The Flyers in a Tight Spot in Search for a Top-Four Defenseman

Mike YramrettContributor IJune 29, 2008

Paul Holmgren had a difficult task this off-season: re-sign restricted free agents Jeff Carter, R.J. Umberger, and Randy Jones. 

Holmgren's top priority was to sign the 23-year-old, Jeff Carter.  Holmgren did just that, inking Carter to a three-year deal worth about 15 million. After the hefty 6.4 million increase of the salary cap, the Flyers currently are believed to be at a payroll of 51 million, where as the salary cap stands at 56.7 million.

The Flyers are expected to announce the new contract extensions to restricted free agents Randy Jones and Riley Cote sometime this week. 

Riley Cote is close to an agreement for a three year extension worth 2.4 million ($800,000 per year, a $300,000 pay increase.) The enforcer had 202 penalty minutes, one goal, three assists and a plus-two.

Randy Jones, who is an asset to the Flyers powerplay, is expected to announce a three year deal worth about four million (1.3 million per year, a $775,000 pay increase.)  The defenseman had five goals, 26 assists and was a plus-eight.

After the two are signed, the Flyers will be somewhere around a 53.1 million dollar payroll.

Other restricted free agents are: Steve Eminger, Danny Syvret, Nate Guenin, Stefan Ruzicka, and Patrick Thoresen.  All were given offers, which does protect their rights and allow them to negotiate extentions with only the Flyers.

Those who still haven't received any offers are goaltenders Martin Houle, Scott Monroe, Rejean Beauchemin, and defenseman Lars Jonsson, who was signed to play in Sweden next season.

Given that some will walk and sign with other teams, the Flyers still do not have enough room to sign a top-four defenseman. 

There is still a possibility that defenseman Derian Hatcher will call it quits and retire after 16 seasons in the NHL. The 36-year-old still has one-year remaining on his contract that is currently costing the Flyers 3.5 million. 

The obvious free agent that the Flyers would love to pursue would be Brian Campbell, who is looking for a hefty pay-day that can cost the Flyers over six million. 

Perhaps the Flyers can sign John-Michael Liles, who had six goals and 26 assists for Colorado the past season.  Liles is expected to ask for about three million. 

The Flyers could also go another route, past the puck-moving defensemen. Brooks Orpik is possibly the best physical, stay-at-home defenseman available this summer.  The Flyers do not need another stay-at-home defenseman but the Flyers are lacking the physical presence on the blue line. 

Orpik is expected to ask for about four million.

Paul Holmgren probably has some trick up his sleeve that can land the Flyers a top-four defenseman, but he will have to look at other possibilities in attempt to make room for a Brian Campbell caliber player. 

Homer already has made a tough choice by trading away the rights to R.J Umberger to Colombus for the 19th pick in the 2008 draft. 

The Flyers have so much depth at foward, be ready to see Holmgren trade veterans such as Mike Knuble to catch another defenseman.  This could also be another route to take if the Flyers do not land that defenseman that they want in free agency.