Flyers face mess of roster moves over the summer


Thursday, May 12, 2011
Posted: 1:27 p.m.

By Tim Panaccio

Sean ODonnell and his wife were discussing renovating a beach house they had bought in Southern California as a future retirement home last June when Chris Pronger called.

They were teammates in Anaheim in 2007 when the Ducks won the Stanley Cup. Pronger asked ODonnell to delay retirement and think about whether hed like to play with the Flyers.

Days later, general manager Paul Holmgren called ODonnells agent with a contract offer.

Almost a year later, ODonnell is among the five Flyers unrestricted free agents who is hoping to get a call this summer telling him hes been re-signed.

Yes, I want to come back, O'Donnell said. Im 39, so you wait until you see how the body feels. Sometimes when the year is over, you feel great and then four or five days later, little things start to nag that you didnt think about. I think I still have something left in the tank.

Ill sit down with my wife and agent and figure out the road well go. But we had a nice time here.

Save for a bad stretch of games in February and March, which both he and Holmgren acknowledge, ODonnell had a good season with the Flyers and was solid throughout the playoffs.

He was a plus player in 81 games and finished with 18 points -- 17 assists -- and was a media favorite because of his insight after games.

The biggest question the Flyers face is whether they bring ODonnell back as sixth or seventh defenseman. The organization feels Erik Gustafsson might be ready to break onto the roster next fall.

He would like to come back here, Holmgren said. I told him that we are weeding through a lot of different things, and we would touch base at some point.

ODonnell earned 1.3 million against the cap and would likely have to take a pay cut because the Flyers have eight free agents overall (three restricted), need to lose at least 5 million in salary to sign a goalie and are less than 500,000 under the current cap, which could go from 59.4 million to over 62 million next season.

Ville Leino is the most intriguing unrestricted free agent the Flyers have because his agent, Bill Zito, declined both a three and four-year contract worth between 9 million and 12 million, depending upon length, back in February, as then reported.

The Flyers soon after traded for Kris Versteeg, who has a cap hit of 3.083 million next season.

Essentially, Versteeg took Leinos money, which doesnt bode well for Leino. Leino was remarkably productive on Danny Brieres line with Scott Hartnell during the regular season with 19 goals and 53 points (14). Yet he disappeared against Boston without a point.

He is a guy that we would like to keep, Holmgren said. Hopefully, we can take care of that.

If Leino wants more than 3.2 million, he likely wont be re-signed.

At this point, even club chairman Ed Snider said in recent interview that the Flyers need to trade some players to gain cap dollars.

Among Briere (6.5 millon), Mike Richards (5.75), Jeff Carter (5.27) and Hartnell (4.2), at least one of them has to be traded to gain additional cap space. There is no other solution.

Among that group, assuming the Flyers trade a marquee player with a 5 million salary, Carter is the most likely candidate. Toronto, among others, would love him.

Carters value coming off a 36-goal season is high. Most clubs would welcome him with open arms, especially since he is locked into an 11-year deal with an affordable cap hit.

Losing 5 million, plus picking up an additional 3 million with the anticipated spending increase on next seasons salary cap, would give the Flyers 8 million to play withbut again, they need a goalie.

And when the goalie money is gone, only about 3 million will remain.

The Flyers are essentially faced with trading two players this summer if they hope to re-sign Leino and ODonnell, not to mention restricted free agent Darroll Powe, whose work on the penalty kill is valued highly by the club.

Nikolay Zherdev? His 16 goals in just 56 games of limited ice time wasnt bad for the 2 million contract.

But Zherdev's continuous benching, and the fact he wasnt among Peter Laviolettes favorites almost certainly means hes gone, even though he wants to remain a Flyer.

Where he fits in, how he fits in, down the road I dont know, Holmgren said.

And what of restricted free agent Andreas Nodl, who had a good, albeit inconsistent, year, yet was voted the teams most improved player (Pelle Lindbergh Award)?

Winger Dan Carcillo is another restricted free agent, who would get a small bump over the 1.075 million he earned last season, if re-signed.

Again, the Flyers are really short on cap dollars. Despite what Carcillo brings in terms of Sean Avery-ness, if you excuse the word, he too could be a cap victim with a couple trades.

Brian Boucher, the consummate good soldier in net, wont be back. Thats fairly apparent.

I know he wants to continue playing, I know he likes it here, his family likes it here, Holmgren said. But, well see.

Defenseman Nick Boynton, picked up at the trade deadline, wont be back, either.

The bottom line is, the Flyers dont have enough cap space to re-sign all their own free agents and what they do with Leino impacts those few they intend to re-sign.

Additionally, the Flyers can shed 1.55 million by again waiving Michael Leighton, and if he clears, assign him to the Phantoms.

That, however, will play out in training camp -- as to which goalie backs up and who starts, Leighton or Sergei Bobrovsky, who should get the job. Then again, you never know.

E-mail Tim Panaccio at

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