Inside the Flyers: Adding Parise would likely give Flyers league's most dynamic offense

Zach Parise, the Devils captain and soon to be a free agent, tries to score on the Flyers' Ilya Bryzgalov.
Zach Parise, the Devils captain and soon to be a free agent, tries to score on the Flyers' Ilya Bryzgalov. (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: May 21, 2012

So where do the Flyers - after a very good regular season that morphed into a very weird playoff showing - go from here?

Well, in a best-case scenario, they would become one of the NHL's best teams if they somehow signed New Jersey winger Zach Parise and Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter, a pair of prospective free agents.

Will they have the cap space for both?

Doubtful. And even if they were to make a deal to free cap space, the odds of them beating out a long list of suitors for both players would not be favorable.

The Flyers would be fortunate to land one of the stars, and this year's playoff collapse against New Jersey showed they need an upgrade.

The Flyers' offseason cap number - the amount of money committed to players for 2012-13 - is around $64 million, according to Barry Hanrahan, the team's assistant general manager and capologist.

The $64 million includes players with one-way contracts such as defensemen Matt Walker and Oskars Bartulis; it also includes Chris Pronger's $4.9 million cap hit. If Pronger is unable to start the 2012-13 campaign because of post-concussion syndrome, he will go on the long-term injured list, but the Flyers wouldn't get $4.9 million in cap relief until the first day of the season.

The salary cap, currently at $64.3 million, is expected to rise to the $69 million neighborhood. Since teams are allowed to exceed the cap in the summer by 10 percent, that could add $6.9 million and bring the working cap to $75.9 million.

If so, that would leave the Flyers with about $12 million to make moves.

That may be enough to land Parise and re-sign underrated defenseman Matt Carle, a prospective unrestricted free agent who will be cheaper than Suter.

The Flyers' to-do list also includes re-signing restricted free agents Jakub Voracek ($2.25 million cap hit this season) and Marc-Andre Bourdon ($875,000 this season).

If they land Parise, Jaromir Jagr would not be re-signed.

Similarly, if they sign Suter, they would probably part with Carle.

Based on an hour-long conversation with fans on Twitter the other day, the vast majority would like the Flyers to sign Suter ($3.5 million cap hit this season) instead of Parise ($6 million this season). Fans were asked which one they would sign if the Flyers could afford only one.

The fans' logic is understandable, but I would go after Parise, a player with speed and tenacity, a player used in all situations, a player who has averaged 35 goals over each of his last five full seasons.

The reason fans want a blue liner is because the Flyers defense struggled in the postseason, allowing an average of four goals per game.

It should be noted, however, that there were extenuating circumstances. For one, the series against the Penguins was a wide-open, playoff anomaly. For another, three of the Flyers' top defensemen were not themselves in the playoffs.

Kimmo Timonen and Nick Grossmann played injured, and Andrej Meszaros played just one game - the loss that closed out the series in Game 5 against New Jersey - because he was recovering from back surgery.

All three defensemen should be 100 percent next season.

Assuming Pronger doesn't return next season - though general manager Paul Holmgren still has hope - the Flyers D might look like this: Braydon Coburn and Grossmann; Timonen and Meszaros; Erik Gustafsson and Bourdon. If they re-sign Carle, he would make a strong third duo with Bourdon.

Each pairing would have a physical player (Grossmann, Meszaros, and Bourdon) and a puck-carrying one (Coburn, Timonen, and Gustafsson or Carle).

It's not a spectacular D - like it was when Pronger was healthy - but it's still a formidable one.

And the offense?

Parise, 27, who the Flyers should hope doesn't decide to return to New Jersey because of its surprising playoff success, would put them over the top.

With Parise, the Flyers, who were the NHL's third-highest-scoring team this season, would probably have the league's most dynamic offense.

An all-around player who is also used on the penalty kill, Parise would also help the defense. The Flyers' PK was tied for 17th out of 30 teams with an 81.8 percent success rate.

The Flyers, despite using a slew of rookies and being hindered by the loss of Pronger, had a 103-point regular season (47-26-9) and finished fifth in the East. Give them a B-plus for their work during the 82-game grind.

For the overall playoffs, we'll give them a disappointing C. And since the playoffs are the real season, it's easy to overlook the positive strides made by Team Makeover.

But when evaluating the entire season, the Flyers are in good shape moving forward - and in great shape if they add another player with star power.

From here, that player should be Parise.


Inside the Flyers: How the Flyers Fared

Here is how the Flyers ranked in several categories during the 2011-12 regular season:

Points percentage: .628 (sixth out of 30 NHL teams).

Goals per game: 3.17 (tied for second).

Goals-against per game: 2.74 (20th).

Power play: 19.7% success rate (tied for fifth).

Penalty kill: 81.8% success rate (tied for 17th).

Shots per game: 32.2 (tied for fourth).

Shots-against per game: 28.4 (seventh).

Face-offs: 48.3% success rate (tied for 24th).

Source: NHL.com. - Sam Carchidi


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

 

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