Jaromir Jagr leads the list of unrestricted free agents that the Flyers will have to make decisions on.
Some people consider anything less than a Stanley Cup victory a failure for the Philadelphia Flyers. While they may have fallen short of the ultimate prize, the Flyers had a good season, and the future is certainly bright for the young and talented team. But when this team comes back together in September, a few of its key components may not be with them any longer. Let’s take a look at the Flyers’ list of free agents and what you can expect the Flyers to do with them.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Pavel Kubina - Pavel Kubina was a big addition to the Flyers’ defense corps when he was picke up ahead of the trade deadline in February, along with Nicklas Grossmann. He is a hulking defenseman that has been in the league forever, and built a reputation a shutdown defender and a big physical presence. His right handed shot was supposed to be a huge help to the Flyers power play. While things got off to a good start, eventually it looked like Kubina ran out of gas. He looked slow on the ice, and a couple of injuries didn’t help that any. He wound up playing only 2 games in the playoffs for the Flyers and fell off of the radar. Whether his lack of speed was seen as a liability, his health was a question, or Kubina just didn’t fit in, at the end there seemed to be no place for him on the Flyers. The Flyers will not try to re-sign Kubina, and I think that was clear even to him. He said he enjoyed his time in Philly but didn’t know what the future held. Verdict : NOT RETURNING
Matt Carle - Paul Holmgren mentioned Matt Carle as another person the Flyers have interest in signing. Carle has played solidly, but unspectacularly at times. He had a couple of key turnovers in the Devils series that led to New Jersey goals. Carley’s cap hit this season was $3,437,500. To re-sign him, the Flyers may be looking at something more in line with Braydon Coburn’s new contract that pays him $4.5 million. As solid as Carle is, and at least the Flyers would know what they are working with, I’m just not sure that Carle is worth committing that kind of money to. With Chris Pronger’s future still uncertain, the Flyers need to figure out how they’re going to replace him. Kubina was brought here to be a big, physical presence, and while the Flyers may not sign him, they will need to find somebody in that mold. VERDICT : After the Grossmann signing, I think that spells the end for Carle. They might negotiate but I don’t think Carle will be back.
Jaromir Jagr - Jaromir Jagr is odd case. As I said on this week’s episode of the Broad Street Breakdown, Jagr spoke glowingly about the Flyers after their loss to the Devils in Game 5. He said that this season was one the most enjoyable he ever had in the NHL, that he loved the organization and loved everyone in the locker room. I took that as a good sign that Jagr wanted to come back. Two days later Jagr went on about how he wanted to play for a team that wanted him and that he didn’t know what role the Flyers would have for him and that he didn’t think they knew where he fit in with their future plans. It was like Jagr’s agent told him to relax a bit and play hard to get. Jagr suddenly sounded a bit jaded from his demotion to the third line in game 3 of the Devils series. While I understand his desire to play on the top line, the Flyers needed to shake things up and see if they could somehow get some offense. Jagr was a great clubhouse influence on the younger players (and even some of the veterans) on the team. And no one is harder to get off of a puck than, even if he is 40 now. If they can, I’d love to see the Flyers bring Jagr back. I just hope it doesn’t cost them a fortune. His 18 goals and 35 assists were a big help to the team, and I’m certain that he helped Claude Giroux blossom into a superstar this year. VERDICT : Jagr will test the market and sign elsewhere. Don’t know why I feel that way, it’s just a gut feeling.
Michael Leighton – The guy who was a hero in 2010 and led the team to the Stanley Cup Finals got hurt in camp the next season and has never really seen the light of day since. VERDICT: Gone, baby gone.
Blair Betts - Betts was traded this season, only to have the trade negated because of his bad back. Betts seemed like an afterthought and never seemed to factor into the Flyers plans moving forward. VERDICT : you’ve seen the last of Blair Betts
Ian Laperriere - Ian Laperriere has spent the last two years “rehabbing” from post concussion syndrome. After blocking a shot with his face in the 2010 Stanley Cup run, Lappy was never the same and by the time camp rolled around in September of 2010, it was pretty clear he wouldn’t play again. The Flyers kept telling the NHL that he was trying to come back so that they could do the right thing and continue to pay a good soldier whose career ended because he took one for the team. It was a classy move and Lappy is a classy guy. He may make the move to broadcasting on a more full time basis. VERDICT : Retiring
Restricted Free Agents
Harry Zolnierczyk - Harry Z, or the alphabet man as he was known, spent some productive time with the club this season but seemed to fall out of favor with Coach Peter Laviolette. He was recalled at season’s end but never played. VERDICT : may be worth signing for depth.
Tom Sestito - Sestito helped the club when they needed some depth. He played his role nicely until getting hurt. VERDICT: worth bringing back.
Jakub Voracek - Jakub Voracek to Philadelphia in the Jeff Carter trade with Columbus. Looking at his numbers, he looked like someone who could maybe take the place of Ville Leino. Voracek had a reputation as a set up guy. He came here and got off to a very slow start. 20 games into the season, I could see why Columbus gave up on him. But as the season progressed, so did Voracek. He really came on down the stretch and had some memorable contributions in the playoffs. Voracek finished the year up with 18 goals and 31 assists. There were times that he held the puck too long in crucial situations, but overall, I thought he fit in well. He certainly added some speed and puck handling for the Flyers. VERDICT: Voracek will be back.
Marc-Andre Bourdon – Bourdon was another rookie surprise this year. He had periods where he played very well, and periods where he was so-so. He bounced back and forth between the Flyers and Phantoms, but provided some depth and some hope for the future. VERDICT: Bourdon will be re-signed.
There are a few other players that the Flyers will have to make decisions on as well. Goaltender Johan Backlund is an unrestricted free agent. But the names here represent the players who at least saw some time, if not significant time with the Flyers this season. The other names really just represent some organizational depth.
The losses of Kubina, and possibly Carle and Jagr could free up a good bit of cap space for the Flyers to go out and make runs and some decent free agents. While this off-season will probably not be nearly as dramatic as the last one, I still think it’s a key one. Especially where this defense is concerned. If the Flyers hope to have Bryzgalov play better next year, they’ll need to shore up the D.
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