A year after the Flyers made a major splash in the free agent market, acquiring Danny Briere, Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell — Flyers’ General Manager Paul Holmgren will have the tall task of improving his club with little to no cap space. After resigning RFA’s Jeff Carter, Randy Jones and RJ Umberger, to deals that will likely push the Flyers over the extended cap, Holmgren will be forced to get creative to improve a team without taking on any expense. In this case free agency is not the ideal situation to be in when looking for help.
The Flyers have a number of players who will turn free agents on July 1. The list includes …
Jason Smith, D — Undecided.
The former Edmonton captain was picked up by the Flyers along with Joffrey Lupul in a trade for Joni Pitkanen. Soon after, the defender known as “Gator” was tapped to become the captain of the Flyers for the 207-08 season. Smith started the year off with a bang, dominating with his physical play and becoming a fan favorite for his willingness to stick up for teammates and drop the gloves. But Smith’s solid play slowly faded due to a severe shin bruise and two separated shoulders, both of which he played through during the end of the season and playoffs. Holmgren called Smith one of the toughest people he has ever met. When asked about playing in the post season with two badly separated shoulders — an injury that caused him to get numbing shots before games to dull the excruciating pain — Smith just smiled with his toothless grin and said “I have no excuses.”
My prediction is that the Flyers will give Smith a respectable offer but no more than the 1.9 he received last season. The organization respects what Smith gave to the franchise, playing under such grueling circumstances while also setting an example as a fantastic captain. It is also possible that if oft-injured Darian Hatcher retires like many experts believe he will, the Flyers will need a physical presence on the blue line and may have room for Smith to be that physical presence on a third pairing with limited minutes. If Smith doesn’t resign with the Flyers however, he may not go far. There was a rumor that circulated after the all-star break that the Jersey Devils would be in hot pursuit of Smith, if the defender became available. Truth or not, if Smith does in fact become a free agent, he will have plenty of suitors.
Jim Dowd, C — Gone
Jim Dowd was brought in as a veteran to anchor the center position on the fourth line — and he did just that. The Brick, New Jersey native who was more known for his playoff fu-manchu than anything else, was successful defensively and in faceoffs. Despite the decent season the Flyers will likely look at youth to replace Dowd. Look for youngster Patrick Thoresen to take over centering the fourth line next season and for Dowd to either retire, or be given a shot to give some playoff bound team some veteran leadership on the fourth line.
Vaclav Prospal, F — Gone
When Prospal was picked up at the trade deadline from the Tampa Bay Lighting, him and Danny Briere had instant chemistry. Briere, who was struggling mightily at the time of the acquisition, seemed to be rejuvenated by Prospal’s offensive vision and passing ability. But despite a solid end to the season and first-round series versus the Washington Capitals — Prospal vanished from the playoffs, becoming almost invisible on the ice for the rest of the playoffs. And as Prospal’s production dwindled, so did Briere’s.
Prospal — who scored 30+ goals during the season — is known as one of the most underpaid players in the league (1.9 mil) and will likely look to cash in for one last big payday between 3-6 million, as his career reaches its twilight. The money Vinny will ask for, the Flyers can not afford. Prospal was rumored to be wanted by New Jersey, but would be a viable option for any team that needs a playmaking winger to get the puck to a scoring center (Atlanta-Kovalchuk – Florida- Jokinen).
Jaroslav Modry, D — Gone
Modry came to the Flyers as a hopeful upgrade over Jim Vandameer. In both cases the Flyers were looking for an offensive minded defensemen, who can make a good first pass and man the power play when neccisary. What the Flyers got from Modry was essnetially the same thing they got from Vandameer — no offense and horrendous in their own end.
Modry was the laughing stock of the first round, as he was on the ice for every one of Washington’s first 12 goals. Modry was scratched shortly after, but was brought back under emergency circumstances during the Penguins series when Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn both were unable to play. In the emergency role Modry wasn’t great but played better than he showed early in the playoffs.
Look for Modry to take the role of Emergency defender full time. He appeared to have very little gas left in the tank, so a seventh defender role may suit him well. That, or maybe a trip back to Europe.
As for the Flyers putting out a line to catch any other team’s free agents, consider it highly unlikely unless Holmgren moves some cap space around. And even with the breathing room under the cap, it is still highly unlikely the Flyers will have enough space to pull in a Brian Campbell (who will make close to 7 million a year) or anyone else of that caliber. If there will be any new faces in a Flyers’ uniform this upcoming season, they will be either from inside the system or due to trades.