Philadelphia Flyers: Is Simon Gagne the Next Step?

Jason Sapunka@moreSapunkaCorrespondent IIJuly 2, 2011

Just one week after one of the biggest shake-ups in franchise history, the Philadelphia Flyers continued to rock the NHL world on the first day of NHL free agency.

General manager Paul Holmgren spent June 23rd trading team captain Mike Richards and leading goal scorer Jeff Carter, while also signing goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.

Yesterday when the free agent market opened, Holmgren made another splash by landing big name Jaromir Jagr in an effort to establish veteran leadership in the locker room.

Two additional former Stanley Cup champions were signed via free agency—Maxime Talbot and Andreas Lilja.

Jagr will add offensive depth and should produce more than 40 points next season. Jagr's ability to win puck battles along the boards might make him a fit on the line with Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere.

Former linemate Ville Leino has signed with the Buffalo Sabres.

Jakub Voracek, acquired in the Carter trade, could also be a fitting linemate, as his ability to set up plays may be a fitting replacement.

At this point, either Voracek or Jagr will end up with Hartnell and Briere, whereas the other will skate with James van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux on Philadelphia's other scoring line.

The one restricted free agent left for Philadelphia to sign is the recently acquired Wayne Simmonds. According to this article from the Flyers' official website, Holmgren is "close" to signing him.

Simmonds would likely play right wing for the third line, with Talbot on the opposite wing, and Brayden Schenn taking faceoffs.

Of course, this depends on Schenn's ability to earn a roster spot during training camp.

Rounding out the Flyers' fourth line will be Jody Shelley, Blair Betts and possibly recently re-signed Andreas Nodl, Tom Sestito, AHL powder keg Zac Rinaldo (who dressed for the Flyers during the playoffs), or late season call-up Ben Holmstrom.

On the defensive side, few changes have occurred.

Pairings remaining the same should be Chris Pronger with Matt Carle, and Kimmo Timonen with Braydon Coburn.

Andrej Meszaros should be playing with the newly signed Lilja, a direct replacement for Sean O'Donnell, who signed with the Chicago Blackhawks, along with another scrappy Flyers' free agent, Dan Carcillo

No discussion occurred for a possible trade of Sergei Bobrovsky, and he should be expected to be the second goaltender behind Bryzgalov.

Holmgren revealed interest in Simon Gagne, stating the Flyers still have flexibility.

Last season Holmgren made a difficult trade in an effort to clear salary cap space. The longest-tenured Flyers player, playoff hero, and assistant captain was sent to Tampa Bay.

Now a free agent, Gagne could potentially return to Philadelphia. Holmgren has spoken with Gagne's agent and said there is "probably interest on both sides."

Depending on how much Simmonds is signed for, the Flyers might be able to afford Gagne if they use a 22-man roster.

With the following lineup, $4.4 million could be dispersed among Gagne and Simmonds.

Scott Hartnell ($4.2M) Daniel Briere ($6.5M) Jaromir Jagr ($3.300m)

James van Riemsdyk ($1.654M)

Claude Giroux ($3.75M) Jakub Voracek ($2.25M)
Simon Gagne Brayden Schenn ($3.11M) Maxime Talbot ($1.8M)
Jody Shelley ($1.1M) Blair Betts ($700k) Wayne Simmonds
Andreas Nodl ($845k)    
Matt Carle ($3.437M) Chris Pronger ($4.921M)  
Kimmo Timonen ($6.33M) Braydon Coburn ($3.2M)  
Andrej Meszaros ($4.0M) Andreas Lilja ($0.74M)  
Oskars Bartulis ($600k)    
Ilya Bryzgalov ($5.67M) Sergei Bobrovsky ($1.75M)  

Salaries courtesy of

Simmonds should sign a contract that carries a cap hit from $1.5-2 million. This would leave $2.5-3 million to sign Gagne, which might be enough.

Furthermore, if Brayden Schenn does not earn a roster spot, his $3.11 million cap hit would be cleared when he is sent to the AHL. That would certainly open up enough room for the salaries of both Gagne and Simmonds.

Fan favorite Gagne's potential return would thrill the city of Philadelphia.

For now, Flyers fans can rest their heads knowing most of the summer's key moves are done with.


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