Flyers look as if they're ready to go after Stamkos

Posted: June 28, 2011

LAST THURSDAY, Jeff Carter was sent packing as a salary-cap casualty.

Best friend and captain Mike Richards went only 30 minutes after him, in a move that also - at least temporarily - cleared valuable cap space.

Yesterday, the Flyers dealt the rights to restricted free-agent center Darroll Powe to Minnesota in exchange for a 2013 third-round pick. Powe, a heart-and-soul-type player whom Paul Holmgren called "one of the most underrated players in the league" in May, wasn't asking for an exorbitant sum of money.

Powe earned $725,000 last season. He probably was looking for a raise to somewhere in the $1 million neighborhood. Nothing earth-shattering.

Earlier in the day, Holmgren announced that the Flyers had come to a new, 2-year agreement with fellow restricted free agent Andreas Nodl for $845,000 per year. That's interesting, because it's a $5,000 pay cut from what Nodl earned last year, despite finishing his first full NHL season with 22 points.

Holmgren finished off the day by not extending a qualifying offer to restricted free-agent forward Dan Carcillo, meaning Carcillo will become an unrestricted free agent on Friday.

Notice a trend? Something doesn't add up.

The Flyers, who have plenty of wiggle room now, with Richards and Carter off the books, are stockpiling money. And it doesn't mean that they won't spend to the gills this year.

Holmgren got incredible value for a player he didn't think was worth the money he was asking for with a third-round pick, but since when is one of the "most underrated players in the league" suddenly not worth an extra $300K or $400K?

Carcillo's qualifying offer wouldn't have needed to be much more than a slight raise.

As it stands now, with negotiations in the works for Ville Leino and restricted free agents Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek, the Flyers have approximately $8.3 million in salary-cap space, with Michael Leighton stashed in the AHL.

That's enough to do some serious damage on the free-agent market. Or, if you're reading the tea leaves along with me, maybe even the restricted free-agent market.

Two different team sources reiterated last night that the Flyers would be very interested in Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos if he remains on the market on Friday morning.

Reports indicated that the Lightning and Stamkos' agents have had ongoing discussions, though that doesn't say much, knowing that the sides have been talking for more than a month.

When you add to the equation that the Lightning - which was reported to have lost $20 million to $25 million last season - might have financial limitations, and the reports that Stamkos might not want to play in Tampa Bay, the Flyers could have a real jackpot.

Flyers officials are not permitted to comment publicly on any possibility with Stamkos, as it would violate the NHL's tampering policy about players under contract with another team.

Stamkos, 21, has netted a league-high 96 goals over the last two seasons. Many consider him among the three best forwards in the NHL.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said recently he is "prepared for anything to happen," though even if they aren't close on a contract extension with their star player, they would be unlikely to trade him before Friday. Tampa Bay is reported to have offered Stamkos a long-term deal worth $7 million per season.

If Friday hits and Stamkos is without a contract, any team can put in an offer sheet, which could be in the range of $9 million to $10 million per season.

If Stamkos decided to accept an offer, say, from the Flyers or the hungry Toronto Maple Leafs, sources say Tampa Bay would not have the financial flexibility to match it. It owes Vincent Lecavalier $50 million, Marty St. Louis $22.5 million and Ryan Malone $13.5 million, and just signed Eric Brewer to a $15.3 million deal yesterday.

To be sure, Yzerman is in a pickle. Should he trade his top player now to get return he can use next season? Should he risk letting Stamkos go for the compensation? His hands are tied with money. Stamkos holds all of the cards The compensation for any restricted player with a deal over $7 million is four first-round picks.

Let's face it: The Flyers have dangled their draft picks in recent years like candy. If Kris Versteeg is worth a first- and third-round pick, Stamkos could surely net four firsts without much hesitation.

Stamkos would instantaneously vault the Flyers back into the Stanley Cup contender category. So, is it a pipedream? Or closer to reality? We'll know on Friday.

Call me crazy. But my sources aren't. *

For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

www.philly.com/FrequentFlyers. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

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