Frequent Flyers: 5 questions heading into Flyers' offseason

Jaromir Jagr said this season was one of the most enjoyable of his career, but will he wear orange and black next season?
Jaromir Jagr said this season was one of the most enjoyable of his career, but will he wear orange and black next season? (YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: May 11, 2012

THE BLOOD HAS barely dried on the Flyers' season, yet so many questions remain after their shocking second-round departure at the hands of the New Jersey Devils.

Here are answers to five burning questions:

1. Will Jaromir Jagr return?

Judging by the way Jagr performed in the regular season, with 54 points in 73 games, the Flyers would love to have the No. 9 all-time point scorer in league history back for another campaign. Judging by the way Jagr performed in the postseason, with eight quiet points in 11 games, the Flyers could probably think of better ways to spend money in a salary-cap world.

Jagr, 40, made $3.3 million this season, which is about the going rate for his point production. His off-ice contributions were too long to list. He played a significant leadership role on a young team and made Claude Giroux an exponentially better player. But he also is not getting any younger.

It will be interesting to find out on Thursday, at the Flyers' cleanout day, whether any injuries were plaguing Jagr in the playoffs. Because he just didn't play like himself - read: a step too slow - at any point.

His quotes after Tuesday's loss would seem to hint that he would want to return.

"I love everyone on this team," Jagr said. "That was probably the most enjoyable year I've ever had. I've won some cups, I've won some trophies, but I loved this year. From the organization to the last player on the team, and the fans, they were so nice to me. I hate to finish it right now, that's the worst feeling. You finish the whole story, the whole year, that's a sad day. I want to cry right now."

What is clear is that Jagr will certainly gain interest from multiple teams if he makes it to unrestricted free agency on July 1. The Flyers have exclusive negotiating rights until then. A source close to the situation says Jagr has had dreams of playing for either Toronto or Montreal to close out his storied career. With the way it all ended, you have to get a sense that the Flyers are not interested in any sort of bidding war.

2. Will the season start on time?

One thing that hasn't been discussed much is the impending expiration of the NHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement on Sept. 15, the eve of the opening of training camp.

All signs point toward another lockout coming, based on two facts: 1) Owners don't make any money in October and 2) the owners saw the NFL and NBA whittle more money from the players' share in their most-recent lockouts.

Then again, the NHL is on pace for record revenue for the seventh straight year. It's tough to cry poor, with only a handful of teams losing money. Ratings are up. Business is brisk. The players won't enjoy that, but their 57 percent slice of the revenue is a juicy cut compared to the NBA's 50.

The two sides were supposed to begin negotiations in January, though they've yet to meet. That can't be good.

This summer, a temporary salary cap is expected to be put into place for free agency on July 1. The cap is expected to rise from $64.1 million to $69 million, but there is a possibility that it could be rolled back whenever the new deal is hashed out. The salary cap was just $39 million in 2005-06, the first year out of the lockout.

Both sides know another season lost would not only reverse the progress made but also cripple the sport long-term.

3. Where will the biggest changes happen?

For sure, the Flyers need remolding on defense. It does not appear that Matt Carle will be returning. Chris Pronger will likely never play hockey again. The Flyers will receive a cushion for Pronger's $4.9 million salary if he is medically unable to play.

But that would leave . . . Nick Grossmann or Braydon Coburn to lead the defense corps into the new year? Yikes. Neither one of those players is a No. 1 defenseman. That's where Nashville free agent Ryan Suter could come in handy, although at a big price tag.

Carle's situation is eerily similar to Ville Leino last summer. He's likely to earn a big ($5 million per year) paycheck on the open market, with little reason to stay for a lesser offer. That doesn't mean he wants to leave. The Flyers and Carle will keep in touch throughout the summer, but he will sign for big money elsewhere on July 1.

4. What happens with JVR?

It was undoubtedly a tough season for James van Riemsdyk. After signing a 6-year, $25.5 million extension last summer - which kicks in next season - van Riemsdyk battled through a concussion, foot surgery and an abdominal tear. He was never really himself.

It remains to be seen whether the Flyers will confirm a cam impingement in his hip, which we first reported last December. It's an unconfirmed injury that nagged his skating all season.

JVR's new deal will pay him an average of $4.25 million per year, which is $500,000 more than Claude Giroux. That's a tough pill to swallow. If the Flyers were to try to part ways with van Riemsdyk, who has promise, there will be no shortage of takers.

5. Who are the Flyers' free agents?

Aside from the aforementioned Jagr and Carle, seven different players have their contracts expire this summer. Two additional injured players, Ian Laperriere and Blair Betts, are done their deals. Both could assume front-office roles with the club.

The most interesting free agent is Jakub Voracek, who had a strong playoff run and could earn a $750,000 raise to nearly $3 million per season. Trade deadline Pavel Kubina, a healthy scratch in the playoffs, is likely gone. Young guns Harry Zolnierczyk, Marc-Andre Bourdon and Tom Sestito are restricted free agents.

Oh, and the Flyers and Michael Leighton - who earned $1.03 million for each NHL game played (3) during his 2-year deal - will officially part ways. Thank goodness.

ON-ICE

STAT WATCH

0: Games the Flyers won this postseason in which they scored less than four goals in the game.

2-3: The Flyers' playoff record against New Jersey. The Devils won the Stanley Cup after both of those previous losses, in 1995 and 2003.

6: Losses for the Flyers in games in which they scored the first goal, setting a new NHL single postseason record, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The team to score the first goal was 1-10 in the Flyers' 11 games.

11: Times in 96 postseason series in which the Flyers lost four straight games to end the series.

UP NEXT?

With the World Championships still in the round-robin stage in Helsinki, Finland, there is a chance we could see some Flyers head over to participate. Team Russia said Wednesday that they will not be adding either Ilya Bryzgalov or Sergei Bobrovsky. Last year, James van Riemsdyk joined the U.S. team late, but played just one game overseas. Van Riemsdyk does not appear to be a candidate this season, coming off foot surgery.

IMPORTANT DATES TO REMEMBER:

June 15: Last possible date for Stanley Cup final

June 20: NHL Awards, Las Vegas

June 22-23: NHL Draft, Pittsburgh

July 1: Free agency begins at noon

July 5: Deadline for player-elected arbitration

July 6: Deadline for club-elected arbitration

Sept. 15: Expiration of Collective Bargaining Agreement

Sept. 18: Normal preseason schedule start date

Oct. 4: Normal regular season start date

QUOTABLE

"I want to say thank you to all my Flyers Fans for being with us in good and not so good times during this season! Will miss you guys."

- Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov (@bryzgoalie30) on his Twitter account on Wednesday, a classy move for a player who probably did not have the most positive first introduction to Philadelphia sports.

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