Flyers sign Jagr and Talbot

Posted: July 01, 2011

On a dizzying day, the team that finished with the second-most points in the Eastern Conference last season continued its Great Makeover.

The Flyers made several moves Friday, highlighted by the signing of two players with ties to archrival Pittsburgh - the once-great Jaromir Jagr, 39, and third-line center Max Talbot.

They also lost Ville Leino, who signed a surprising six-year, $27 million free-agent deal ($4.5 million cap hit) with Buffalo, the team the gifted winger helped the Flyers beat in this year's conference quarterfinals.

Oh, and they dealt Kris Versteeg to Florida, watched free agents Brian Boucher (Carolina), Sean O'Donnell (Chicago), and Dan Carcillo (Chicago) sign elsewhere, and signed veteran defenseman Andreas Lilja.

Friday was the first day to sign free agents, and the Flyers were one of the league's most active participants.

If you are scoring at home, the Flyers have lost 10 players, through trades or free agency, since the season ended.

And they don't appear to be done. The Flyers have about $3.3 million in cap space, which will grow to about $4.4 million when Ian Laperierre goes on the long-term injured list. They still plan to sign restricted free agent Wayne Simmonds, acquired in the Mike Richards trade with Los Angeles, and would like to add another winger - they have had discussions with the agent for former Flyer Simon Gagne, a free agent.

The Flyers are counting heavily that the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Jagr, a winger who is a five-time NHL scoring champion, has not lost too much productivity.

"Jaromir Jagr is one of the better players at the cycle game that there is in the game," said general manager Paul Holmgren, adding that Jagr was a fitness fanatic and that he wasn't concerned about his age. "He's a big, strong guy who can really control the puck in the offensive zone, and he's a big body in front of the net, too."

Holmgren conceded that it would have been difficult for the Flyers to pursue Jagr if they had been able to re-sign Leino.

Jagr, who played the last three seasons in Russia, will be a key cog on the Flyers' power play and could be on the team's top line, while Talbot will be an anchor on the penalty-killing unit. Talbot helped the Penguins finish with the league's best PK last season.

Jagr, who has 646 career NHL goals, signed a one-year deal for $3.3 million - reportedly $1.3 million more than Pittsburgh offered. The Penguins and Detroit dropped out of the bidding early Friday.

 Talbot, who had the winning goal in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals for Pittsburgh, signed a five-year deal that totals $9 million. The 27-year-old Talbot had eight goals and 13 assists for Pittsburgh last season.

  By all accounts, Talbot is a character guy and a locker-room leader - and the Flyers hope his shot-blocking skills will remind folks of the gritty Laperriere.

"It's exciting. It's a new challenge," Talbot said. He called the Flyers "a great team" and said that was one of the reasons he picked them.

"I wanted to go with a team that had a chance to win a championship this year," he said.

Later in the day, the Flyers sent Versteeg to Florida. They will receive the Panthers' second-round pick in either 2012 or 2013 (Florida's choice), and also will get San Jose's third-round pick in 2012, which Florida previously had acquired.

 The Flyers also signed restricted free agent Jakub Voracek for one season at $2.25 million. The winger was acquired in the deal that sent Jeff Carter to Columbus.

 After a brilliant NHL career, Jagr went to Russia's KHL for the last three seasons. In his last NHL season, he had 25 goals and 46 assists for the New York Rangers in 2007-08.

  Yes, the Flyers would be thrilled with that kind of production.

  Last year, Jagr had 19 goals and 31 assists in the KHL, then had five goals in nine games for the Czech Republic national team in the IIHF World Championships.

  It was at the world championships that Flyers scouts became intrigued by Jagr.

"Our guys who saw him there thought he was - well, he was one of the better forwards. He was named to the all-star team at the world championships," Holmgren said. "We think he can play at this level. We know he can. And we believe he can still put up a lot of points, so we're certainly excited to have him."

The Flyers also signed the 6-3, 220-pound Lilja, a soon-to-be 36-year-old defenseman who had one goal and six assists for Anaheim last season and was minus-15.

  Because the Flyers do not have many big bodies at center, they showed interest in Michal Handzus (6-4, 219). But they bypassed the former Flyer, and he signed a two-year with San Jose for a total of $5 million.

Earlier in the day, the Flyers didn't think that Erik Cole was worth the asking price, and the winger signed a four-year, $18 million deal ($4.5 million cap hit) with Montreal.


Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com, or @BroadStBull on Twitter

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