The Flyers have not made their customary splash this summer during free agency.
It’s not as if they didn’t try. The Flyers made 12-year offers to both forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter. The reported worth of the offers ranged from $80 million to $100 million. In the end, Parise and Suter wanted to go to the same team, so they signed with the Minnesota Wild.
But failing to get Parise or Suter might be a blessing in disguise for the Flyers.
After overpaying for Ilya Bryzgalov, the best goalie available last season, as well as signing free agents Jaromir Jagr, Maxime Talbot and Andreas Lilja, the Flyers have spent very little on free agents this season. Defenseman Matt Carle and Jagr left for greener pastures (in terms of money). The only free agents the Flyers signed away from other teams were left wing Ruslan Fedotenko (1 year, $1.75 million) and defenseman Bruno Gervais (2 years, $825,000 per year).
The Flyers seem determined not to overpay this season. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said the Flyers tried to keep Carle. What he didn’t say is that the Flyers weren’t willing to pay the salary Carle received (6 years, $33 million). There was a timing issue with Jagr while the Flyers were waiting for Suter and Parise to make their decisions, but the $4.55 million contract he received from Dallas, which would have made Jagr the team’s second-highest paid forward/center (behind Danny Briere), is probably more than the Flyers wanted to spend on the 40-year-old Jagr, who made $3.3 million last season.
The signings and departures leave the Flyers $7.8 million under the salary cap, according to www.capgeek.com. This gives them wiggle room to make additional moves.
It would be surprising if additional moves weren’t made. Fedotenko’s salary is nearly $3 million less than what Jagr received from Dallas and Gervais’ salary isn’t in the same stratosphere as Carle’s contract with the Lightning. The downside, of course, is that Fedotenko and Gervais aren’t as good as Jagr and Carle.
What could the Flyers do with their remaining cap room? They still would like to re-sign restricted free agent Jakub Voracek. Coyotes captain Shane Doan (22 goals, 28 assists last season), a free agent with terrific leadership skills, may also be available, depending on what happens with Phoenix’s ownership situation. There isn’t another big-name defenseman available via free agency, but the Flyers could take a chance on an player coming off of an injury-plagued season, such as the Blues’ Carlo Colaiacovo or the Coyotes’ Michal Roszival.
The Flyers may also be saving cap room for a trade. Columbus forward Rick Nash is a huge salary cap hit ($7.8 million), but the Flyers could still be in the market for Bobby Ryan ($5.1 million) if the Ducks back off their reported demands for Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier in return. With their remaining cap room, the Flyers could absorb Ryan’s salary without making another move.
There is also some uncertainty about the salary cap. The cap ceiling is $70.2 million. But that number may change based on negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. It’s likely that the players’ share of revenues will be reduced from its current 57 percent. That could cause problems for teams that are right up against the salary cap.
Thinking long-term, the Flyers also have to re-sign Claude Giroux, Schenn and Couturier in two years, when all three will become restricted free agents.
But fans don’t want to hear about long term. They want to know if the Flyers will be better this season.
The Flyers have lost Jagr, James van Riemsdyk and Carle. They’ve added Fedotenko, Gervais and defenseman Luke Schenn. That’s a net loss. Many fans never warmed up to Carle, who is not a physical player, but Carle’s durability and excellent vision on the ice will be missed.
On the other hand, the Flyers will count on the continued development of young players such as Schenn (12 goals, 6 assists) and Couturier (13 goals, 14 assists), who will be counted upon for more offense than in their rookie campaigns. It’s less certain that fellow rookie Matt Read (24 goals, 23 assists) will increase his production. The same is true for forwards Scott Hartnell (37 goals, 30 assists), Wayne Simmonds (28 goals, 21 assists) and Max Talbot (19 goals, 15 assists), all of whom had the best offensive year of their careers. On the other hand, Briere (16 goals) should score more goals.
The continued development of younger players could make the Flyers as good, or better, than they were last season, when they surpassed the 100-point barrier. But there’s no need to make that comparison yet.
With cap room remaining, there’s a good chance that the Flyers won’t go through the entire summer without making at least a moderate splash.