Inside the Flyers: Free agents provide frustrating week for Flyers

Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier (left) are among the young players who will be counted upon.
Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier (left) are among the young players who will be counted upon. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 09, 2012

Publicly, the Flyers brass is all smiles about their work so far this summer.

But we wonder if they must feel like parents who have walked several blocks to an Ocean City beach, dragging an umbrella and chairs, three young kids, a well-stocked cooler, and all the essential toys - only to realize they left their beach tags at the house.

In other words, it's been a frustrating week in Flyerdom, especially for the fans.

But the Flyers aren't fazed by the fact they failed to hit a home run in free agency.

That's because they have the NHL's best group of sophomores, players who will have a chance to spread their wings.

They will get more ice time because the Flyers were unable to lure marquee free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to South Philly.

It wasn't for a lack of trying.

The Flyers, bless Ed Snider's checkbook, reportedly put together the league's highest offers for Parise and Suter, both of whom decided they would rather be in Minnesota.

They tried to re-sign defenseman Matt Carle, offering him more than they ever thought they would. He instead chose Tampa Bay because the Lightning gave him $33 million for six years, a whopping $5.5 million per season.

They tried to re-sign right winger Jaromir Jagr, but he and his agent got impatient waiting for an offer - the Flyers delayed it because, at the time, they thought they still had a shot at Parise - and he got a cool $4.5 million from Dallas.

So, after going 0 for 4, the Flyers went the inexpensive route, signing blue-collar winger Ruslan Fedotenko and third-pairing defenseman Bruno Gervais and entrusting the future to the kids.

Oh, the Flyers still might add a veteran piece or two. Sources say they are enamored with Phoenix winger Shane Doan, who would be a perfect fit for the orange and black. But Doan, a free agent, figures to remain with the Coyotes if they remain in Phoenix.

And there have been whispers that 40-year-old Mike Knuble, who had a rough regular season with Washington last year but showed he still had some wear left on the tires in the playoffs, has interest in returning to the Flyers.

But it's looking more like the Flyers' core in 2012-13 will be the kids.

Rick Nash won't be coming here unless Columbus lowers its demands. The same goes for Bobby Ryan and Anaheim.

That means, as it now sits, the Flyers' lines could look like this:

Claude Giroux centering Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek, a restricted free agent who is on the verge of signing.

Danny Briere centering Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn.

Sean Couturier centering Matt Read and Fedotenko.

Max Talbot centering Zac Rinaldo and Eric Wellwood.

The Flyers tied for second in the NHL in goals per game (3.17) last season. They have subtracted James van Riemsdyk and Jagr, a duo that combined for 30 goals.

Fedotenko should eat up about 10 of those missing goals, but the Flyers are primarily counting on the development of the Young Guns - Couturier (13 goals), Schenn (12), Read (24), Voracek (18), and Wellwood (5) - to increase their production and make up the difference.

Getting more out of the sophomores is a must, because Hartnell (37 goals), Simmonds (28), and Talbot (19) will be hard-pressed to equal their career seasons.

Defensively, the Flyers have, in essence, replaced Matt Carle with Luke Schenn. Carle is the better offensive player, but Schenn is a stay-at-home guy who gives the Flyers some needed physicality. Gervais adds some steadiness to a defense that has the depth to withstand the usual injuries. (Without Suter or Carle, promising youngsters Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson are also in the hunt for the sixth spot.)

The defense, which would have been top-shelf if the Flyers had landed Suter and very good if they had signed just Carle, is still good and should benefit from having Nick Grossmann for a full season. The Flyers were 20th in the 30-team league last season, allowing 2.74 goals per game.

With a feeling-out season behind him, goalie Ilya Bryzgalov should rebound. If he plays like he did in Phoenix (or March, for that matter), the Flyers' 0-for-4 July won't sting that much, and they should improve their defensive numbers.

From here, the Flyers are no better than they were when they were eliminated from the playoffs by New Jersey in the second round. That wouldn't have been the case, of course, if they were able to sign Parise or Suter.

But all is not lost.

For one, New Jersey is much weaker. And the Flyers are secretly doing cartwheels that the Penguins also struck out with the Big Two.

For another, the Flyers have more promising young players than most. They are a team that will get better with experience, a team that, at least for now, has substantial cap space available to make a major in-season move. And when is the last time you could say that?

Counting qualifying offers to their restricted free agents, the Flyers have $66 million committed to 2012-2013. That's about $11 million under the summer cap of around $77 million, which includes a 10 percent summer cushion.

Even when the cap goes back to $70.2 million (pending the new CBA) at the start of the season, the Flyers will get cap relief if Chris Pronger ($4.9 million cap hit) goes on the long-term injured list and Matt Walker ($1.7 million) goes back to the Phantoms.

Cap room. More playing time for the kids. Those are the silver linings to the Flyers' frustrating week.


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

 

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