Inside the Flyers: Flyers need to get younger up front

Chicago's Viktor Stalberg, holding the Stanley Cup, is a free agent. The forward from Sweden has speed and size. Associated Press
Chicago's Viktor Stalberg, holding the Stanley Cup, is a free agent. The forward from Sweden has speed and size. Associated Press
Posted: July 06, 2013

The Flyers improved their attack by adding 33-year-old center Vincent Lecavalier this week.

Now it's time for them to get a bit younger on the front line.

Before they agreed to terms with Lecavalier, general manager Paul Holmgren indicated the Flyers were trying to re-sign 33-year-old Simon Gagne if the price was right.

With all due respect to the classy Gagne - who played well in 27 games after the Flyers acquired him from the Kings last season - it's time to go in a different direction.

The Flyers should try to add free-agent left winger Viktor Stalberg, a speedy Swede who is younger, faster, and bigger than Gagne.

Teams can start signing free agents Friday, and if the Flyers added Stalberg, this is how their four lines might look, with the players' ages at the start of the season in parentheses:

Claude Giroux (25) centering Scott Hartnell (31) and Jake Voracek (24).

Lecavalier (33) centering Brayden Schenn (22) and Wayne Simmonds (25).

Sean Couturier (20) centering Stalberg (27) and Matt Read (27).

Adam Hall (33) or Scott Laughton (19) centering Max Talbot (29) and Zac Rinaldo (23).

Enforcer Jay Rosehill (28) figures to be the extra skater.

That would give the Flyers four competitive lines, a factor that helped Chicago and Boston reach the Stanley Cup Finals this year.

It would also give them a much better lineup than last year because Lecavalier (6-foot-4, 208 pounds) and Stalberg (6-3, 209) would win a lot of board battles with their size. The Flyers struggled to control the puck this past season, and a big reason was because they missed beefy Jaromir Jagr and his ability to control the puck and create a cycle in the offensive end.

Two years ago, the last 82-game season, Stalberg had 22 goals for the Blackhawks. He had nine goals, 23 points, and a plus-16 rating in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, playing primarily on a solid third line with Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw for the eventual Stanley Cup champions.

Stalberg, who fell into disfavor with coach Joel Quenneville in the playoffs and found himself benched a few times, will probably cost a little over $2 million in the free-agent market.

The Flyers are right up against the $64.3 million cap. But they do have room to sign a couple of players because teams can exceed the cap by 10 percent in the summer, and they will get cap relief at the start of the season because of injuries. They still need to sign another goalie and re-sign restricted free agent Erik Gustafsson.

The Flyers will get $4.9 million in cap relief when Chris Pronger is placed on the long-term injured reserve list at the start of the season. There is also a possibility that defenseman Andrej Meszaros won't be ready for the start of the season, which would give the Flyers an additional $4 million in cap relief if he is put on LTIR.

The Flyers have been dangling defenseman Braydon Coburn ($4.5 million cap hit) in trade talks, but they might want to back off. Coburn's trade value is low because he is coming off a subpar season, along with a separated left shoulder.

Dealing Coburn made sense if it had enabled the Flyers to move up in last Sunday's NHL draft and land super-prospect Darnell Nurse. That didn't happen, and the Flyers have an abundance of defensemen and the need for cap space, so Coburn may still be on the block.

Keep him, it says here. Don't trade low. Hope he rebounds, and remember, when he was selected No. 8 overall in 2003, he was thought to have Nurse-like potential.

Here is how the defense may look: Kimmo Timonen and Luke Schenn; Coburn and Nick Grossmann; Mark Streit and Meszaros. The extras, for now, are Gustafsson - whom the Flyers would like to get into the top six - and Bruno Gervais. Again, Meszaros may not be ready when the season starts, and that might actually work to the Flyers' advantage because it would give them cap relief and open a spot for Gustafsson or a dark horse such as Oliver Lauridsen, a restricted free agent.

As for the goalie situation, Tim Thomas and Ray Emery might be too expensive in the free-agent market. The Flyers, with cap space limited, might opt to sign a cheaper option such as Jose Theodore, Evgeni Nabokov, Johan Hedberg (a Flyers draftee many moons ago), or Dan Ellis - and give Steve Mason a bulk of the work. (They wouldn't sign the always-injured Rick DiPietro, would they?)

Is it risky to roll the dice with Mason? Certainly. But he was excellent in seven games after the Flyers acquired him from Columbus late last season, and sometimes a change of scenery does wonders for a guy's confidence.

For proof, see what Sergei Bobrovsky did after the Flyers sent him to Columbus before last year.

Hall returns. The Flyers re-signed Adam Hall to a one-year deal for $600,000. The veteran center, who was claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay in March, played 11 games for the Flyers.


Inside the Flyers: Flyers in Flux

Here's a look at the Flyers since the season ended:

COMING

C Vincent Lecavalier

D Mark Streit

GOING?

Prospective free agents as of Friday

LW Simon Gagne

LW Jody Shelley

RW Mike Knuble

F Ruslan Fedotenko

D Kurtis Foster

D Kent Huskins

D Andreas Lilja

G Brian Boucher

GONE

G Ilya Bryzgalov

C Danny Briere


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

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