WHAT TO MAKE OF FREE AGENCY FOR FLYERS/LEIGHTON SIGNS FOR TWO YEARS
We’ve heard craziness like Jeff Carter being traded (for Bobby Ryan or a goalie) or the Flyers trading for Tim Thomas and his ridiculous $5 million contract for the next three years.
We’ve watched them trade for the rights to negotiate with Dan Hamhuis and then just as quickly trade his rights away.
We’ve watched them try to land Evgeni Nabokov early, and just as quickly realized that was a June dead end.
And after all the rumors and machinations of them since the Blackhawks paraded the Stanley Cup around the Wachovia Center that have shadowed the Flyers, they are going into free agency tomorrow with the same team they had in the playoffs minus Ryan Parent.
That’s about to change.
While there have been wide speculating reports out there the past two weeks – some accurate some ridiculously off base – I have been gathering information from many sources both in and out of the Flyers organization and I’ve pieced together a good portion of their offseason wish list.
Here’s what I’ve got:
They HAVE signed Michael Leighton.
They will sign at least one defenseman, probably two.
They will go after another forward, probably two.
They will also try to nab a free agent goalie.
They WILL NOT trade Jeff Carter.
They WILL NOT trade for Tim Thomas.
Frankly, there aren’t any trades out there as of now that make sense for them.
They will resign all three restricted free agents – Braydon Coburn, Dan Carcillo and Darroll Powe.
O.K. there is some info in there, but nothing juicy right? O.K. fine, let me get to the good stuff.
Let’s start with goalie, since that’s what everyone else wants to start with.
Michael Leighton has signed today with the Flyers. I’m hearing two years at about $1.5 million each year. Leighton has been told he will have an opportunity to compete for the No. 1 goalie position, but that he wasn’t having the job handed to him.
That’s because the Flyers are going to try to sign a companion goaltender to compete with him.
I was told they still have interest in Evgeni Nabokov and that they did kick the tires with Marty Turco, although no formal offer was made. While they are the biggest names – and ones the Flyers will continue to pursue – the team wants to spend less than those guys are looking for right now.
Unless their contract demands come down, look for the Flyers to turn their attention to Chris Mason, formerly of the St. Louis Blues or who I think is the likely choice – Dan Ellis, whose rights were traded yesterday from Nashville to Montreal.
Assuming Ellis doesn’t sign with the Habs – and there’s reason to believe he won’t because why would he take backup money to Carey Price when he has a shot to start for a team that was in the Stanley Cup Finals – he will likely be the Flyers prime goaltending target.
Wait, if it’s any of those four goalies AND Leighton, where does that leave Brian Boucher?
On the outs sadly. Boucher is one of the great guys in the sport, but if the Flyers plan comes to fruition, he will either be bought out, waived, or traded.
Next is the blue line, where the Hamhuis situation left everyone’s head spinning.
Despite what you’re hearing about the Flyers possibly getting back into the Hamhuis sweepstakes come lunchtime tomorrow, unless he’s changed his mind as is willing to both play in the East and take less minutes, they won’t even talk to him.
Simply put, Hamhuis and his agent Wade Arnott are over-valuing themselves. Hamhuis is a decent No. 4-5 defenseman. He wants to be considered a No. 2-3. If he wants that role, he better sign with a bad team. If he wants to win a Stanley Cup, he better take a reality check.
Still, either way, the Western Canadian-born (Smithers, B.C.) Hamhuis likes the Western Conference a lot more than the East. He’ll stay out there.
The Flyers instead have their sights set on a different group of defensemen.
Their top choice would be New Jersey’s Paul Martin, but he will most certainly be outside their price scale. The Flyers will certainly inquire, but Martin will sign somewhere for about $6 million annually. The Flyers are looking for someone with a max of about $4 million.
Which brings us to their second choice – Anton Volchenkov. Volchenkov is the perfect player for these Flyers. He blocks tons of shots. He’s a smart, solid, stay-at-home defenseman. He doesn’t score many points, but that’s not his game. You want reliability, you got it with Volchenkov.
The thing is, he may want more than $4 million. But consider this – his former coach, both in the AHL with Binghamton and in the NHL with Ottawa is Flyers’ assistant general manager John Paddock, and from what I can glean, Paddock loves Volchenkov’s game.
Is it possible that Volchenkov would take a little less with the Flyers than somewhere else to be reunited with Paddock?
It’s certainly a possibility.
If not, the Flyers will turn to another connection – one with player personnel director Don Luce.
Luce used to work for the Buffalo Sabres. Henrik Tallinder is set to be a free agent. He’s not as bright and shiny as Martin or Volchenkov, but he’s not chopped liver – and probably a bit cheaper and perfect for that No. 5 role.
Later in the summer, look for the Flyers to go after another defenseman – maybe a right handed shot from the point. Phoenix product Zybnek Michalek is an interesting possibility, but a more likely scenario is Kurtis Foster, who has a rifle from the point and was lost in the shuffle with a bad Tampa Bay team.
Expect the Flyers to go hard after him once the first wave of free agency dies down.
Finally, at forward, I think the Flyers will look to add one, maybe two guys. Here are their top targets:
1. Matt Cullen – Cullen, who will turn 34 in November, is a Peter Laviolette favorite. He scored 25 goals for Laviolete during the Carolina Hurricanes Stanley Cup run in 2005-06. It was a career high. He is a stead left-hand shot who can play either center or on left wing.
2. Colby Armstrong – The Flyers have coveted Armstrong the last couple of years but could never work out a trade that made sense. Now he’s a free agent and they think they can nab him. He won’t turn 28 until November and has a gritty, two-way style that fits the Flyers nicely. He’d be the perfect compliment on a third line for the Flyers.
I’m not saying they’ll get all of these guys, but they’ll certainly try to get them all at one point or another in the coming weeks.