NHL Free Agency: 5 Players the Flyers Must Pursue
The dust has settled on the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter sweepstakes, with the Philadelphia Flyers having acquired neither coveted free agent.
Having spent the 2011 offseason retooling the roster for a more youthful look, the Flyers appear committed to their philosophy of long-term investment as they have reportedly balked at the opportunity to acquire Rick Nash for Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn.
While the Flyers are not major players in the free agent market this year, the likely absence of Chris Pronger due to injury and the departure of Jaromir Jagr and Matt Carle have left the Flyers with unanswered questions on defense and on the wings.
Here are five free agents that the Flyers need to pay special attention to in the coming days.
Jakub Voracek spent last season with the Flyers after being acquired in the Jeff Carter trade, and common sense would dictate that the Flyers want him back. Voracek is a big body and an impressive puck handler, and the soon-to-be 23-year-old put up a career-high 18 goals last season.
Voracek was also very impressive in the playoffs and fills an important void at right wing.
He is a restricted free agent due for a pay raise over the $2.25 million he made last year, but Voracek will still be an affordable option and an important top-six forward for the Flyers. Expect GM Paul Holmgren to ink Voracek for at least two or three years to allow the talented Czech to find his groove and have a breakout season while wearing the orange and black.
For the Flyers, Kimmo Timonen is aging, Chris Pronger is likely out and Matt Carle has moved south. Philly’s current defensive roster includes some significant size, but point production from defensemen, usually a staple of the Flyers, might be a concern in 2012-13.
Carlo Colaiacovo appears to be the most affordable offensive defenseman on the market, though there could be concerns about his long-term health. Nonetheless, a healthy Colaiacovo is capable of putting up 30-plus points in a season, which would go a long way to replacing the 38 points lost when Carle left town.
The Flyers have already altered their defense by adding Luke Schenn and Bruno Gervais to a surprisingly deep blue-line, but if Holmgren wants more offense, it might be worth taking a chance on Colaiacovo.
Hagman managed only 23 points in 71 games last season, and Anaheim has not extended his $3 million contract. The 32-year-old Finn may need to take a pay cut to continue playing in the NHL, and the Flyers may find Hagman to be an attractive prospect.
Weighing in at 200 pounds, Hagman would make a formidable third-line left winger who could play top-six if needed, allowing him to play a similar role to the newly re-acquired Ruslan Fedotenko. Hagman, Fedotenko and Max Talbot would give coach Peter Laviolette a diversity of options at left wing, and Laviolette has a reputation for being quick to rotate lines.
If the price is right, don’t be surprised if Hagman finds his chance to have a rebound year while wearing a Flyers uniform.
Shane Doan wants to stay in Arizona, but he will reportedly wait to make a decision until July 9. If the future of the Coyotes doesn’t look solid, Doan could finally leave the franchise for greener pastures.
The Flyers are one of the teams rumored to be interested in Doan’s services, and Doan would be an ideal replacement for the recently-departed Jaromir Jagr. Doan is known as a workhorse who would fit on the right wing and provide veteran leadership to a very young franchise.
Doan would round out a lineup of right-wingers with plenty of toughness and talent, including Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read and (most likely) Jakub Voracek.
A big signing like Doan would also allow Peter Laviolette plenty of freedom to tinker with lines, thanks to an abundance of multi-tooled players. Likewise, a spot on the Flyers roster would give Doan a well-deserved shot at his first Stanley Cup.
No Flyer was more missed last season than Chris Pronger. Pronger’s absence sent shockwaves through the franchise, forcing the team to acquire big-bodied defensemen and contemplate where it could find the equivalent of Pronger’s leadership.
There is literally only one player in the league whose skill set and intensity can be compared to Pronger’s, and he is currently a restricted free agent.
Stealing Shea Weber from Nashville would be no easy task for the Flyers, but the reward would likely be worth whatever the team needed to give up. The Flyers could extend Weber an offer sheet, which Nashville would be allowed to match. If they did not, they would receive compensatory draft picks from Philadelphia.
Assuming Weber doesn’t sign a long-term extension, the Flyers could wait until next offseason to acquire Weber on the open market. Unfortunately, in that case, it would be a free-for-all that would attract even more attention than Ryan Suter did this year.
So for the Flyers, the team that has been surprisingly quiet in free agency and has recommitted itself to building through the draft, this might be the time to make a splash at the expense of the long-term future.
At the moment, the Flyers face daily questions as to how they will replace Chris Pronger. If they make a move for Weber, they will likely never have to answer those questions again.