As the Philadelphia Flyers finished their surprising storybook season only seven wins away from a Stanley Cup, the attention and optimism that was so intensely placed on the team by fans, media and rumor mongers during the playoff run, turned squarely to organizational demi-god General Manager Paul Holmgren, in hopes that the flat-topped miracle GM could keep his hot streak alive in making the Flyers a better team for little cost.
The first order of duty for Holmgren will be to retain or dismiss restricted free agents, to which the Flyers have five of immediate interest. The list includes..
RJ Umberger (1,250,000), Jeff Carter (942,400), Riley Cote (500,000), Patrick Thoresen (542,500) and Randy Jones (525,000).
Jeff Carter: Staying
The speculation around the league has been that Jeff Carter, one of the league’s upcoming young stars who will turn 24 next January, will be highly sought after by multiple teams in the league. These teams will look to sign him to an expensive offer sheet.
But despite the hub-bub behind the offer sheet talk, it will not get that far.
Carter has let it be known he wants to stay in Philadelphia and will not likely test the market for more cash. The Flyers have let it be known that resigning Carter is their number one offseason mission, and will not let him go easily.
Consider this, if the Flyers felt that they could not resign Carter, he would have been dealt at the deadline. But since he wasn’t, consider him as good as resigned.
Carter will be looking at a 5-6 million a year contract, standard to upcoming players his age, but not franchise player type of money. If Jeff signs for more than three years at 5.5 mil a year, and continues to progress, he could be a huge steal for the Flyers.
Riley Cote: Staying
Cote made a name for himself the hard way in 2007-08 — by getting punched in the face. After a disastrous 2006-07 year in which the Flyers were at the bottom of the league, Cote helped turn the bullied quickly back into the bullies. Cote proved he is willing to scrap with anyone in the league, while also giving the highlight people fodder with his many wins, including a stunning, one-punch KO of Andre Roy of Tampa Bay. Cote has earned a spot as the number-one enforcer on the Flyers next year, and should be respectfully paid at around 750,000-1,000,000.
Patrick Thoresen: Staying
Value is a word that comes to mind when you see what Thor makes, to what he gives on the ice. The kid never stops hustling. He has great vision and an play a smart two-way game, all while never complaining about minutes. But there is one problem when it comes to Patrick’s game — he couldn’t score the puck on a soccer net. Thor has a very solid, well-rounded game, but he has stone hands when it comes to shooting or finishing a play. The Flyers seemed to really like him and with offer sheets not coming in, he should be a perfect fit on the Flyers’ fourth line for years to come.
Randy Jones: Staying
Vastly improved from his days as a quasi-AHL player, Jones was tops on the Flyers all year in plus-minus, and led the Flyers in the playoffs in that category. Jones has above average offensive ability, but struggles getting shots through traffic and finishing plays. His positional defense and stick checking has improved which makes him a more valuable player. Randy does not have much value on an open market so he will likely resign with the Flyers at around 1-2 mil maximum. Not a bad value if you can get him to run the power play with some efficiency.
RJ Umberger: Gone
Umberger shined when it mattered most in the playoffs, with 10 goals and five assists in 17 games. RJ only had 13 goals in 74 games in the regular season, with three of them coming in one game against Pittsburgh.
Having that type of playoff success in front of a national audience may have inflated RJ’s value a bit. The going rate for a two-way utility player like Umberger would be 2.5-3.5 million a year. But because of the playoff performance and potential to flourish offensively, the 27 year old Umberger may see an offer sheet around 3-5 mil.
One rumor speculated by Eklund of hockeybuzz.com states that the rights of Umberger could be moved for the rights of young, puck-moving defenseman Ryan Suter of Nashville. Both players are RFA and will cost around the same amount of money to resign. He relates Umberger to a young Primeau in Detroit, where Keith showed flashes of brilliance, but it wasn’t until he got a change of scenery in Carolina did he become a great player.
Either way Umberger will likely be let go by the cash-strapped Flyers, who have plethora of talented forwards waiting for a roster spot. There is no doubt that for the right price the Flyers will be happy to retain Umberger, but the chances of RJ’s asking price being the right one for the Flyers does not seem likely.