The 2012-2013 NHL regular season is rapidly approaching and the Philadelphia Flyers have failed to make a major splash in the free agent market for the first time in a long, long time. Since Paul Holmgren took over as the Flyers General Manager in 2006 after Bobby Clarke resigned one month into the season, the team has been a major contender for practically every big name player. This off-season, although productive, has been somewhat of a disappointment.
The off-season started with a bang as usual for the Flyers. Not long after the 2012 NHL Draft, the Flyers made a blockbuster trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. They sent struggling power forward James van Riemsdyk to Toronto in exchange for D man Luke Schenn. Free agency looked promising for the Flyers at this point.
On the first day of free agency, the Flyers signed Michael Leighton to a one-year $900,000 contract, one week after trading Sergei Bobrovsky to the Columbus Blue Jackets for three draft picks - 2012 2nd and 4th round picks (which yielded Anthony Stolarz and Taylor Leier, respectively) and a 2013 4th round pick. Leighton will backup the still-unproven Ilya Bryzgalov, whose first season with the Flyers was mediocre, to say the least. Even with an overall record of 19-7-2 and a 2.68 GAA in the regular season, Leighton himself can still be considered unproven; his shaky performance in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals is evidence.
On day three of free agency, Philly inked three smaller-name players, defensemen Cullen Eddy and Danny Syvret and forward Mike Testwuide; all will most likely play with the Flyers AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, provided there are no major injuries (knock on wood). Later that day, Flyers lost veteran forward Jaromir Jagr to the Dallas Stars, who signed the eight-time All-Star free agent to a one-year $4.55 million contract.
Day 4 of free agency provided the most entertainment for NHL fans. It was decision day for the top two free agents, New Jersey Devils' forward Zach Parise and Nashville Predators' defenseman Ryan Suter, both to whom the Flyers submitted offers. Unfortunately for the Flyers, they missed out on the prized players of the 2012 Free Agency period to the Minnesota Wild, who signed them to twin thirteen-year $98 million deals. The last deal of the day was also another loss for the Philadelphia squad. The front office failed to resign Matt Carle, a top-four defenseman for any franchise, and lost him to the Tampa Lightning who signed him for six years, $33.5 million. The Flyers had struck out.
The day after the free agent frenzy proved to be a more successful one for the seemingly desperate team with the addition of Bruno Gervais and Ruslan Fedotenko. Gervais provides great defensive depth for the Flyers for the next two years for just $825,000 per. Fedotenko will also prove to be a great one-year pickup. He is an excellent fourth-line grinder for $1.75 million.
On July 18th, the Flyers again shocked the NHL world by signing Nashville Predators' top D man, 6-foot-4 232-pound Shea Weber, to a 14-year $110 million offer sheet in attempts to replace Chris Pronger, who is on LTIR. The contract called for $28 million to be paid to Weber in one calendar year, even if there was a lockout. Predators could choose not to match the offer and accept four 1st round draft picks from the Flyers as compensation or they could simply match it. Matching it, however, would not be simple for the Predators, who only made $26 million in ticket sales in the 2011-2012 season. After nearly one week of waiting, the Predators matched the offer sheet. The Flyers missed out big time, yet again.
The Flyers did not call it quits, though. They quickly inked RFA Jakub Voracek to four years and $17 million. As of now, Voracek is expected to be the first-line right winger, filling the hole in the lineup Jagr left when he signed with Dallas. This seems like a great deal, however, the more you think about it the more you wonder if Voracek will be able to put up the same stats as last year.
Amidst all the chaos, the Flyers were subject to rumors about trades involving Columbus Blue Jackets' forward Rick Nash, Anaheim Ducks' forward Bobby Ryan, and Phoenix Coyotes' forward Shane Doan. With Nash being a part of a five-player trade to the New York Rangers, he is no longer in the picture. Although they were in the hunt, with a $7.8 million cap hit, it is great that the Flyers did not acquire Nash, as they already have enough scoring depth.
With Nash in New York, the Flyers need for a right wing is magnified. Doan seems like a great fit on the first line with Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux. He would bring discipline and leadership, not to mention more scoring to the number one offense in the league; he would fill Jaromir Jagr's role in the lineup perfectly. A plus for the Flyers is that they will not have to give up any current players for Doan, however, with Doan wanting $7.5 million a year to leave Phoenix, it seems unlikely that the Flyers will pursue him.
With free agency at a virtual stand-still, trade talks will soon increase between teams that did not make a splash in the free agency pool this off-season. Perhaps the most circulated rumor around the NHL is the trade talks between the Ducks and Flyers. These talks center around forward Bobby Ryan. Anaheim is interested in Sean Couturier or Brayden Schenn in some sort of package for Bobby Ryan. Paul Holmgren has made it clear these players are off limits. Now, look deep down inside and ask yourself if Couturier and Schenn will even develop into the stars we hope they will be. Look what happened with van Riemsdyk...
So the question still looms: What is in store for the Philadelphia Flyers?
Will the Flyers put up big money for Shane Doan? Are Couturier and Schenn really too valuable to give up for Bobby Ryan? Do the Flyers forget about a forward and go for more depth on defense? Do they go after Keith Yandle or Dan Boyle? Who knows? The Philadelphia Flyers probably do not even know.
One thing is for sure, Peter Laviolette will be staying behind the Flyers bench for at least the next two years as he just signed an extension. Holmgren acquires players and it is Laviolette's job to coach them. He is one of, if not the best, coach in the league and he will continue to coach the Flyers to victory, maybe even a cup.