Monday, July 5, 2010
Flyers Active Participants in Free Agency's Opening Day Frenzy
By: Tim Brennan
The Flyers were one of the more active teams on July 1st, starting the day off with a trade to acquire Andrej Meszaros from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Shortly thereafter, the Flyers reached a two year contract with restricted free agent Braydon Coburn, a deal that will see the 25 year old defenseman earn $3.2 million a season. Veteran defenseman Sean O'Donnell signed on with a one year contract while tough guy Jody Shelley agreed to a three year pact.
Although GM Paul Holmgren addressed the need for a dependable 5-6 defense pairing and added another rugged forward, all those moves come at a cost. The Flyers only have around $1 million to spare after those four moves, with Meszaros earning $4 million per season for the next four years; $1.1 million for Shelley per season for three years and O'Donnell making $1 million for this upcoming season. Instead of going after a goaltender, what is being considered the team's weakness, the Flyers kept one of their top four defenders, acquired two defensemen to fill the 5th and 6th spots on the blueline and a top notch fighter.
But one has to wonder, why spend all the available money when there are still players needed to be re-signed, (Darroll Powe and Arron Asham), and there are voids to be filled?
The Flyers offered big contracts to both Evgeni Nabokov, whom they acquired prior to the start of free agency, and Marty Turco but were ultimately turned down. The Flyers also expressed interest in Dan Ellis, Chris Mason and former Flyer Antero Niittymaki but all of them signed to other teams lacking a starter. Since Michael Leighton signed with the intent of becoming the starter, none of the above wanted to challenge for a spot but wanted the guarantee of being number one on the depth chart.
So without a goaltender to help Leighton and a vacancy on the first line right wing, the Flyers will need to make a trade to open up salary cap space to pursue a player or two.
These moves seemed a little rushed, especially the Coburn deal. Coburn's numbers have dropped each season as he only tallied 19 points this season, as opposed to 28 the season before and 36 two years ago. He struggled defensively as well, with countless turnovers and poor play in his own end, resulting in a -6 plus minus rating, tied for the 6th worst on the team. Coburn's turnover in the Winter Classic led to Marco Sturm's game winner in overtime. Along with a poor season, Coburn didn't bother to play defense in the Finals, going -9 in 6 games. If anything, the Flyers should have given him a 1 year deal worth around $2.25 a season so that there would be room to sign others and not put so much money into one player.
The addition of Meszaros was interesting seeing as Philadelphia was looking for a 5th defenseman but happened to get a top four d-man capable of playing big minutes. The only problem is the salary at which this #5 defenseman comes at, $4 million a season. Meszaros struggled in Tampa but also didn't get much of a chance to prove his worth. O'Donnell was brought in for two reasons, stability on the final defense pairing and leadership. It also helps to be close friends with Chris Pronger. And the signing of Shelley is troubling, considering that the Flyers have a few rugged forwards (Ian Laperriere, Darroll Powe, Arron Asham) that contribute more to the team than Shelley could. Maybe this could finally be the year that Shelley breaks out and scores more than 3 goals a season.
If you are a Flyers fan, you must be wondering how these moves can be considered helpful to the team. The acquisition of Meszaros will prove to be a solid addition, while Coburn and Shelley will have to play well to meet up with the expectations put upon them due to their contracts.