It's finally upon us. The day many of us consider to be the most exciting offseason event. Free agent signing day. It rivals Christmas, Thanksgiving, and your birthday all rolled into one. Let's take a look at where the Flyers stand coming into free agent Friday.
What can the Flyers expect from the free agent frenzy today?
The Flyers currently have a glaring weakness in their top 9. With Ville Leino in limbo, and the talks not progressing smoothly, it gives the franchise a number of options. Obviously, Leino is the main target of the Flyers given his chemistry with linemates Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell. Reports are that Leino is looking for somewhere in the neighborhood of $4M. With Brooks Laich locking up a deal for around the same ticket price, Leino probably isn't far off from what he will get. The problem is I'm not sure the Flyers are willing to pay that much. So sans Leino, what other options do the Flyers have?
Erik Cole- The 6'2" 205lb winger could be a real viable option for the orange and black. He brings size, grit, and blazing speed to the table. The Flyers were extremely interested in Cole at the trade deadline last year, and obviously, their interest is still there. Cole made 3 Million last year and will likely fetch around the same price on the open market. The main drawback with Cole is his injury problems. Last season was the first in Cole's career that he played all 82 games. In fact, the 32-year-old played just 57 games in the previous two seasons combined. I think Cole is worth the risk. If he can remain healthy, he can bring a ton of upside to the city of brotherly love.
Michael Ryder- Ryder had a very strong playoffs during the Bruins cup run this past season. The 6'0" 186lb right wing put up 17 points in 25 games. This put him on many teams radar as he is set to be an UFA today. Ryder had a 3 year deal worth $4M per season. I would expect him to look for a similar deal to his previous contract with the Boston Bruins. Ryder has vision and creativity and could plug the Leino sized hole very nicely. He is definitely another name to keep and eye on.
Jamie Langenbruner- The 6'1" 200lb former captain, was all but a Flyer at the deadline last season. There were several reports that the 35-year-old right wing was a member of the Flyers. Alas, he moved on to the Dallas Stars. Coming off his most disappointing season of his career, the elder statesman will be looking to right the ship in '11-'12. Langenbrunner has gone on record stating he would like to go to a team that is built to win now. He will ikely be looking for a multi-year deal. Despite managing just 9 goals and 23 assists in 70 games last saeason, the Duluth Minnesota native brings the intangibles. He is a leader, and more importantly, he is a winner. Have Jamie on your radar during the madness today.
And last but not least, drumroll please...........
Jaromir Jagr- Yes, that Jaromir Jagr. After putting up eye popping numbers at the World Championships, the 39-year-old winger has become more than just a blip on the screen. He is looking to make a full fledged return to the NHL. Many speculated that the Czechoslovakia native would sign with the Penguins. However, due to some interest from other teams, including the Flyers, he has decided to wait until the market opens. Jagr has size, 6'3" 243, and amazing puck control skills. He is a power play specialist, and could drastically improve the Flyers struggling power from a year ago. As much as I despised Jagr in his hay day, he could be a solid addition to the Flyers. I would accept a Jagr signing as long as GM Paul Holmgren includes a "mullet" clause. Jagr would be required to grow and maintain his trademark mullet, or the contract becomes null and void. In all seriousness, Jagr is definitely on the Flyers board, and should be on yours to keep an eye on.
Despite being out of the running for the prized Steven Stamkos, the Flyers will still be major players come noon today. Leino will be their number one priority, but don't be surprised if one of these names throws on the flying p come October. I, for one, would welcome any of these additions. They can all fill the top 9 RW void we have if Leino decides to take his talents to South Beach, or anywhere else for that matter.
So I invite you to sit back, crack open an ice cold brewski, and enjoy the madness. After all, we look forward to this day all offseason, and it seems to be over in a flash. Happy Canada day!