• January 17, 2022

Approach with Caution: 2012 NHL Free Agency

The Philadelphia Flyers have just a handful of roster openings that need to be addressed before the beginning of next season- one top six winger, forward depth in the bottom six (including re-signing their qualified restricted free agents), possibly one defenseman and a back-up goaltender.

These vacancies can be filled by either working with players already in the system, trading for players, or tapping into the free agent market on July 1.  With the salary cap officially set at $70.2 million, though, the market is more likely to resemble a Sotheby’s auction house on amphetamines.

Dennis Wideman, a right-shooting, third pairing offensive defenseman for the Washington Capitals, was traded yesterday to the Calgary Flames and subsequently signed to a five year, $26.5 million contract with a no-move-clause.

P.A. Parenteau, one of the few forwards that arguably fits the “top six” definition, is already expected to cash in as a “plan B” for those teams that lose out on Zach Parise.

The Flyers currently have $11.3 million available to sign free agents.

Recognizing that getting into bidding wars could impede their ability to manage the roster in-season, how should the Flyers approach free agency?

At forward

  • Re-sign Jake Voracek before anyone attempts to extend him an offer sheet.  Whatever you think he’s worth, his value to the organization just went up with James van Riemsdyk shipped to Toronto and the new salary cap taking effect.
  • Market Claude Giroux as the principal selling point for wingers.  For veteran forwards especially, the chance to prolong their careers with one of the best young centers in the NHL should be a very attractive offer.  It worked for Jaromir Jagr, right?
  • Get creative. There are a number of talented veterans who have fallen off the radar due to injury and age concerns, but for the right price, they can add a lot of low risk, high reward value. Players worth considering if their health and age don’t present immediate red flags are Kristian Huselius, Mikael Samuelsson, Jamie Langenbrunner and Mike Knuble.
  • Don’t overpay for bottom six depth. The organization has a number of decent prospects that can fill in on the third or fourth line level, so throwing money at role players isn’t an efficient way to manage the team. If the price is right, though, consider forwards like Niklas Hagman, Kyle Wellwood or Jeff Halpern.

At defense

  • Make a decision between Matt Carle and Andrej Meszaros.  While there are certainly good reasons to re-sign Carle, there is no guarantee (in spite of what is being reported by some) that he is going to sign for under $5 million, especially considering he is testing the market. When the likes of Brent Seabrook, James Wisniewski and Wideman (among a dozen others) are all making more money, it’s wishful thinking to believe he’s going to leave a million off the table.  Meszaros has faced weaker competition than Carle in his time in Philadelphia, so it’s not as simple as saying he can replace Carle in either of the top two pairings. If he’s never going to be tested in that role, though, then his $4 million can be traded elsewhere to bring back prospects or add a top six winger.Keeping both players and their respective contracts just seems redundant.  Between the prospects in the system (Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson) and a number of adequate third pairing defensemen on the market, the Flyers should be able to build a successful team sans one of these two blueliners.

At Goaltender

  • This is the only position in which urgency is key. The organization has already thrown out the jaw-dropping idea of re-signing Michael Leighton, in spite of paying him $3.1 million for one regular season NHL game in the past two years.  Finding the right back-up to support Ilya Bryzgalov and provide better than average goaltending in case of injuries should be just as important a priority as finding a top six winger.Benefitting the Flyers is the fact there are a limited number of positions open in the NHL for a back-up, giving them leverage to sign who they want at an affordable price.  Martin Biron appears to be a lock for returning to the New York Rangers, but Scott Clemmensen (career 0.909 save percentage) and Chris Mason would be reasonable choices (career 0.910 save percentage).  If you want to get creative, consider a younger goaltender in Al Montoya (career 0.906 save percentage) or salary cap castaway Cristobal Huet (career 0.914 save percentage).

If general manager Paul Holmgren can practice patience and hindsight, he should be able to move forward without hemorrhaging money and contract space.  As it is, NHL owners suggested yesterday during collective bargaining agreement talks that they want all new contracts limited to six years.  If that isn’t a vote of “no confidence” in how general managers are currently spending their money, I don’t know what is.

For the latest Flyers and NHL free agency news, you can follow me on twitter (@JoshJanet).

Josh Janet

Josh Janet was raised in Northern New Jersey, but by an odd set of circumstances, is a Philadelphia sports fan. While recently converted to the Phillies, Josh is a diehard Flyers fan and can be expected to stay on top of the latest NHL news.

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  • Good stuff Josh..and probably why the Pens just locked up Sydney Crosby for 12 Years for an average of $8.5 Million per Season..

  • I read where the Salary Cap was agreed by Owners/Players Association to
    be at $70.5 Million per Team for the 2012-2013 Season

  • The salary cap will be set at $70.2 million… for now. It’s unknown at this point what it will be in September as a result of the CBA negotiations. The NHLPA obviously prefers it to be higher while owners would prefer to see it dip back down.

  • Voracek at whatever price? This pretty much contradicts what you wrote in that you want them to be careful about overpaying, but then you are prepared to overpay a guy who hasn’t really produced at all. I know that you seem to be high on him, but do you really think that he will make that much of a leap?

  • It’s not so much “Voracek at whatever price” as much as “Whatever you think he’s worth, his value went up.” Voracek turns 23 in August; if you risk losing him to offer sheets, then you may have to replace him AND JVR on the top line with unrestricted free agents, who will likely cost even more than what it would take to keep Voracek now.

    I don’t think he’s worth more than $3 million, but I’d rather see the organization spend a little more to keep him rather than have to overpay even more for the few quality forwards available (many of whom are much older) on the market. In any event, it’s a bit of “the devil you know versus the devil you don’t.”

    Also consider that Voracek was used on the penalty kill and the powerplay last year. He’s a versatile forward.

  • I get what you are saying, and you are right. But do you think that Lavs will let him develop on a line for an extended period of time? That is my big question for this team going forward. Will he be patient with all of the kids?

    How do you see the lines right now?

    The centers should be:
    1- Giroux
    2- Schenn
    3- Couturier
    4- Talbot

    But where does everyone else go?

  • The way I see the lines right now (just spitballing)…

    Briere has been better at center than at wing in his career, in spite of last season’s production. If I’m Holmgren (and clearly I’m not), I go into free agency with a contingency plan that Hartnell and Voracek could play with Briere and try to sign wingers at a “discount’ to play with Giroux. If he can’t find the prices he wants, Schenn can play on either of the top two lines as a winger until a position at center opens up.

    There are plenty of interchangeable parts for the fourth line between current players and available free agents.

  • Also, I could see Voracek getting additional ice time. He never had any PK time until he reached Philadelphia, and he did well in a limited defensive role. The only issue I could see would be if he and Giroux spent too much time making pretty passes versus shooting the puck.

  • I agree with you about Briere, but do you see Schenn eventually playing center? How about Wellwood as the LW on the 3rd line?

  • Injuries are going to happen. They always do. Schenn would be slotted to move to center first, followed by Matt Read. Briere is signed through 2016, so unless Holmgren convinces him to waive his NMC, it’s going to be tough for him or Couturier to slide into a permanent 2nd line center role until then.

    With Wellwood, I think he has too much potential to not eventually get a full opportunity with the Flyers, but I don’t know if it’s going to be right out of camp. They may want to take a longer look at Tom Sestito at the NHL level while allowing Wellwood ample minutes in the AHL. Wellwood makes $580K, though, so he’s very inexpensive as a call-up.

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