NHL Free Agency Preview: What Will the Flyers Do?


It’s July 1st, which means that NHL Free Agency will be upon us starting at noon EST. I’ve already written articles examining a few of the big-name free agents on the market, but here’s a final preview of what lies ahead. Let’s go position-by-position and break down who the Flyers want, who they should sign, who they’ll get, and who they should avoid.

Who the Flyers want: Ryan Suter. I wrote an article on him earlier, but the Nashville defenseman is the top blueliner on the market. Flyers beat reporter Sam Carchidi reported that Suter is one of the Flyers’ 3 main targets in free agency this year, along with University of Wisconsin D Justin Schultz, who has already signed with the Edmonton Oilers, and Devils LW Zach Parise. Suter would instantly upgrade the Flyers’ defense, which was the biggest problem for the team this season.

Who the Flyers should sign: Matt Carle. Carle’s often been a scapegoat for the defense’s poor play, and he’s been heavily criticized by fans. However, Carle is actually one of the better defenders in the NHL. He’s an excellent puck-mover, and although he doesn’t have a great shot from the point, he’s still a good offensive player. He also is underrated on defense: although he’s had some costly turnovers, he’s a very good shotblocker and turnovers are to be expected with puck-moving defensemen.

Who the Flyers will sign: Matt Carle. The team had agreed to a deal with Carle in principle a couple weeks ago that would have paid him somewhere between $4-5M per season, but after Calgary signed Dennis Wideman, a poor man’s Matt Carle, to a 5 year deal with an average cap hit of $5.25M per season, the deal fell apart and Carle will hit the open market today. I still believe that the two sides will get a deal done. The Flyers will reward Carle for his excellent play, and Carle has expressed a strong desire to remain in Philadelphia.

Who the Flyers should avoid: Bryce Salvador. The 36 year-old New Jersey Devils defenseman had an excellent postseason at both ends of the ice, but one of those was an aberration. After scoring 4 goals in his last two seasons combined, including 0 in the 2011-2012 season, he scored 4 goals and tallied 10 assists (one more than he had in the entire regular season) during the Devils’ Stanley Cup run. The postseason run likely inflated his market value, and the team that signs him probably won’t be getting what they pay for.

Who the Flyers want: Zach Parise. Along with just about every team in the NHL, the Flyers would love to add him to the roster. He brings both scoring ability as well as grit, toughness, and veteran leadership. I wrote an entire post about him earlier, but if you follow hockey you know why everyone wants Parise.

Who the Flyers should sign: Shane Doan or PA Parentau. Doan has been with the Phoenix franchise his whole career dating back to the  Winnipeg days. However, with the Coyotes’ uncertain ownership situation, he has decided to test the market. He’s a 20+ goal scorer every year, but he also brings leadership, grit, and toughness. He’s relentless on the forecheck and throws his body around the ice to get hits. He’s the poor man’s version of Parise this offseason, and he would fit in great on the Flyers’ 2nd or 3rd line. Parentau had a breakout season with the Islanders this year, tallying 18 goals and 67 points. He’d be more of a scoring player than a physical one, and he would help replace the void left by James van Riemsdyk and potentially Jaromir Jagr on offense.

Who the Flyers will sign: Jaromir Jagr. The living legend had a successful season last year both on the ice and off it. He scored 19 goals and had 53 points in the regular season amid a recurring groin injury, and he mentored Claude Giroux and helped him explode last season. Although he wore down towards the end of the season and was upset about his playing time, I think the Flyers ultimately decide to bring Jagr back for another season.

Who the Flyers should avoid: Alex Semin. The Russian winger is coming off a massive contract with the Capitals that saw him fail to live up to expectations. He’s got a howitzer of a shot and can score from anywhere in the offensive zone, but he’s streaky and often doesn’t work as hard as he should. Considering he’s not an aggressive forechecker and he’s not seen as very tough, I don’t think Semin would do well under Peter Laviolette. For the money he’s probably going to make on his contract (upwards of $5M per year), Semin’s offensive talent isn’t worth the other holes and deficiencies in his game that would be exposed in Laviolette’s system.

Who the Flyers want to sign: Chris Mason. The Winnipeg Jets goalie had a GAA of 2.59 while backing up Ondrej Pavlec in Winnipeg this past season, and with that sort of success in a backup role he would be a good fit for the Flyers because Ilya Bryzgalov showed that he needs to play a lot of games to get in rhythm last season. On the other hand, they need a good backup plan in case Bryzgalov struggles again. Mason provides the best of both worlds: able to play well in limited action, but capable of stepping in for a longer stretch of time.

Who the Flyers should sign: Chris Mason (see above).

Who the Flyers will sign: Chris Mason. With the backup goalies on the market dwindling by the day (Martin Biron and Scott Clemmenson are both signed), Mason is the best option for the Flyers and he makes a ton of sense.

Who the Flyers should avoid: Michael Leighton. Paul Holmgren said that Leighton was an option as Bryzgalov’s backup, but I have two major problems with that. One: he’s played one NHL game in the last two seasons. Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdVn42-vOt8. It still hurts.

As soon as any signings are made, I’ll be putting up a post to provide my thoughts on them. Let the games begin!