Inside the Flyers: Flyers setting sights on Parise and Suter as free agency begins

New Jersey's Zach Parise (left), battling the Los Angeles Kings' Mike Richards, may be headed to Pittsburgh.
New Jersey's Zach Parise (left), battling the Los Angeles Kings' Mike Richards, may be headed to Pittsburgh. (MARK J. TERRILL / AP)
Posted: July 02, 2012

Take away Zach Parise and Ryan Suter and the free-agent Class of 2012 is average at best.

Oh, there are a few very gifted players - the expensive and one-dimensional Alexander Semin comes to mind - but this group pales in comparison to the unrestricted free agents who are expected to be available at this time next year.

Free agency starts at noon Sunday, and based on past years, some team will announce a big signing a few minutes after teams are allowed to begin contacting players and their agents (wink, wink).

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren would like to sign Suter, the all-star defenseman from Nashville, and/or Parise, the speedy left winger from New Jersey. (The vote from this corner is for Parise, a legitimate game changer who excels in all situations.)

Both free agents have a long list of suitors, however, and it appears that hated rival Pittsburgh is primed to gobble up Parise. Penguins star Sidney Crosby is close friends with Parise, and he sat in a suite with Parise's family during at least one Stanley Cup Finals game last month.

General managers can't talk to agents of prospective free agents until Sunday, but there's nothing stopping players from talking to each other - or their families.

So if we are reading the tea leaves correctly, Parise is bound for the Steel City.

As for Suter, he reportedly wants to remain in the Western Conference, and he is also considered a longshot for the Flyers.

But make no mistake, the Flyers will be on the phone with both players' agents early Sunday afternoon.

"You can't believe all the rumors that are out there or you might miss out on someone," said one Flyers official.

The Flyers have $58.2 million committed to the new $70.2 million cap for 2012-13, and they can exceed the cap by 10 percent over the summer, bringing the number to around $77 million. (Chris Pronger's $4.9 million cap hit currently counts, but the Flyers will get relief once the season starts if he is placed on the long-term injured list.) They still have to sign four restricted free agents - most notably Jakub Voracek - and a backup goalie.

If Pittsburgh gets Parise, Holmgren's knee-jerk reaction might be to overpay in a trade for Cherry Hill native Bobby Ryan, the gifted right winger from Anaheim, or for expensive Columbus star Rick Nash ($7.8 million cap hit).

He also has this option: Don't trade any of his up-and-coming, relatively inexpensive young players to get Ryan or Nash. Let the kids continue to develop - the Flyers did produce 103 points last season - and wait for next year's glorious free-agent crop.

Shea Weber. Corey Perry. Ryan Getzlaf.

Those are among the big-name potential unrestricted free agents at this time next summer.

The Flyers say they are not even thinking about that 2013 free-agent class right now. Their main focus is on the here and now.

They want to re-sign Matt Carle, but that was made a little trickier when Calgary signed defenseman Dennis Wideman to a five-year deal with a $5.25 million annual cap hit. That probably increased Carle's price tag.

If they don't land Parise, the Flyers will explore the next tier of free agent forwards, players such as P.A. Parenteau (18 goals, 67 points with the Islanders last season) and the gracefully aging Shane Doan (22 goals, 50 points with Phoenix). And they could take a shot at getting a bounce-back year from 6-foot-4, 240-pound winger Dustin Penner, who had a miserable regular season (seven goals, 10 assists with Kings) but is a four-time 20-goal scorer.

They also want to re-sign Jaromir Jagr, whose 19 goals and 54 points last season only scratched the surface of his value. It's no coincidence that Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell had career seasons while playing on a line with the 40-year-old Jagr, whose workaholic attitude was contagious.

Right now, the Flyers have the potential to have a better defense this season. If they re-sign the much-maligned-but-underrated Carle, they will have three good pairs of defensemen, one that includes recently acquired Luke Schenn, who has the potential to be a player who can shutdown the Alex Ovechkins of the league.

The goaltending also figures to be better - doesn't it? - because Ilya Bryzgalov's one-year adjustment period is behind him.

Offensively, though, the Flyers need to add a solid two-way player or two.

Sign Parise and they have the look of a serious Stanley Cup contender.

And what if they watch helplessly as Pittsburgh signs Parise?

Well, the Penguins - who allowed 30 goals in their six-game playoff loss to the Flyers in April - would be a step closer toward being the "on paper" champion, provided they bolstered a sad-sack defense.


Inside the Flyers: Let the Spending Begin

Here are some of the NHL players who are unrestricted free agents, according to CapGeek.com:

            2011-12

Player   Pos.   Last team    Age    Cap Hit

FORWARDS

Alexander Semin    RW   Capitals   28   $6.7M

Ryan Smyth   LW   Oilers   36   $6.25M

Zach Parise   LW   Devils   27   $6M

Brian Rolston   LW   Bruins   39   $5.1M

Kristian Huselius   LW   Blue Jackets   33   $4.75M

Shane Doan   RW   Coyotes   35   $4.55M

Daymond Langkow   C   Coyotes   35   $4.5M

Justin Penner   LW   Kings   29   $4.25M

Teemu Selanne   RW   Ducks   41   $4M

Brad Boyes   RW   Sabres   30   $4M

Jason Blake   LW   Ducks   38   $4M

Sean Avery   LW   Rangers   32   $3.87M

Jochen Hecht   C   Sabres   35   $3.52M

Jaromir Jagr   RW   FLYERS   40   $3.3M

Andrei Kostitsyn   RW   Predators   27   $3.25M

A. Ponikarovsky    LW   Devils   32    $1.5M

P.A Parenteau   RW   Islanders   29   $1.25M

DEFENSEMEN

Michal Rozsival       Coyotes    33    $5M

Pavel Kubina       FLYERS   35   $3.85M

Jaroslav Spacek       Hurricanes   38   $3.83M

Filip Kuba      Senators   35   $3.7M

Ryan Suter      Predators   27   $3.5M

Jeff Finger      Maple Leafs   32   $3.5M

Matt Carle      FLYERS   27   $3.44M

Bryan Allen      Hurricanes   31   $2.9M

Bryce Salvador      Devils   36   $2.9M

Mark Eaton      Islanders   35   $2.5M

Garrison, Jason      Panthers   27   $675,000

GOALIES

Cristobal Huet      Blackhawks   36   $5.625M

Martin Brodeur       Devils   40   $5.2M

Dwayne Roloson      Lightning   42   3.5M

Antero Niittymaki      Sharks   32   $2M

Chris Mason       Jets   36   $1.85M

Michael Leighton       FLYERS   31   $1.55M

Dan Ellis      Ducks   32   $1.5M

Jonas Gustavsson      Jets   27   $1.35M

Johan Hedberg       Devils   39   $1.25M

Scott Clemmensen      Panthers   34   $1.2M

Alex Auld      Senators   31   $1M

- Sam Carchidi


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

 

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