Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren will have to decide on the fate of 10 Flyers free agents from now until the start of the 2012-13 season.
The Philadelphia Flyers have brought in some familiar faces during the 2012 free-agency period. Every incoming free agent has played for the Flyers before, except for former Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Bruno Gervais.
Forward Ruslan Fedotenko played his first two NHL seasons with the Flyers. In 163 games, including playoffs, Fedotenko scored 34 goals and 64 points. This season, Fedotenko returns to Philadelphia at 33 years old and as a two-time Stanley Cup champion.
Defenseman Danny Syvret suited up for the Flyers occasionally for three seasons, most recently in 2010-11. This is Syvret’s third different term with the Flyers, a team with which he has played 37 games and scored four points. Most Flyers fans remember Syvret for scoring the team’s lone goal in the 2010 NHL Winter Classic against the Boston Bruins at Fenway Park.
Goaltender Michael Leighton never really left the Flyers organization, but he has not played in an NHL game since the 2011 Eastern Conference playoffs.
Leighton also played in the 2010 NHL Winter Classic with Syvret, but Flyers fans will always remember him carrying the team from the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference to Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. As long as Ilya Bryzgalov plays well and stays in the lineup, Leighton should not have to do that again this season. What Leighton will do in 2012-13, though, is back up Bryzgalov, now that Sergei Bobrovsky has moved on to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
So far in free agency, after losing Jaromir Jagr and Matt Carle, Philadelphia has a net gain of one. It remains to be seen what other players general manager Paul Holmgren might bring in, but a more pressing concern today is figuring out what to do with the Flyers’ own free agents.
In this slideshow, I will discuss the Flyers’ remaining free agents, and I will try to predict their hockey futures. I will include both restricted and unrestricted free agents.
So, let's drop the puck.
*All salary information acquired from capgeek.com
Cap Hit: $525,000
The Flyers signed Jason Bacashihua in free agency last summer. Bacashihua played 23 games with the Adirondack Phantoms in 2011-12, where he posted a 2.99 GAA.
Bacashihua was a first-rounder in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, but he has only appeared in 38 NHL games. None of those have been since 2006-07.
With Ilya Bryzgalov in Philadelphia for the next eight seasons, Bacashihua will have to move if he wants to play in the NHL again. Michael Leighton’s ascent from the Phantoms to the Flyers over the offseason means Bacashihua should see more time in Adirondack.
Prediction: Starting goaltender for the Adirondack Phantoms
Cap Hit: $800,000
Since the Flyers signed Johan Backlund as a free agent in March 2009, he has played exactly 41 minutes on the big club. One of them was spent skating from and to the bench in Game 3 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals series against the Boston Bruins.
In 2011-12, Backlund played 31 minutes for the Adirondack Phantoms.
I am not sure if it would be in the Flyers’ best interest to re-sign Backlund, who is two years removed from playing significant time in the AHL, let alone the NHL. I think the Flyers will re-sign Backlund, though.
Prediction: Backup goaltender for the Adirondack Phantoms
Cap Hit: $700,000
Blair Betts spent his time in Philadelphia as the fourth-line center and on the top penalty-killing unit. Betts’ big moment came in Game 1 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, when he scored a goal in the Flyers’ 6-5 defeat to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Betts missed all of 2011-12. Will Betts ever play again? Nobody knows for sure, but Frank Seravalli of philly.com explains why Philadelphia should keep Betts around:
“Betts is one of the hardest workers, on and off the ice, to ever put on the Flyers’ jersey. He is a brilliant hockey mind, especially when it comes to the penalty kill and positioning, a genuine person and he would be a solid addition to the Flyers’ coaching staff—at least temporarily until he can get a better diagnosis on what’s ailing him. He’s still just 31 [now 32] years old.”
Betts’ defensive and faceoff abilities are valuable, but in all honesty, where would Betts fit in the Flyers lineup if he were playing in 2012-13? Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier have proven to be more than NHL-ready centers.
Prediction: The Flyers will find a role for Betts off the ice, much like what has happened with Ian Laperriere.
Cap Hit: $875,000
Marc-Andre Bourdon played 46 games with the Flyers in 2011-12, including playoffs. During that time, Bourdon played quite well for a rookie who filled in for injured top-four defensemen Chris Pronger and Andrej Meszaros.
Bourdon will likely start out the season with the Adirondack Phantoms, even with Matt Carle having moved on to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
I think the everyday defensemen in 2012-13 will be Braydon Coburn, Kimmo Timonen, Nicklas Grossmann, Andrej Meszaros, Luke Schenn and Bruno Gervais/Andreas Lilja. Gervais and Lilja will make the cut based on experience.
At just 22 years old, the former third round choice of the Flyers in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft looks promising. With Philadelphia aging on the back end, Bourdon could have a regular spot in the top six sooner than you might expect. Until then, Bourdon will continue to fill in for injured players.
Prediction: Flyers re-sign Bourdon, who again splits time between the NHL and the AHL.
Dan Jancevski seen here playing with the Dallas Stars.
Cap Hit: $525,000
Dan Jancevski has played a grand total of 88 minutes in the NHL over three seasons since being drafted in the second round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. The guy who went four picks later, Nicklas Hagman, has played in exactly 800 NHL games, including playoffs. Ironically, they played together for the Dallas Stars from 2005-08.
Jancevski played 75 games for the Adirondack Phantoms in both 2010-11 and 2011-12. Only forward Jason Akeson played more games (76) for the Phantoms in 2011-12.
As the Flyers shuffled through defensemen in 2011-12 to offset injuries, Jancevski never got called up. Younger players like Brandon Manning, Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson did. This severely limits Jancevski’s prospects of playing with Philadelphia.
Prediction: Jancevski will continue to eat up minutes in the AHL with Adirondack Phantoms
Cap Hit: $3.85 million
Pavel Kubina is probably the most recognizable name on this list. Kubina has played 1,021 NHL games, including playoffs, mostly with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He won the 2004 Stanley Cup championship with the Lightning after beating the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Philadelphia faces literally a big decision regarding Kubina. After all, Kubina stands 6’4” and 258 pounds!
The Flyers acquired Kubina via trade with Tampa Bay on Feb. 18, 2012. Kubina played 22 games with the Flyers in 2011-12, including playoffs. He played in only five of the 11 playoff games. Kubina was a minus-3 in both the regular season and playoffs for Philadelphia.
The Czech Republic native has represented his country in the past three Winter Olympic Games. Also according to cbssports.com, Kubina is the fourth-best unrestricted free agent remaining on the market. Kubina can make some NHL franchise’s 2012-13 roster, just maybe not the Flyers’.
Fifty-seven of Kubina’s 113 NHL goals, including playoffs, have come on the power play. Any franchise looking to add an experienced power play threat on defense should think about Kubina.
Kubina’s minus-102 career rating and age will turn many franchises away, but he still logs 20 minutes a night on defense. Plus, Kubina shoots right-handed.
The Flyers have a lot of defensemen coming up to the big club soon enough, and resigning Kubina for around $4 million would frankly be a waste of money.
Prediction: Kubina walks away from Philadelphia and signs with a team needing a big, right-handed defenseman.
Position: Left Wing
Cap Hit: $900,000
At 24 years old, Andrew Rowe still has a lot of time to make his NHL debut. For now, though, he will likely stay in the AHL.
Rowe played 34 games with the Adirondack Phantoms in 2011-12. He was more productive that season compared to 2010-11, as he scored more points in less games. I expect Rowe’s trend to continue upwards in 2012-13.
Prediction: Regularly-appearing forward on Adirondack Phantoms
Position: Left Wing
Cap Hit: $875,000
On Feb. 28, 2011, the Flyers acquired Tom Sestito from the Columbus Blue Jackets via trade. Sestito was a third round pick of the Blue Jackets in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
Sestito has played in 27 NHL games and has amassed a whopping 147 penalty minutes in those games. That averages to almost five and one-half penalty minutes per game.
Sestito provides a physical presence any time he steps onto the ice, but he has shown a scoring touch in the past.
Though he has only two career goals, Sestito has 41 goals in 220 career AHL games. Also, Sestito scored 42 regular season goals for the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League in 2006-07. That year, Sestito led the Whalers to the Memorial Cup championship, and he was selected the OHL’s Most Valuable Player.
For the Flyers in 2011-12, Sestito played 14 games, all in the regular season. Sestito needs to play more often in 2012-13, because Philadelphia plays its best hockey when it plays physical. Why else would the Flyers have gotten the nickname “The Broad Street Bullies”?
Sestito is the Flyers’ best pure enforcer. Jody Shelley has way more experience in the NHL, and he is also an enforcer, but who knows how much longer Shelley will play. Sestito is two inches taller, weighs the same, and is 12 years younger than Shelley.
I think Sestito should play mainly intra-divisional matchups, as well as against other rivals like the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens. These games tend to get chippy between the players and fan bases, and Sestito’s presence in the lineup will show that the Flyers are prepared to scrap when necessary.
Fun Fact: Tom’s brother Tim plays for the New Jersey Devils, which adds a family component to the already deep-rooted rivalry between these two franchises.
Prediction: Flyers’ enforcer of the future
Position: Right Wing
Cap Hit: $2.25 million
Like Tom Sestito, the Flyers acquired Jakub Voracek via trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2011. The similarities between Sestito and Voracek end there, though.
Resigning Voracek should be the Flyers’ remaining priority this offseason. Voracek tied for fourth on the team in regular season points (49) and placed third in postseason points (10) in 2011-12. As a result, with Jaromir Jagr gone, Voracek could be playing right wing on Philadelphia’s first line in 2012-13.
On June 23, 2011, general manager Paul Holmgren gave the Flyers a face-lift when he traded away arguably the team’s two biggest names in Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
Carter scored at least 33 goals every season from 2008-2011 for the Flyers and at least 23 in five different seasons. The 11th overall pick of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft was a clutch scorer as well with 38 game-winning goals in regular season action with the Flyers.
After 39 games as a Columbus Blue Jacket, Carter was traded to the Los Angeles Kings, where he reunited with Richards and their line mate from the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, Simon Gagne. The trio helped the Kings win the Stanley Cup championship in 2012.
Philadelphia looked like the immediate losers in the transactions, but I think this was a win-win for both sides—if the Flyers can re-sign Voracek. Columbus traded away Voracek and its eighth overall pick in 2011, which the Flyers turned into Sean Couturier. Voracek himself was the seventh overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
Bill Meltzer wrote for hockeybuzz.com that Philadelphia will probably have to pay Voracek a similar contract to Tampa Bay Lightning forward Teddy Purcell, considering their similar statistics. Purcell will earn $4.5 million in 2013-14.
A long-term deal for Voracek would decrease the amount of money the Flyers can offer Claude Giroux when his contract expires, and for the time being, would pay Voracek a similar amount to Giroux.
If Giroux and Voracek make up two-thirds of the Flyers’ first line for the next decade, though, then I think general manager Paul Holmgren should definitely take the risk. On a potent offensive team like the Flyers, Voracek will have more points than he would on the Blue Jackets and most other NHL teams.
Prediction: Though the two sides remain far apart, I think the Flyers realize Voracek is a key cog in their youth movement, and the sides will reach an agreement sometime late in the free agency period.
Position: Left Wing
Cap Hit: $900,000
Harry Zolnierczyk played 37 games for the Flyers in 2011-12. One of those games was the 2012 NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park against the New York Rangers. Zolnierczyk also played 39 games with the Adirondack Phantoms.
Zolnierczyk will likely start the 2012-13 season on the Phantoms again, and he will see significant playing time with the Flyers again.
He was the Ivy League Hockey Player of the Year at Brown University in 2011.
Prediction: Philadelphia re-signs Zolnierczyk, who will be one of the first call-ups at forward in case of injury in 2012-13.