Flyers Active at Start of NHL Free Agency

Meszaros

Before NHL free agency even began at noon on Thursday, the Flyers addressed their need to sure up the third defensive pairing. They acquired defenseman Andrej Meszaros, 24, from the Tampa Bay Lightning for a 2012 second round pick. If Meszaros plays for Philadelphia like he did as an Ottawa Senator from 2005-2008, the trade would be an absolute steal for the Flyers. Meszaros, a former 23rd overall pick, played 82 games for the Senators for three consecutive seasons, finishing with 26 goals, 84 assists, and +24. The Flyers got him so cheaply because he played poorly with the Lightning. Signed for the next 4 years at 4 mil. per, the Lightning were ready to move on, and the Flyers were willing to give him a fresh start. I like the move by Holmgren, especially if Meszaros uses his large frame to play tough and beat up on opponents. While he won't impress offensively, he has shown the ability to cash in occasionally.

Holmgren then resigned restricted free agent defenseman Braydon Coburn to a 2-year contract worth 6.4 million. The only way this contract would be justified is if Coburn continues to develop into a top-4 NHL d-man. While he has shown the ability to be an above-average defender, he has never tapped into his offensive potential as much as fans would like, and he simply turns over the puck too much sometimes.

The Orange and Black signed their first unrestricted free agent early this afternoon when they inked Sean O'Donnell to a 1 year, 1 million dollar deal. O'Donnell won the Stanley Cup with Chris Pronger and the Ducks in 2007, then skated with the Los Angeles Kings for the previous two seasons. This is a valuable addition for the Flyers; O'Donnell is supposedly a good character guy who is well-liked in the locker room. More importantly, he simply gets the job done on the back end; he finished last season at a +14 mark, also chipping in 15 points. Although naysayers will argue that O'Donnell is 38, the contract is cheap, lasts only a year, and he is much more reliable than Oscars Bartulis on the third pairing.

For the most part, I like what the Flyers did with the three moves above. Holmgren solidified an already good defense, priming the Flyers for another deep playoff run and reducing the minutes an aging Pronger has to play. However, the signings left Philly only $1 million under the cap, without a definite NHL starting goalie, and without resigning RFAs Dan Carcillo and Darroll Powe. 

What better way to waste cap space then by signing Jody Shelley? Like most Flyers fans, my jaw dropped when I saw that Homer gave Shelley a 3 year, 3.3 million dollar deal. I rarely pan the Flyers moves, but this signing is mind-boggling. For the casual Flyers fan, Shelley is a 34 year old "goon" worth no more than $600,000 a season who scored 2 goals last year with the Rangers…both against the Flyers. If Holmgren was going to give any winger a 3 year, 3.3 million dollar deal, why not re-sign Aaron Asham? He can fight and at least chip in 10 goals a season. This likely means that Riley Cote's time with the Flyers is over; he will be waived to the AHL or traded to any taker, eliminating $550,000 from the cap.

In my opinion, this means one thing: the Flyers ARE NOT done making moves. They simply need to clear salary to come back down under the cap. What concerns me is that Leino and Gagne are UFAs after next season, and Giroux and Carter are RFAs. While Gagne will likely walk, Holmgren needs to sign Giroux long-term, and at least one of Carter or Leino. Something has got to give.

Finally, many Flyers fans are confused by the Flyers goaltending situation.  The Flyers signed Leighton to a 2 year, 3.1 million dollar deal early this week, meaning Leighton would compete with Boucher and Backlund for the number 1 job. I think the Flyers decided to take this route because, like myself, Homer simply wasn't impressed with the free agent market. The Flyers should have taken a look at Chris Mason, who signed a relatively cheap deal with Atlanta. While Nabokov has been solid in the regular season, he chokes in the spotlight and isn't worth the $6 mil. cap hit he was asking for. And Dan Ellis, who was supposedly close to coming to Philadelphia, is NOT an NHL starting goalie. The Flyers were put in this position because they haven't developed any goalie prospects in the last two decades. If they drafted and developed goaltending, they wouldn't be forced to sign a mediocre goalie with a large cap hit.

In summary:

Added via trade: D Andrej Meszaros, 24, 4 years, $4 mil. per

Added via free agency: D Braydon Coburn, 25, 2 years, $3.2 mil. per…D Sean O'Donnell, 38, 1 year, $1 mil. per…F Jody Shelley, 34, 3 years, $1.1 mil per

Stay tuned. Any more updates will be posted here at Crossing Broad!

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