Since the offseason began, rumor and speculation has surrounded the unpredictable Flyers as to what their next move will be. Big names like Brian Campbell, Andrej Meszaros and Shea Weber were all mentioned as possible means to get the defensively inept Flyers over the hump and into the Stanley Cup Finals. But with a tight purse and their own players to retain (Jeff Carter, Randy Jones and possibly RJ Umberger), the Flyers biggest roster impact for the 2008-09 season, will come from within.
Many people seem to forget (or choose to ignore) the fact that the Flyers most productive forward prior to last season was Simon Gagne. Gagne tallied 79 pts in 72 games in 2005-06 and 68 pts in 76 games in 2006-07, when the Flyers ranked dead last in the NHL. Gagne helped the Flyers to their surprising start in 2007-08, partnering with Danny Briere to score 18 points in the mere 25 games he played before going down for the season with a concussion. Many people believe Gagne will never be the same player after suffering such a debilitating injury, but considering the fact that the Flyers made the Eastern Conference Finals without their top scorer, even a portion of his previous production would make the deep and potent Flyers even more of a force. If Gagne comes back healthy and rested, he will give the Flyers a viable two-way forward to play with Briere and someone strong on the boards on special teams. He would also provide the Flyers a proven 30-plus goal scorer for 5 million a year — an addition that most teams would kill for in free agency. If by chance Gagne gets rung up again and continues his concussion symptoms, the Flyers will place him on LTI, which means his money comes off the cap for the games he misses, similar to what the Flyers did with Mike Rathje, and what they will be likely to do with Darian Hatcher.
Another potential addition to the Flyers’ lineup will be QMJHL star Claude Giroux. Giroux spent last season with the Gatineau Olympiques, where he scored 106 points in 55 games and led his team to the QMJHL championship, where he was named playoff MVP. Giroux possesses excellent vision, good speed and unsuspecting strength and conditioning. Experts believe Giroux will win a roster spot in camp and will be a perfect fit on Carter’s wing. Putting a quick playmaker on Carter’s wing could light a fire under Carter and elevate him to the star he has the potential to be at no cost toward the cap.
With the addition of a productive and healthy Giroux and Gagne, the Flyers will have added an estimated 50 goals to their line up, and an equally impressive number of assists. If Paul Holmgren is able to sure up the Flyers’ defense with small but effective defensive additions, the Flyers could be a serious contender next season only improving from 2007-08.