ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Exhaling, Paul Holmgren said it best on Thursday:
“A lot can happen between now and the start of training camp.”
Truthfully, a lot will happen for the Flyers between now and Sunday here at the Entry Draft in Minnesota, let alone when free agency officially kicks off on July 1.
After all, the Flyers - suddenly with nearly $10.2 million in salary cap space without Michael Leighton and Matt Walker on the roster and Ian Laperriere on the long-term injury list - will have their hands full with re-signing restricted free agents Ville Leino, Dan Carcillo, Andreas Nodl, and Darroll Powe.
Both newly acquired forwards Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek are also restricted free agents are looking for raises.
They may also have a few other tricks up their sleeve.
Here’s the latest on what I know:
MOVIN' ON UP? Since attending the NHL Combine in Toronto earlier this month, the Flyers have been absolutely drooling over winger Gabriel Landeskog from the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers.
Unfortunately for the Flyers, he won’t be falling as far as their No. 8 slot, which they acquired on Thursday from Columbus.
The Flyers have been looking to upgrade their organizational depth on defense, but Holmgren also said this week that he would be looking to tack the best player available when they pick, regardless of position.
League sources have indicated that the Flyers are interested in swapping picks with Florida, who is slated to select at No. 3 overall. The Panthers are looking to improve their team and they already have a bevy of top young talent after missing the playoffs for an NHL record 10 straight seasons.
So, what would it take to acquire the No. 3 overall pick?
How about Kris Versteeg and the No. 8 pick. That ought to do it. Versteeg has one year left on his deal at $3.083 million but he did not perform up to expectations after being acquired on Valentine’s Day for a first and third round pick.
The move seems to make sense. The Panthers are looking. They are $30 million below the NHL’s salary cap floor, or minimum that must be spent. The Flyers have been shopping Versteeg in deals. Most importantly, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon is a big believer in Versteeg.
Tallon, the former Blackhawks GM, is the man who brought Versteeg to Chicago, one of the moves that ultimately pushed them toward winning the Stanley Cup in 2010.
If the Flyers decide to not move up for tonight’s first round - which begins at 7 o’clock on Versus - look for them to take a defenseman. If Dougie Hamilton (D, Niagara [OHL]) is still available, he is a can’t-miss prospect. If not, smallish offensive defenseman Ryan Murphy (Kitchener [OHL]) would be the next best bet.
SOMETHING BIG? With such an unusually large salary cap number to play with, after the NHL officially set next year’s number at $63.4 million, one had to think that the Flyers might not be finished in trying to acquire a big name player.
The first guess, for some, was Brad Richards, who has repeatedly turned down requests from Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk to waive his no-movement clause before July 1 so Dallas can move his negotiating rights while they still have value.
Richards, 31, isn’t likely coming to Philly. One of the reasons Holmgren said he wanted to make Thursday’s moves was to clear out their glutton of centers.
Holmgren might be willing to make an exception for Steven Stamkos.
From what I’m told by sources, that isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. Upon hearing so on Thursday, the logical side of my brain instantly wrote off the possibility. The more people I talk to, the more it seems like it could be a possibility.
Stamkos, still just 21, is easily one of the NHL’s three best players already. He has a league-best 96 goals in the last two seasons. He was named a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award as league MVP as voted by the players.
Stamkos is believed to be looking at something in the $7 million per season range, which sounds awful low.
Stamkos said in an interview on Wednesday in Las Vegas that he believed his negotiations with the Lightning on an extension were “close.” Still, one has to wonder why the two sides haven’t been able to come together. Tampa Bay’s season has been over for nearly a month and he should have been the team’s top priority.
Personally, I don’t see a way that the Flyers - or any team - would acquire his rights via a trade, unless the Stamkos camp flat out tells the Lightning that they have no interest in re-signing or that the numbers just won’t work.
A much stronger option, though, is for someone to try to sign Stamkos to an offer sheet.
Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said on Wednesday that the team is “prepared for anything.”
It has long been reported that the Maple Leafs - and it should be noted that Toronto is Stamkos’ hometown team - under general manager Brian Burke would be willing to put in an offer sheet for Stamkos if the opportunity presented itself. It has been reported that Burke could offer as much as $9 million per season for Stamkos.
First, that cannot happen until July 1, when Stamkos officially becomes a restricted free agent. Second, the Lightning can choose to match any offer sheet or walk away and accept the compensation.
The compensation would be 4 first round draft picks, one pick per year for four years.
While the Lightning have plenty of cap room to match any offer, another source familiar with Tampa Bay’s operation said Tampa Bay may not have the financial capability of matching an offer because of their commitment to captain Vinny Lecavalier, who is contracted to collect $10 million per season for each of the next 5 years.
Throw in the small market team’s long-term deals on the table with Marty St. Louis and Ryan Malone, their limited gate success and unwillingness to spend to the salary cap limit and the discussion becomes all that more interesting.
That’s where the Flyers may come into play. By trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter on Thursday, they also dealt exactly $108.9 million dollars worth of long-term commitments off their books. That’s a big number. Ed Snider could surely be convinced to spend a good portion of that on Stamkos if the opportunity were to present itself.
Here’s one thing I can guarantee you: Stamkos’ name has come up in the Flyers’ organizational plans. This rumor, for sure, has legs. This is something to keep an eye on.
HELLO, LEINO: The Flyers will likely have a deal in place with Leino before leaving Minnesota this weekend.
Just a few days ago, it seemed nearly impossible that the Flyers would have the space to re-sign Leino. That’s all changed now. And him and his agent have sat patiently since November, constantly being re-assured by the Flyers that things will work out.
Leino seemed to be a little frustrated by the NHL’s tagging rule which prevented him from being re-signed all the way back around Thanksgiving. Leino was forced to swallow hard again in February when the Flyers acquired Kris Versteeg to completely dash any hope that he could be re-signed before the season ended.
All the while, Leino has remained a quiet supporter of Holmgren’s job and has made it very clear he would like to remain in Philadelphia.
The two sides have always remained close on a number, which is reportedly between $2.5 million and $3 million per season.
Leino has been in his native Finland for a few weeks and has been unavailable for comment. His agent, Bill Zito, is in the Twin Cities for this weekend’s draft. Look for the two sides to hammer out a deal very soon.
FREE AGENCY: Depending on what moves the Flyers make, they should have money to pursue a few free agents.
While you could go up and down the free agent lists and throw out possibilities, here’s one name to remember: Michael Ryder.
Ryder, who just captured the Stanley Cup with the Bruins, might be a great fit for the Flyers. He is supposedly a player that has piqued the interest of Holmgren for a few years. Ryder will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Ryder, 31, is coming off a three-year deal with Boston which paid him $12 million. He was overpaid for his production. Boston signed him from Montreal thinking he would build on the 58 point season he posted in 2006-07. His totals in Boston? 53 points in 2008-09, 33 points in 82 games in 2009-10, and 41 points in 2010-11.
Ryder came alive in the playoffs, though, for Boston. He collected 17 points in 25 playoff games compared to 41 in 79 regular season contests.
GOT A LIL’ CAPTAIN IN YOU? Just a few hours after captain Mike Richards was dealt, many thought the search was already on for the Flyers’ next bearer of the “C.”
While Danny Briere, Kimmo Timonen and Chris Pronger have all worn the “C” in other cities, the logical choice appears to be Pronger. He has been the team's de facto captain in Richards' absence over the last two years.
It is unclear when the Flyers could make an announcement about a new captain. Pronger was not available for comment on Thursday but said he will address the media on Friday.
Holmgren said on Thursday that he “hasn’t even begun to broad the subject with Peter Laviolette.” Laviolette is in Minnesota for the Flyers’ draft this weekend.
“Thanks to everyone in Philly for a great 6 years. What a great city and an awesome place to play.”
-Mike Richards, on Thursday night, via his official twitter account.
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers
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