Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren spoke to the media for about a half hour on Wednesday night, and while making remarks about everything from the draft to the goaltender situation to James van Riemsdyk's prospects of making the team this season, the most intriguing bits of information came on the Jay Bouwmeester front. The all-star, soon-to-be-free-agent defenseman has put the Flyers on his radar, and Holmgren made it clear that the feelings are mutual.
It's become rather clear that Bouwmeester does not want to re-sign with the Florida Panthers, so it's possible that they could be enticed to trade his rights away before July 1, when the free agency period begins. That way, they would get an asset for a player that is just going to walk away in a few weeks regardless. The same situation occured in 2001 when the Flyers traded for the rights to Jeremy Roenick in order to sign him before he hit the open free agent market. It also happened more recently in 2007 when the team did the same thing to get exclusive negotiating rights with Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell. In each of those situations, the players were signed before July 1, when they would've been available to the open market.
Florida, however, does not currently have a general manager. That brings up some uncertainty in the process.
"We're not sure how Florida is dealing," Holmgren said. But when asked if the club will trade Bouwmeester before July 1, he said "there's a good chance of that happening" and that he expects the trade market at the draft to be "very active."
So do the Flyers have a chance to acquire the rights to Bouwmeester before July 1? It might be their only hope of signing the strong, young defenseman, considering how close they are to the salary cap. A trade of a current roster player and perhaps a draft pick for the rights to Bouwmeester could potentially get the team under the cap enough to sign him. But of course, there is definite risk in trading for a player that will be a free agent in just a few short weeks, just in case you don't finalize a deal.
There are at least five other teams interested in Bouwmeester's services come July 1, though, and exclusive negotiating rights to him would give the Flyers a definite upper hand. Without that extra window, the orange and black could lose out in the sweepstakes due to their lack of excessive salary cap space. They currently sit $4 million-plus under the cap, but Bouwmeester made almost $5 million a season in his last contract. It's believed that he could earn up to seven-plus years at $8 million in the deal he receives this coming summer.
If Holmgren's inclinations are correct, though, Bouwmeester could be traded away from Florida next week, and Philadelphia could be his destination. Whether or not they keep him long-term is a bigger story.
Some highlights from the rest of Holmgren's press conference:
- The Flyers aren't putting Martin Biron out of the picture just yet. They are still talking to the goaltender but as Holmgren said, "the window is closing."
Mike Knuble and Andrew Alberts are expected to be free agents come July 1, but the team is looking to sign each of them before that date comes.
- Holmgren doesn't expect James van Riemsdyk to make the Flyers out of training camp this fall, but he did qualify that by saying anything can happen. After all, he expected Claude Giroux to make the team out of camp and that didn't happen.
- Besides Biron, Holmgren mentioned the names of Antero Niittymaki and Robert Esche as goalies on his radar. He also mentioned "other free agents" that will be available without naming names. The free-agent market includes guys like Scott Clemmensen and Craig Anderson, two guys that won't command a ton of money and have proven in the past year to be capable NHL starters.
- Finally, the general manager said that it's unlikely the Flyers will take a goalie with the 21st pick in next weekend's NHL draft in Montreal (which Broad Street Hockey will be reporting live from, remember!).