Flyers Prepare for Free Agency With a Few Holes to Fill

At noon eastern, the NHL's free agents are free to sign with any team. Normally, this is a big event for most teams, especially the Flyers. Last year, the Flyers' big acquisitions were Ian Laperriere and Brian Boucher as they had signed Ray Emery long before then.

This year, the Flyers are once again in the market for role players instead of big name free agents. The team only has a few holes to fill, mostly on the defensive side. But this wouldn't be the Flyers if they weren't searching for a goaltender.

Even with the signing of goalie Michael Leighton on Wednesday, the Flyers are still likely looking for an upgrade in net. Outside of that, the team has one, maybe two holes to fill up front and one or two holes to fill on defense. With restricted free agents Dan Carcillo, Darroll Powe, and Braydon Coburn given qualifying offers, the Flyers are really only looking for a No. 5 defensemen and some depth players.

With that, let's look at who the Flyers could be targeting Thursday.

Forwards

The Flyers have their top-six forwards set and expect to have Carcillo and Powe fill out the bottom six. Any potential targets will likely be able to fill in on the wing for a low cost. Some that might garner interest include:

  • Alex Tanguay: 30 years old, $2.5 mil cap hit last year, 37 points in 80 games.

    Tanguay had a rather disappointing year in Tampa Bay last year but scored 41 points in 50 games for Montreal the year before. He'll likely cost too much for the Flyers, but if he's willing to take a short-term deal for around $1.25 mil, he would be a great addition to the team. But this is highly unlikely.
  • Colby Armstrong: 27 years old, $2.4 mil cap hit last year, 29 points in 79 games.

    Armstrong is a name who has been tossed around Philadelphia for some time, but he has always cost more than he is worth. He has never scored more than 40 points in a season, but if he can sign for $1 million, he'd be a good addition to the third line.
  • Marek Svatos: 28 years old, $2.05 mil cap hit last year, 11 points in 54 games.

    Svatos is a guy just like Tanguay. They had tons of potential but have just never seemed to reach it. Svatos' problem has been his durability though, as he's never played more than 69 NHL games in a season. Again, it's unlikely he signs here (like a lot of these players), but at a reduced rate he could be a good risk to take.
  • Vinny Prospal: 35 years old, $1.15 mil cap hit last year, 58 points in 75 games.

    The Flyers are very familiar with Prospal, as he's had two previous tours with the team. Prospal is probably going to be coveted by a lot of teams due to his resurgence last year with the Rangers, so he'll likely be priced out of the Flyers range. But he's a guy who can move up and down the lineup with ease. If he doesn't receive a raise, he'd be a bargain.
  • Jon Sim: 32 years old, $1 mil cap hit last year, 22 points in 77 games.

    Another former Flyer, Sim would be a good addition to the team if they weren't freely letting Arron Asham go. The two have similar styles and personalities, but Asham has more skill. If the team doesn't wish to re-sign Asham, signing Sim wouldn't make much sense.
  • Maxim Afinogenov: 30 years old, $800k cap hit last year, 61 points in 82 games.

    Last year, Afinogenov was a guy many Flyers fans -- including myself -- secretly hoped the team would sign. He was an excellent low-risk high-reward type of player and the Thrashers won that gamble. Even though he played in a division that inflates scoring, Afinogenov has skill that could come cheaply. Even giving him a 25 percent raise would still make him worth the risk, but he'd likely want to play and not sit as the 13th forward.
  • Miroslav Satan: 35 years old, $700k cap hit last year, 14 points in 38 games.

    Satan was another player who was seen as a low-risk, high-reward deal last year. He didn't quite pay off the same way Afinogenov did, but he'd surely come cheaper. Whether he'd be happy as a 13th forward or not is another question, which applies to all of these options.

Because the available forwards are likely looking for full-time jobs, the Flyers will probably have to continue carrying Riley Cote and/or a player who spent last year on the Phantoms as their healthy scratches. While there are attractive options, the Flyers likely aren't attractive to the players looking for jobs.

Defense

With the Flyers looking for at least a #5 defenseman (dependent upon whether Braydon Coburn re-signs), and likely a No. 7 to push for playing time, the Flyers will be shopping heavily for a blue liner. The options here are numerous, so we'll just run down a few.

  • Dan Hamhuis: 27 years old, $2 mil cap hit last year

    We all remember Hamhuis: the player acquired for Ryan Parent and then flipped for a third-round pick. Well, he still has yet to sign and may yet be available to the Flyers. If his price comes down, the Flyers may make another attempt at the defenseman. Paying him between $3.5 and $4 mil may be feasible, but he appears to want more than that from a different team.
  • Henrik Tallinder: 31 years old, $2.56 mil cap hit last year


    Tallinder is someone who will only be looking for a minor pay raise, something around $3 mil. He's a big body who would fit in well on the blue line. He's someone worth keeping an eye on.
  • Anton Volchenkov: 28 years old, $2.5 mil cap hit last year

    You may remember Volchenkov for his hit on Simon Gagne, but he's going to be highly sought after on the free-agent market. It's likely that he gets completely overpaid (Washington?) on the market, but he's someone the Flyers are looking at.
  • Mark Eaton: 33 years old, $2 mil cap hit last year

    Eaton came up with the Flyers and grew up in Delaware, so him returning would be a great storyline. But he's overpaid at $2 mil per, so he'd have to take a paycut in order to return.
  • Jordan Leopold: 29 years old, $1.75 mil cap hit last year

    Another Penguins defenseman who may be available. He was a trade deadline acquisition who will likely seek a pay raise above his value. A three-year deal worth about $10 million wouldn't be bad, but he'll probably be looking for more.
  • Nick Boynton: 31 years old, $1.5 mil cap hit last year

    As someone who was waived twice last year -- and we wanted on the Flyers -- Boynton should come pretty cheap. He should fit in perfectly on the team as a No. 5 defenseman, though the Flyers could likely do better if they wish to pay more. As a No. 6/7 defenseman, Boynton should be what the team is targeting.
  • Zbynek Michalek: 27 years old, $1.25 mil cap hit last year

    Michalek would be great in the No. 5 slot as he's one of the better defenseman you've never heard of. He'll likely double his cap hit, which is still more than worth signing to a multi-year deal. He should be what the team is targeting to fill their third-pairing.
  • Andreas Lilja: 34 years old, $1.25 mil cap hit last year

    Lilja is a guy who should have his cap hit reduced. He's someone the Flyers will likely go after in the bargain basement for a cheap emergency option. As a No. 7, he'd be fine.
  • Mike Mottau: 32 years old, $762k cap hit last year

    Mottau is probably a good value for his cap hit, which should remain fairly similar. It's unlikely he's good enough to fit the team's No. 5 need, but he'd certainly challenge Oskars Bartulis for playing time. Not the best option, but not the worst.
  • Brett Lebda: 28 years old, $650k cap hit last year

    Lebda is similar to Mottau, so there isn't really much more to say on the subject.
  • Kurtis Foster: 28 years old, $600k cap hit last year

    Foster is someone who is garnering a lot of interest lately. He rebounded from a horrific leg injury to score 42 points last year. It's unlikely he'll fly under the radar in free agency, but he'd be worth taking a shot at, hoping he can fill the No. 5 defenseman job. If he is signed, the team will probably look for a more veteran guy backing up, such as Boynton or Lilja.

Goalies

Now, for the most interesting position. Despite re-signing Leighton, the Flyers will still likely look to upgrade the position. What that means for Brian Boucher is another matter, but the team understands that a Leighton/Boucher/Backlund triumvirate just won't cut it.

  • Marty Turco: 34 years old, $5.7 mil cap hit last year

    Turco is someone who evokes strong opinions from both sides. The Flyers reportedly offered him a three-year, $6 mil offer that he refused. They likely won't go much higher than that, but with the dearth of teams looking for starting goaltenders, they may be able to grab a top-flight goalie later in July.
  • Evgeni Nabokov: 34 years old, $5.375 mil cap hit last year

    Nabokov is someone the Flyers clearly would like, but he's determined to test the waters. It appears as though he will be battling Turco for the biggest offer, so whoever loses out should see their price drop dramatically. The Flyers look to be the beneficiary of that.
  • Jose Theodore: 33 years old, $4.5 mil cap hit last year

    Theodore has quite a negative reputation, but the truth is that it's largely overblown. He's not nearly as bad as his detractors say he is but he's not nearly worth his most recent pricetag. At $3 mil per, he'd be an upgrade over many of the names that follow, but he's one of the few goalies that haven't been linked to the Flyers in recent weeks. This appears to be a long shot.
  • Chris Mason: 34 years old, $3 mil cap hit last year

    Mason is a guy who appears to be a sleeper for the Flyers. He's just as good as anybody else on this list, and he shares his biggest knock with everybody as well: He's inconsistent and prone to bad goals. But since he will likely fly under the rest of the big names on the market, he could come in as a steal. Look for him to be a very nice consolation prize for some team.
  • Dan Ellis: 30 years old, $1.75 mil cap hit last year

    If there was a front-runner for the Flyers to sign, it would have to be Ellis. He has a lot of skill, is still in his prime and will come at a low cost. He wants the chance to start, and he's unlikely to get that in Montreal. Philadelphia appears to be a great destination for him, if for no other reason than he and Leighton will have to decide between matching pads or opposite color schemes.
  • Martin Biron: 32 years old, $1.4 mil cap hit last year

    Yes, he's a possibility to return. While he's certainly servicable, the Flyers will likely sign him only if all the above named goalies reject them. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, but it will mean something went horribly wrong.
  • Antero Niittymaki: 30 years old, $600k cap hit last year

    Last season, the Lightning (insert pun here) struck it on the head with Niittymaki. He was almost as much of a steal as Leighton -- that half-price cap hit divided by two thing is pretty tough to beat -- was, and should command a decent raise this season. The problem is that he is still not a legitimate No. 1 netminder due to his inconsistencies and injury history. He likely won't return either, but he would still be better than Martin Biron returning.

So there it is. The Flyers could sign a handful of these players, or they could sign none of them. But here's where they're likely looking. It will all come down to price and fit.  

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