As we transition from draft mode to free agency, the Flyers have some questions as players hit the open market on Wednesday at noon. The rumors circulating indicate that they may not be done making a big splash in the market, but the Pronger deal on Friday night speaks to the contrary. Regardless, some work still has to be done, so here's a quick rundown of what to expect from the Flyers come the start of July. This is part of an SBN hockey-wide series.
Pending Unrestricted Free Agents
Mike Knuble, Andrew Alberts, Martin Biron, Antero Niittymaki, Josh Gratton, Boyd Kane, Lasse Kukkonen, Scott Munroe, Jean-Sebastien Aubin
Pending Restricted Free Agents
Jared Ross, Nate Raduns, Nate Guenin, Danny Syrvet
Salary cap space and current cap hit
$4.3 million under the cap, $52.5 million cap hit. This includes the Chris Pronger trade and Ray Emery's deal.
The Flyers, first and foremost, need a backup goaltender. Preferably, the netminder they sign should not solely be a second-tier player, but a goalie capable of challenging Ray Emery for the starting position. Emery's uncertainty in net could be turned around if he is challenged enough from within by another goaltender. It would also provide a safety net in case Emery falters.
In addition to a goaltender, the team needs at least one defenseman, whether it be Andrew Alberts or a replacement. They also need one or two more forwards to round out the spots voided by Mike Knuble and Joffrey Lupul.
In goal, there are several options. Look for the Flyers to target someone on the low end of the spectrum due to the limited cap space -- no Manny Fernandez's or Nikolai Khabibulin's or even Martin Biron's here. Think about re-signing Niittymaki, or picking up a guy like Craig Anderson, Scott Clemmensen, or Ty Conklin. Conklin is 2-0 in the Winter Classic, so if the Flyers are going to play in Boston on January 1, they'd be smart to pick him up.
At forward, Mike Knuble is definitely a re-signable option. Paul Holmgren has said that he's in talks with the soon-to-be-UFA and that he believes Knuble wants to stay in town. He's a good bargain though, and there will be a handful of teams happy to pick up his services. So if the Flyers can't pick up Knuble, look for guys like Nik Antropov, Manny Malhotra, Steve Sullivan, Sami Pahlsson, and Mike Cammalleri to potentially fill the void. At the same time, the front office could opt to push some player up from the Phantoms -- a much cheaper option. The candidates from the farm include Jonathan Matsumoto, Jon Kalinski, Pat Maroon, and Andreas Nodl.
On defense, if the team does not re-sign Alberts, there are several relatively cheap options. Dennis Seidenberg could come back to town from Carolina or Francois Beauchemin could come over from Anaheim. With the top two pairings set already, Mike Komisarek, Jordan Leopold, Marek Malik, Rob Scuderi, Ossi Vaananen, Martin Skoula, Paul Mara, Dmitri Kalinin, and
Johnny Oduya would all come relatively cheap and would be very solid third pairing options on the Flyers.
What do our rivals want?
The Penguins won the Stanley Cup, but that doesn't mean they're without holes. Hooks Orpik at Pensburgh says that the Pens need to add a "top six forward or two and a top four defenseman." New Jersey needs "to upgrade their defense, preferably with an offensive or two-way defenseman," says John at In Lou We Trust. They're also in need of a backup goaltender, considering Clemmensen and Kevin Weekes are free agents. Oh, a coach too. The Rangers just need to back away from the salary cap, perhaps by shedding some of those ridiculous contracts. Looking at you, Wade Redden. The Islanders need a goalie -- bad. And a lot of other things.
James Mirtle has some great coverage over at From The Rink, listing all the players who will be available come Wednesday by position. The SBN Free Agency Hub is a great place to get all of your free agency news. And just in time for free agency to screw it up tomorrow, our salary cap page will be updated today to include Chris Pronger and Ray Emery. It's an easy to understand tool for breaking down the Flyers salary cap situation.