Ian Laperriere is at the point in his career where winning is the only goal. Fifteen years in the NHL has provided more than enough money but no rings and when he became a free agent on July 1 he hoped a Stanley Cup contender would call. And sure enough, one did - the Flyers.
"It's everything; winning's everything," the 35-year-old said at a news conference yesterday. "I've played many years, a lot of games, but I don't have any bling bling to show for it. I told my agent 'That's why I want to go there', because they're right there."
Laperriere didn't have to wait long. Before July 1 was over he agreed on a three-year deal worth $3.5 million with the Flyers. With prior stops in St. Louis, Los Angeles and Colorado, this will be his first season in the Eastern Conference and the closest stop to his native Montreal.
The right winger, known for his aggressive style of play rather than scoring prowess, is among the better penalty killersin the league. Laperriere, along with the trade for defenseman Chris Pronger, provides the Flyers with a toughness absent in the team's gut-wrenching playoff series loss to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
"Ian's a player that I've coveted for a long time," said Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, who called Laperriere a "character guy" upon signing him last week. "The best way I can sum up what he's going to bring to our team is he comes to play. I think the fans of Philadelphia are going to love his style of play and enthusiasm for the game."
Although Laperriere is known for the his fighting - he has 1794 penalty minutes, most of them fighting majors, and just 118 goals in 1001 career games - he said toughness doesn't simply mean more fights.
"Being a tougher team doesn't mean fighting all the time," he said. "Fighting is part of my game and it's always going to be part of hockey but being tough to play against is to show up every night. You look at Detroit, I think they don't have a guy who fights on that team but they're tough to play against every night because you know they're coming to play. That's something you can't just talk about."
Mike Knuble and Joffrey Lupul, who scored 27 and 25 goals last season, respectively, departed this summer, so the Flyers will need offense elsewhere.
Last season for the Avalanche, Laperriere scored just 7 goals to go with 12 assists. The 15-year veteran has a career high of just 21 goals (2005-06).
However, Laperriere said his role as a penalty killer will make things easier for the team's top scorers such as Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.
"When you overplay them it's more risky for injuries and stuff like that," he said. "Those two players play big minutes and when you get guys like me who come out to take some time away from it, I'm sure they'll welcome that."