Flyers have work cut out for themselves in free agency
Free agency begins in all its glory on Sunday at noon, yet for many clubs this summer, it represents a leap of faith.
Although the NHL set its salary cap for next season at $70.2 million, there is no one on either side of the CBA bargaining table who believes that is what the final figure will be if and when a new contract is settled.
There is little doubt that in the next CBA – regardless of whether there is a mini-lockout – the cap will go under that $70 million figure. Two-thirds of the NHL’s 30 franchises already feel this past season’s cap of $64.3 million was too high.
The Flyers have some obvious needs in free agency and some unexpected trouble, as well. They head into the weekend with $56.2 million in commitments next season that might be closer to $58 million when you tack on expected performances bonuses.
General manager Paul Holmgren must sign a veteran, backup goaltender. Sources said Rangers’ backup Marty Biron would have loved to return to the Flyers if things don’t work out in New York. That was before Biron agreed to a deal to return to the Big Apple on Friday.
With Biron out of the picture, the Flyers attention figures to focus on Chris Mason (Winnipeg).
The Flyers also need additional scoring depth, especially given it seems doubtful whether they can re-sign Jaromir Jagr.
An ideal player who can play both wing and center would be Nashville’s Paul Gaustad. An ex-Flyer with two Stanley Cup rings would be Ruslan Fedotenko, who is not a lock to re-sign with the Rangers.
One player who figures to draw a lot of attention is the Islanders’ PA Parenteau, who us just 29 years old.
The Flyers remain alive in the Bobby Ryan trade sweeps with Anaheim (he is not a free agent). GM Bob Murray wanted Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier. Given the acquisition of Luke Schenn, it’s apparent the Flyers aren’t moving Brayden and Couturier was considered virtually untouchable to start.
As CSN’s John Boruk reported, the Ducks kept changing the deal for Ryan last weekend, which may be why Holmgren was so obviously grumpy and uncooperative at the draft (see story)
If Ryan were to be traded here, that assures Jagr won’t be back. Ryan carries a $5.1 million cap hit for the next three years.
The real hole for the Flyers is on defense. Worse, their blue line could take a major hit as Matt Carle, who the Flyers thought would agree to a new deal by this weekend, appears headed for free agency.
His agent, Kurt Overhardt, said he expects Carle to shop around but hasn’t ruled out re-signing with the Flyers (see story)
. Dennis Wideman’s trade and re-signing in Calgary assured him of a $5.25 million average annual value on his contract, escalating what Carle could expect as a free agent.
If the Flyers lose Carle, they’ve got serious issues. Remember, Chris Pronger (post-concussion syndrome) won’t be coming back next season.
Understand also that the Flyers have to re-sign Jakub Voracek, Marc-Andre Bourdon and Tommy Sestito.
If you really believe $70.2 million will be the final cap number next year, the Flyers would go into the weekend with less than $12 million to play with and still have to handle all of the above.
Yes, they will able to gain $4.92 million in salary when Pronger goes on long-term injury, but it’s best to consider LTIR as a last resort.
One intriguing possibility on defense is Florida’a Jason Garrison.
The two biggest names in free agency will be defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise. Both are serious candidates to end up in the West – maybe Minnesota or Detroit – but sources say Pittsburgh is preparing to make a huge push to sign both players.
While the Flyers have interest in them, that interest does not appear reciprocal, according to sources. Also, there are continual rumors both want to play together, which would eliminate the Flyers based on cap space alone.
Pens GM Ray Shero believes he can convince Suter to sign. Sidney Crosby is now essentially a Penguin for life at his current salary. Shero drafted Suter when he was assistant GM in Nashville. That’s his hook to draw Suter into the fold. If the Penguins get Suter and/or Parise, look out.
Needless to say, Holmgren has his work cut out for him.
(All names in this story were free agents as of Friday and had not re-signed.)