With the free agent deadline just a day away, General Manager Paul Holmgren and the Flyers aren’t expected to be very active. However, with a couple players set to his the unrestricted free agent market, the team still has some loose-ends to sew up.
Forward Mike Knuble and defenseman Andrew Alberts are the most intricate names to shop themselves, with both likely to receive attention on the open market. The Flyers have been active in trying to re-sign Knuble, with around $4 million still under the salary cap. Holmgren has expressed interest in keeping Knuble around and Knuble has made it clear he wants to stay, but only if the Flyers ink him to a multi-year contract. The soon to be 37-year old has told the media he feels he has earned a two-year contract.
“I don’t think I am very interested in a one-year deal,” Knuble said. “I think my play has warranted something longer than that.”
The recent signing of Bill Guerin by the Penguins for one year – $2 million, has set the market for aging point producers. Knuble, who made $2.8 million a year prior, is not looking for the money as much as he is the years. The Flyers also know they have defensemen Braydon Coburn and Ryan Parent turning restricted free agents next season and don’t have much coming off the cap by then.
Look for the Flyers to do what they can to retain the 27-goal scorer. But if they are unable to, look for the Rangers or the Predators to make a play.
As for Alberts, the Flyers have not been particularly vocal regarding the big rear guard. The sentimate surrounding the Flyers’ defensive situation is that Matt Carle should be shopped due to his price tag ($2.9 million) and Alberts should be retained. The expected third pairing of Randy Jones and Carle is not very appetizing, but increasingly likely. Alberts made $1.2 million last year and will be looking for a raise that could net him close to $2 million, depending on the market for defenseman.
Other Flyers’ free agents include Josh Gratton, Marty Biron and Antero Niittymaki. Gratton may look to become a fourth-line guy somewhere in the league, despite the fact that the Flyers enjoy his depth in the system. Biron is rumored to be in heavy talks with the Colorado Avalanche, which would be a good fit for him. Biron fired his agent after talks broke down with the Flyers and Ray Emery was brought into Philly as Marty’s replacement.
The interesting name in that list is former back up goaltender Niittymaki, who is looked at around the league as damaged goods. Because of that, he would likely sign for $1 million or less than his previous cap hit of $1.25. Antero does have a child and may want to stay in the area, however, do the Flyers want damaged goods in the vital back up role? If Niitty can’t find a suitor in the NHL, he will probably return to Europe to play.
Although many believe the Flyers will be quiet during this free agent period, don’t be so sure. If Philly loses a 30-goal scorer in Knuble, they will most certainly look to replace him in a creative and aggressive fashion. That’s just Holmgren’s style.