July 1 is typically one of the most exciting days of the year for hockey fans, and it usually doesn't disappoint in our neck of the woods, considering the Flyers are a perennially active team in the free agent market. But in the run up to what many call the Christmas of the sport, we can lose our understanding of everything our team needs.
So, we bring you a bit of a cheat sheet to help you gather your thoughts and understand exactly what the Flyers are after once 12 PM hits on Thursday.
Most of this info comes via the always-excellent CapGeek.
Pending Unrestricted Free Agents
Mike Rathje finally comes off the books tomorrow after several laughable years on the long-term injured reserve. Can you believe that guy had a $3.5 million cap hit? Ray Emery won't be back for the Flyers, and that seems certain at this point with his shaky injury outlook. Lukas Krajicek will likely hit the market, and it appears the same will happen with Arron Asham, Danny Syvret and Mika Pyorala.
Michael Leighton... well, we'll get to that in a second.
Do these guys really matter? Ross is the only one that will likely ever see minutes with the Flyers, although I know how heartbroken we'd all be if we lost the centerpiece of the Luca Sbisa trade if we lost Dingle.
Pending Restricted Free Agents
The Flyers have extended qualifying offers to these three players, meaning that they will at least get compensation for them this summer should they sign elsewhere. It's likely that the Flyers re-up all three of them, despite news that there's been a bit of a snag in Coburn's talks.
We know that the two goalies here, Michael Teslak and Jeremy Duchesne, will not be back. The rest of them? We'll see what happens.
Salary cap space / current payroll
With 11 forwards (including Riley Cote) signed, four defenseman signed and Brian Boucher / Johan Backlund as your goaltenders, the Flyers have a payroll of $49,409,762. That leaves them $10,627,738 in cap space. What will they do with it?
Obviously, many of us believe the Flyers still need goaltending. Paul Holmgren clearly believes that as well, given his reported aggressiveness on the market this past weekend.
Also of need is a third defensive pairing. Oskars Bartulis is a suitable seventh defenseman and he's at the right price to fill that role, but we learned in the playoffs that after the top-four, there's a serious drop off. Obviously, no matter what happens, that drop off will always exist as long as the Flyers have such a great top four, but they need to go out in free agency and make it less steep of a fall.
Another winger would help things, too. As of now, it does appear that with Carcillo and Powe likely re-signing, the team is going to go with the same 12 forwards as they did last season, minus Asham. That said, they still could go after a winger to play either on the third line.
Keep in mind, after signing Carcillo and Powe (or even other free agents worth the same money, it doesn't matter, those are guys with pretty static salaries), that $10.6 million available will drop to somewhere around 9 or 9.5. After re-signing Coburn, it'll drop to somewhere around $6 million.
They can go three different directions in goal, really:
- They can re-sign Leighton and go with the same situation they had last year, with him and Boucher in goal and Backlund running the Phantoms ship.
- They can sign a veteran goaltender from the free agent market, keeping Boucher or Backlund or even Leighton as the backup (you'd assume Boucher since he's under contract and they want Backlund to get playing time, but they could ship Boosh away). Those potential veteran goalies?
- Marty Turco, 34, who's cap hit of $5.7 million from a year ago will go down.
- Evgeni Nabokov, 34, who will also see a decrease from the $5.375 million he saw a year ago.
Jose Theodore, 33, who will probably earn between $3.5 and $4.5 million next season.
- Vesa Toskala, lord help us.
- Chris Mason, 34, could see his cap hit go down from $3 million.
Dan Ellis, 30, should Montreal not sign him before noon tomorrow. Cap hit of $1.75 million last year, will probably get a slight raise.
- Martin Biron, 32. Cap hit last year; $1.4 million.
- Johan Hedberg, 37. Talks in Atlanta have hit a snag, reportedly, and he made just over $1 million last year.
- Antero Niittymaki, 30. Injury and consistency issues surround our old friend. Made 600k last year.
The good news on the goaltending front is that the Flyers are the ones in strong negotiating position. How many teams are looking for a starting goalie and how many goalies are on the list above? I took out a lot of players, too. Of the teams looking for a goalie tomorrow, the Flyers have to be the most attractive to these free agents. They'd get a clear shot at the starting job on a team that was two wins away from a Cup last year, and they'd be playing behind one of the best defenses in the league.
- The Flyers could also make a trade for a goalie, but this is the free agency primer, and trade speculation is always crazy and pure conjecture anyway.
Moving on to defense, let's look at some of the guys they could get to fill out that third pairing. Here's a list of guys that would fit, combined with their cap hit from a year ago.
They could re-sign Danny Syvret (575k) or Lukas Krajicek (700k), but there are better options still at bargain prices. Guys like Kurtis Foster (600k), Brett Lebda (650k), Jason Strudwick (700k), Shane Hnidy (750k), Mike Mottau (762,500), Mike Weaver (800k) and Jay McKee (800k). Tell me there aren't at least two players in there you could create a serviceable third pairing out of. Mottau is the name that personally, I really like.
You could fill out your third pairing for less than $2 million dollars, conceivably. But, if you wanted to take a step up, you could go after one of those guys and then a higher priced player from the next tier of free agent defensemen. If Phoenix doesn't come to terms with Zbynek Michalek, for example. He made $1.25 million last year and will get a raise.
The rest of the list: Nick Boynton (1.5m), Brad Lukowich (1.566m), Carlo Colaiacovo (1.283m), Andreas Lilja (1.25m), Jordan Leopold (1.75m), Mark Eaton (2m), Henrik Tallinder (2.562m), Joe Corvo (2.625m), and Aaron Ward (2.5m). After that, the prices hit the $3 million range.
The Flyers do not need a player like Dan Hamhuis to make their defense better. They just need to re-sign Coburn and get a better third pairing than Krajicek and Bartulis or Ryan Parent. They could spend between 2 and 3 million dollars, or even less, and fill the holes on the blueline. How much money they have available for that spot comes down to, obviously, what they do in goal and how much they spend.
It'll be interesting to see what happens tomorrow, but the Flyers certainly have options.