Flyers' free agency moves depend on Stamkos


Thursday, June 30, 2011
Posted: 11:29 a.m.
By Tim

The seventh and final round of the NHL draft had started when Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren met with the media.

He talked about the two days of picks, the blockbuster deals that sent Jeff Carter and Mike Richards out of Philly, and then he turned to free agency.

This upcoming week is a big week, as weve got to try and finish up with our restricted guys and get busy with the unrestricted guys were going to be done with, Holmgren said.

It has already been busy and time-consuming. The club is trying to decide whether to submit an offer sheet for restricted free agent Steven Stamkos, the coveted center from Tampa Bay.

Until the Flyers decide whether to pursue Stamkos, its hard to move on to other areas of free agency, which begins noon Friday, July 1.

For instance, if the Flyers decide to submit an offer sheet, then monies set aside for free agency get placed on hold as the Flyers wait to see if Tampa matches the offer. That could take seven days while other free agents sign elsewhere.

If the Flyers dont get involved with Stamkos and decide to go another direction, then what they will be looking for is a center who can play both second and third line.

Of course, the biggest name in free agency is 31-year-old center Brad Richards, whos going to command a long term dealmaybe 8 years for 55 milliondepending upon who bids.

Hes a top centermannot a third liner.

The New York Rangers desperately want Richards. There is a feeling Richards wants to be reunited with John Tortorella, the Rangers coach whom he won a Stanley Cup under in Tampa.

From an organizational standpoint, it seems the Flyers are split on Richards and whether their cap dollars would be better spent elsewhere. If they turn away from Stamkos, it makes sense they might then shift toward Richards.

The Flyers lost two pretty good faceoff guys in Carter and Richards. They also lost size. Brad Richards is a stocky 6-foot and provides both.

Now, if the Flyers think Richards may be too expensive or if he decides he wants to be a Ranger, then the Flyers lower the bar in the middle. (Note: These players were all available as of June 29.)

Minnesotas John Madden doesnt have the size (5-foot-11) but he fits the role in helping out on faceoffs and special teams, now that Darroll Powe is no longer around.

Yet the one player who is a perfect fit is a former FlyerMichal Handzus, who earned 4 million with the Kings. He doesnt lose draws, hes strong on the puck, has size and he plays special teams.

Fans loved him in Philly, he was great on faceoffs and he played hurt and left it all out there, said one Flyer source.

Handzus would be a perfect option. Danny Briere, Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Michal Handzus, Blair Betts. One center too many again, but strong down the middle.

Dont forget the Flyers still want to re-sign winger Ville Leino. Thats already gotten dicey because Tomas Kopecky just signed a four-year, 12 million contract with Florida. The Panthers had to overpay on salaries to get to the cap floor (48.3 million) this coming season.

If Kopecky can get that much, Leino can get more. And the Flyers dont appear willing to exceed 3.5 million a year with Leino.

While hes not a centerman, winger Erik Cole doesnt appear likely to re-sign in Carolina. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette would love to have him as a Flyer, and Cole reportedly would like being reunited with him. They won a Stanley Cup in Carolina.

If Cole is there and the dollars make sense, the Flyers will add him. If not, another player likely on their radar is Jamie Langenbrunner. The Flyers tried to get the winger last season before the Devils traded him.

Langenbrunner went back to Dallas. Interest on the Flyers part remains, nonetheless.

Of course, all of these names would essentially be placed on hold if the Flyers make a pitch for Stamkos. The longer that drags out, the more likely that available free agents on the Flyers list begin to disappear.

Remember, too, if the Flyers get Stamkos, that triggers an immediate domino effect on the rest of the roster. Holmgren would have to move at least 5 million in salary. The likely candidates are: Scott Hartnell (4.2 million), Kris Versteeg (3.08 million), Andrej Meszaros (4.0) and Matt Carle (3.43 million).

This much seems certain: When the off-season began, no one could have predicted that the Flyers, a team close to winning a Stanley Cup, would essentially gut the heart of their squad and begin a complete transformation.

Yet they have.

How far the transformation extends remains to be seen.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at Follow him on Twitter at @TPanotchCSN.Related: Greenberg: Howe's value recognized with HOF nodFlyers 'indecisive' on Stamkos offer

Contact Us