As the hockey world has been chattering about trades, signings and rumors since before the NHL Entry Draft, it is inevitable that big-market teams like the Philadelphia Flyers hear their names thrown into the mix.
And given the splash that Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren made last season by trading away his captain and his top goal-scorer, then signing a goaltender to a massive nine-year deal, it seemed likely that the Flyers would be a focal point of the 2012 offseason as well.
However, thus far, almost a week into free agency, the Flyers have been very, very quiet.
The team made two significant moves before free agency began, trading backup goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to the Columbus Blue Jackets for three draft picks and dealing forward James van Riemsdyk to Toronto in exchange for defenseman Luke Schenn (ESPN).
However, while the trades put some attention on Philly, they also took some heat off of the franchise. Bobrovsky and van Riemsdyk were perhaps the organization's two most valuable, expendable assets, and by trading both away in small deals, the Flyers seem less likely to get themselves into a bidding war for Rick Nash or Bobby Ryan.
And given that the Flyers possessed the third most potent offense in the league last year, it would seem that giving up key players for Nash’s $7.8 million cap hit or Ryan’s $5.1 million would have the Flyers putting too much money where they need the least help.
Only a particularly sweet deal would bring either player to Philadelphia, and at least Columbus’s GM Scott Howson wants a major return for Nash's services (CSN Philly).
One would hope that the demands in Columbus and Anaheim are too high for the Flyers to mess with the chemistry they have been building.
Once free agency began, the hockey world was focused on the plight of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, the most coveted defenseman and forward on the market.
Suter is a strong puck-moving defenseman, valuable to any team, but not the type of player the Flyers truly need to replace injured captain Chris Pronger. Pronger’s closest reincarnation would have to be Suter’s former partner, Nashville’s Shea Weber.
Parise’s services would likewise be important to any franchise, but like Nash and Ryan, the Flyers do not feel they have weaknesses on offense.
Nonetheless, the Flyers made a play for both free agents, and were considered among the candidates to sign either or both (Philly.com).
There is some speculation that the Flyers were never truly interested in acquiring either player (CSN Philly). But instead, they simply used their available cap space to drive up the market price on both players, particularly since their intrastate rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins, seemed heavily invested in the free agents after ridding themselves of Jordan Staal and Zbynek Michalek (Yahoo! Sports).
Whether by design or by being outbid, the Flyers missing out on Suter and Parise is for the best.
Philadelphia is young and growing, with plenty of success to build upon already, and leaving room to make more precise moves in the future while maintaining its youthful corps of players will benefit the team greatly.
The team also allowed Jaromir Jagr to walk when the Dallas Stars offered over $1 million more than the Flyers paid the future Hall of Famer last season. Jagr’s influence last year was invaluable—his work ethic rubbed off on many of the team’s young players, but having him back in a Flyers uniform would simply be a waste of money for Holmgren.
Likewise, defenseman Matt Carle, whose market value skyrocketed once Suter signed with the Minnesota Wild, signed a six-year deal with Tampa Bay (USA Today). Carle is a talented defenseman, but not worth the money that some teams were willing to pay for him.
As the offseason forges on, expect the Flyers to keep an eye on players like restricted free agent Shea Weber, veteran Shane Doan and their own RFA, Jakub Voracek. Holmgren will make signing Voracek to a fair deal a priority, while attempting to acquire the other two at a price that still leaves room to maneuver under the salary cap.
And expect Holmgren to continue to listen to talk about Bobby Ryan and Rick Nash, without feeling an itchy trigger finger that could send a boatload of young talent away for an expensive contract.
At the moment, it seems like the Flyers are more committed to last offseason’s moves than they are to making a splash this year, and that appears to be the best approach. Players like Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn and Voracek could prove incredibly valuable this season.
And with players like Shea Weber, Corey Perry and Jarome Iginla likely becoming unrestricted free agents next summer, a little extra cap space could be equally valuable for the Flyers a year from now.