The Philadelphia Flyers dramatically changed the look of their team in the 2011 offseason. With the Flyers preparing for free agency and roster moves in 2012, we are left wondering if how General Manager Paul Holmgren will alter the team this summer.
The Flyers face free agency questions about some key players and valuable prospects, and trade rumors that date back months and still haven’t died.
One thing is (almost) certain, this year’s offseason drama will pale in comparison to last year’s. Rather than reacting to dramatic trades and surprising signings, the Flyers media will be focused more on speculation.
What happens to Chris Pronger? Who gets the captaincy in 2012-13? Will Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier experience sophomore slumps?
Nonetheless, the team will be losing players who have played significant roles with the team.
These are five players who likely will not don the orange and black in 2012-13.
Blair Betts played two seasons with the Flyers as an important role player.
Betts was a strong penalty killer and reliable in the faceoff circle, and even notched a career-high 18 points in 2009-10. However, he was placed on waivers last season and picked up by Montreal, only to be returned to the Flyers when he failed a physical.
He did not play at all in 2011-12 and is an unrestricted free agent on July 1. The Flyers will not re-sign him, and Betts may be hard-pressed to find work in the NHL.
Pavel Kubina seemed like the ideal trade-deadline acquisition for Philadelphia. Kubina brought size to the defensive zone and a powerful shot to the blue line, and he became the lone right-handed defenseman on the team.
However, Kubina missed time with injuries and managed only five points with the Flyers in the regular season and playoffs, eventually being benched in favor of the older, slower Andreas Lilja.
Weighed against his expectations, Kubina was a complete bust for the Flyers. There has been little talk of the team even attempting to re-sign Kubina, and it is better for player and team alike if Kubina and the Flyers part ways.
Paul Holmgren has stated that the Flyers would like to sign Matt Carle to a long-term deal before he becomes a free agent in July, and Holmgren seems at least moderately sincere in that statement, despite the fact that the general consensus is that there is no room for Carle.
Carle and fellow defenseman Braydon Coburn began the season as impending free agents, and fans speculated that only one of the two would be re-signed. Coburn inked a four-year deal in November, and trade deadline acquisition Nicklas Grossmann signed his own four-year deal in the spring.
Carle is a solid role-playing defenseman on a team filled with solid role-playing defensemen, which leaves him between a rock and a hard place. If the Flyers are going to invest big bucks in another defenseman, it’s going to be in someone of a higher caliber than Carle. If the Flyers are looking to avoid spending more money on the blue line, they’ll take a gamble on a younger player like Erik Gustafsson.
Either way, Carle appears to be stuck in the middle. Don’t feel too bad for Carle, though. He could sign a bigger contract than he deserves if he tests free agency.
Not long after the Flyers’ season ended, the Jagr chat began. Philly.com’s Sam Carchidi claimed that Jagr sidestepped opportunities to claim he intended to return to Philadelphia. This has led many to speculate that Jagr’s honeymoon with the Flyers is over, even if his career is not.
Truth be told, the reason Jagr will not come back to Philly is two-sided. The Flyers do not need him.
Jagr was brought into Philly as a veteran who could offset the imbalance created by an offensive corps filled with young players. In one short season, players from Claude Giroux to Wayne Simmonds to rookies like Brayden Schenn, Matt Read and Sean Couturier all exceeded expectations and exhibited veteran qualities.
Jagr’s influence proved invaluable to the Flyers as the team came together, but the Flyers showed in 2011-12 that they are already making strides toward becoming a big-time contender in the NHL. Jagr’s $3.3 million could prove more useful if it goes toward re-signing Jakub Voracek or acquiring a big-name defenseman.
Poor James van Riemsdyk.
He signed a four-year extension before 2011-12, a show of good faith from a Flyers front office that has waited patiently for JVR to live up to his No. 2 draft pick potential. Yet, he spent most of 2011-12 dealing with trade rumors that seemed to have more substance than most.
When news outlets reported that the Flyers were interested in acquiring Luke Schenn from Toronto, fans tossed JVR’s name into the mix. On deadline day itself, Darren Dreger tweeted that the San Jose Sharks offered goalie Antti Niemi for JVR, but the Flyers turned it down despite listening to the offer.
This offseason, the 23-year-old winger may again find himself the subject of trade rumors, and for the Flyers, he may be their most valuable piece to deal. The team would be crazy to give up on its rookie corps, but van Riemsdyk has played three full seasons in Philly and has seen moderate results, at best.
The Flyers will be looking to find a replacement for Chris Pronger, and if the team cannot fill that void without making a big sacrifice, JVR could be the Mike Richards/Jeff Carter of 2012.