Goalie no longer a priority

Posted: July 02, 2010

One by one, the Flyers plucked defensemen off the list yesterday.

First it was trading for Andrej Meszaros. Then it was re-signing Braydon Coburn. Free agent Sean O'Donnell signed shortly thereafter.

As those players became the latest to join the Flyers' fold, and eat up the available salary-cap room, goaltenders around the league began to sign with teams.

Former Flyer Marty Biron signed with the Rangers just after 12 noon for 2 years. Antero Niittymaki landed as the San Jose Sharks' next starter with a 2-year deal. Chris Mason inked in Atlanta.

With each signing, it became more and more likely the Flyers will head into next season with Michael Leighton as their starting goaltender. He agreed to a 2-year, $3.1 million deal on Tuesday night.

Most telling was the signing of Dan Ellis, a goaltender who reportedly interested the Flyers. He signed for 2 years at a price less than Leighton to be the starter in Tampa Bay under new general manager Steve Yzerman.

Ellis, 30, was 15-13-1 last season with a .909 save percentage and 2.69 goals-against with Nashville.

Now, even with Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco - two of the biggest goaltending names available in free agency - still unsigned, the Flyers don't have the cap room to sign either player without first making a trade. The Flyers have approximately $1.7 million in space without Riley Cote and Oskars Bartulis on the roster, two players with NHL contracts.

"Right now, it's not high on our priority list," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. "We're comfortable. Does that mean we're not going to look around and see if there's something else out there that makes us better? We'll certainly continue to do that. But if the season were to start tomorrow, I'd certainly feel comfortable right now with our goalies."

New Shelley in town

In April, Jody Shelley almost cost the Flyers umpteen millions of dollars in playoff revenue.

Skating with the New York Rangers, Shelley - a hardnosed enforcer with hands just as hard - scored his only two goals of the season, one each in the final two games of the regular season against the Flyers.

In fact, Shelley scored the Rangers' only goal on April 11 in the Flyers' 2-1 shootout win that sent them to the postseason.

Three months after the fact, the Flyers shared the wealth and signed Shelley to a 3-year, $3.3 million contract that will pay the left winger $1.1 million per season.

"Philly's just one of those teams that it's just where I wanted to be," Shelley said in a conference call. "It's a great team. . . you've got guys I hate to play against, and those are usually teams you have the most respect for. It's a team that's got everything. They've got big, strong players, they've got goal-scorers. This is a team that wants to win."

At 6-3, 225 pounds, Shelley gives the Flyers the size on the wing they have been looking for this offseason.

Shelley's high-priced addition likely means the end of the Riley Cote era in Philadelphia. It could also put Dan Carcillo's return, as a restricted free agent, in jeopardy and also makes the return of unrestricted free agent Arron Asham unlikely.

Many consider Shelley among the top heavyweight fighters in the NHL. He has posted more than 100 penalty minutes in six seasons and topped 200 minutes three times.

Next season, he will have a prime target when he goes against his former team. New York reportedly had offered Shelley a 1-year, $825,000 contract as early as yesterday morning. Once the Flyers signed him, the Rangers overpaid free-agent tough guy Derek Boogard with a 4-year, $6.6 million deal.

Is Shelley looking forward to fighting Boogard six times next year?

"I so am," Shelley said. "Absolutely."

Slap shots

Arron Asham did not sign on Day 1 of free agency. He is reportedly being courted by the Islanders, one of his former teams . . . Darroll Powe and Dan Carcillo still have offers pending from the Flyers, as restricted free agents, but could put the Flyers over the cap . . . Cherry Hill native Bobby Ryan, a restricted free agent, was offered a 5-year, $25 million extension in Anaheim but declined. Ryan is reportedly looking for 3 years.

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