5 Perfect Fits for Philadelphia Flyers in 2014 Free Agency
Free agency began with a frenzy Tuesday.
More than $450 million was committed to NHL players between lunch and dinner on the East Coast.
But for the cap-strapped Philadelphia Flyers, it was a relatively uneventful day.
GM Ron Hextall inked goaltender Rob Zepp out of Germany to a one-year, two-way contract before re-signing Ray Emery to a one-year, $1 million pact. Zepp will likely split time with netminding prospect Anthony Stolarz with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms while Emery returns to serve as Steve Mason's backup.
But the signing period has only just begun and plenty of intriguing names remain available for the orange and black.
Here's a look at five perfect free-agent fits still remaining for the Flyers.
(Please note, this list is based on players who remain unrestricted free agents as of 10 PM EST Tuesday.)
Adam Hall, F
An extremely effective fourth-liner for the Flyers last year, Adam Hall would be a perfect fit back in Philadelphia next season.
A native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Hall represented just a $600,000 cap hit for the Flyers a season ago and would likely come as a similar bargain a year from now. For a Philadelphia roster that's as close to the salary cap ceiling as any in the NHL, dollar value is just as important at this time as player value.
But Hall brings plenty of the latter as well.
At 6'3", 213 pounds, the 33-year-old forward is a physical fourth-line center who paced all Philadelphia pivots in faceoff percentage during both the regular season and playoffs. He takes hits to make plays, isn't afraid to get physical on the forecheck and is ready and willing to drop the gloves when necessary.
Stanley Cup champions are built around players like Hall who know their role and contribute accordingly.
Michal Handzus, F
If the Flyers don't opt to bring Hall back, Michal Handzus would be a good fit in a similar role.
A 15-year NHL veteran, Handzus has more than 1,000 regular-season games—plus 116 postseason games—on his NHL resume and would bring experience and leadership to a Philly squad looking to take the next step.
In 59 games last season, the Slovakian forward produced just four goals and 16 points, but Handzus' value goes far beyond those surface statistics. The 6'4", 219-pound center is tremendous in the faceoff circle and has been one of the game's top penalty killers for the last decade.
The 37-year-old pivot is coming off a one-year, $1 million deal with the Chicago Blackhawks and will likely command a similarly reasonable salary next year. That cap-friendly price coupled with his hockey intangibles make Handzus a perfect fit in Philly.
Peter Mueller, F
Peter Mueller is an intriguing option for every NHL club.
He could be a legitimate NHL goal scorer next season or he might not even play at the game's highest level.
After he burst on the scene with 22 goals in his rookie season during the 2007-08 campaign, the Bloomington, Minnesota, native has managed just 41 conversions in 216 NHL outings since. Unable to secure an NHL contract last season, Mueller joined the Kloten Flyers in Switzerland and found his scoring touch again as he produced 24 goals and 46 points in just 49 games.
Still just 26 years old, the 6'2", 204-pound winger has plenty of gas left in the tank and could be a real find for an NHL squad heading into next season.
The Flyers just traded a sizable winger in Scott Hartnell and could definitely use some scoring depth on the wing. When last in the NHL, Mueller earned $1.75 million as part of a one-year pact with the Florida Panthers and one has to believe he'll take even a little less than that to get back into the NHL.
Lee Stempniak, F
Like Mueller, Lee Stempniak would provide some much needed production on the wing.
A 6'0", 201-pound forward, Stempniak notched 12 goals and 34 points in 73 games with the Calgary Flames and Pittsburgh Penguins last season. The native of West Seneca, New York, has now managed double-digit goals and better than 30 points in eight of his nine NHL campaigns.
A speedy, jack-of-all-trades winger, Stempniak is exactly the kind of versatile winger the Flyers need to pursue. His proven goal-scoring track record would fit on either of Philadelphia's top two lines while his gritty, two-way play could also complement the Flyers' checking lines.
At 31 years old, Stempniak is coming off a two-year, $5 million contract and might be willing to take a slight discount to join a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
Michael Del Zotto, D
Even with Kimmo Timonen back for one more season, the Flyers still could use some additional help and depth on the back end.
With Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossmann, Mark Streit and Timonen on the roster, Philadelphia already has four regular blueliners that are at least 29 years old. Prospects Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg are close to joining the big club, but just in case they're not ready, 24-year-old Michael Del Zotto would provide some nice depth to Philly's defense corps.
After a career-high 10 goals and 41 points during the 2011-12 season, the 6'0", 193-pound offensive defenseman managed just six goals and 37 points in 113 games and two seasons since. After a decreased role with the New York Rangers, Del Zotto was moved to the Nashville Predators in late January last year and is now on the open market.
Coming off a 2-year, $5.1 million contract, Del Zotto will be seeking a multiyear pact but shouldn't command more than a $2-$2.5 million cap hit annually.
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