a career-best 50 points last season.
Fletcher said he has had “constructive dialogue” with Hayes’ representatives and “we’ll see how it plays out. So far, it’s been a positive process.” ... After a slow start last season, Niskanen’s strong second half makes Fletcher optimistic. He said Niskanen would have been the Flyers’ best defenseman in the second half “or right up there."