Tuesday, June 28, 2011

NHL free agency provides Phantoms' parent Flyers with options

With NHL free agency set to begin July 1, the parent club of the American Hockey League’s Adirondack Phantoms has multiple needs to address, but not a lot of flexibility.

As of Tuesday night, the Philadelphia Flyers had spent $57.5 million towards next season’s $64.3 million salary cap, according to the NHL salary-tracking website www.capgeek.com.

The Flyers have about $6.7 million in salary cap space – one of the slimmest totals in the 30-team NHL – and they still need to agree to terms with three forwards to round out their NHL roster.

The Flyers have extended qualifying offers to right wings Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds, acquired last week in trades that sent centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to the Western Conference, but the Flyers still need to sign a scoring winger to round out their top-six.

That could be Ville Leino, but the right wing is due for a hefty raise. An unrestricted free agent, one of the key components of Philly’s 2010 run to the Stanley Cup finals is sure to attract some enticing offers from other NHL clubs.

Here’s a look at how Philadelphia’s organizational depth chart is shaping up.

LEFT WING
CENTER
RIGHT WING
DEFENSE
GOALIE

HARTNELL
BRIERE
LEINO
PRONGER
BRYZGALOV
1
van RIEMSDYK
GIROUX
VORACEK
TIMMONEN
BOBROVSKY
2
VERSTEEG
SCHENN
SIMMONDS
MESZAROS
LEIGHTON
3
SHELLEY
BETTS
NODL
CARLE
BACKLUND
4
WELLWOOD
READ
LAPERRIERE
COBURN
HOVINEN
5
RINALDO
HOLMSTROM
M. TESTUWIDE
BARTULIS

6
SESTITO
PITHER
AKESON
GUSTAFSSON

7
ROWE
KALINSKI
HARPER
WALKER

8
BROWN

LEGEIN
BOURDON

9
ZOLNIERCZYK


MARSHALL

10



JANCEVSKI

11



MANNING

12



LAURIDSEN

13



HOSTETTER

14



LEHTIVUORI

15

SIGNED
RFA Q
UFA
LONG TERM IR
UNKNOWN


There are some clear organizational needs that need addressing.

1.      The Flyers really, really need a top-tier right winger. That’s probably the biggest hole in an otherwise solid NHL lineup.

2.      They could also really use a veteran two-way center, someone who could play on a checking line in the NHL, but also score some goals at the American Hockey League level for Adirondack.

Think Jeff Taffe, Ben Guite or Mike Zigomanis. This way, they don’t have to rush top prospect Brayden Schenn to the NHL if he’s not ready and they have someone to mentor the prospects like Denis Hamel did last year.

3.      They need to pick a seventh defenseman. That could be AHL All-Star Erik Gustafsson, veteran NHLer Matt Walker, or it could be a bargain free agent signing. With Leino likely to demand a sizable contract and Simmons and Voracek due for raises, Philadelphia isn’t going to have a ton of money to spend here.

Then again, if Schenn winds up in Adirondack, they’re going to have an extra $3 million to work with. If Laperriere goes on long-term injury reserve, they’ll get another $1 million and change.

4.      Stefan Legein’s contract status is in question. CapGeek had him as a restricted free agent until Monday night, when they switched his status to contracted through 2011-12.

This is puzzling, because he turned pro midway through 2008 and this past season was his third professional campaign. His entry-level contract, then, should be expired.

I’m not sure how his decision to retire before the 2008 season shaped his contract – he didn’t play a pro game until January 2009 – but if it was expired, Philadelphia didn’t extend him a qualifying offer so he’s now an unrestricted free agent.

Depending on what happens with Legein, the Flyers either have 42 or 43 players under contract for 2011-12. Add three to that number because of the qualifying offers and you’re at 45 or 46. The NHL limit is 50.

The top-tier winger, Leino or someone else, is another contract. So that’s 46 or 47.

Many teams don’t use all 50 contracts because they like to have some flexibility for trading, so you’re looking at Philadelphia adding two or three more NHL contracts during free agency.

Then again, Philadelphia could always make a trade and have a lot more flexibility.

Either way, it’ll be interesting to see what the Broad Street Brass does.



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