Monday, June 18, 2007

Flyers don't wait for July 1

The Philadelphia Flyers have dipped into the free agent market a little early, thanks to the Nashville Predators.

Because of Nashville's uncertain ownership future and an expected tight budget in the coming year, sources tell TSN the Predators arranged with the Flyers to give them exclusive negotiating rights to two coveted free agents — defenceman Kimmo Timonen and forward Scott Hartnell.

Sources tell TSN the Flyers have now signed both Hartnell and Timonen to long-term contracts.
The sell off begins — and a lot earlier than many expected.

This sort of insider trading, where the Flyers merely flip the Predators back their first-round pick, is going to rankle more than a few NHL GMs, and you wonder if this will ignite a pre-free agency frenzy whereby much of the top talent is lifted before hitting the open market.

One thing's for certain: Timonen and Hartnell didn't come at a discount. Both receive six-year deals at the same sort of coin they would have received as UFAs, with 25-year-old Hartnell getting $25.2-million and Timonen signing on into old age for $37.8-million.

Unreal.

I knew the Flyers were poised for a huge splash this off-season given their available cap space and a high-end budget, but who could have imagined it would come this quickly? And does this indicate Nashville's intention to deal all of its assets in an attempt to tank next season?

Not quite, especially considering the pair were both going to be lost for nothing in a few weeks' time, but you can be sure the Predators are going to be fielding more than a few phone calls between now and then.

UPDATE As an aside, how impressive has the tenure of Paul Holmgren been in the Flyers' GM chair? He unloaded all of the team's big-ticket items for strong return in terms of prospects, and looks like a genius here scooping up two of most sought-after free agents while other managers were asleep at the wheel.

Philadelphia will likely be a playoff team this coming season, and with another big UFA addition, could be a contender relatively soon.

Make no mistake, this team is still in the Daniel Briere/Scott Gomez sweepstakes, and with some of the Flyers' young talent sure to improve over last season, I expect them to surprise in the standings.

How quickly things change...

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23 Comments:

At 3:07 PM, June 18, 2007, Blogger Bethany said...

That is insane!!!!! I can't believe this.

 
At 3:30 PM, June 18, 2007, Anonymous cjl said...

I don't get this. What do Timonen and Hartnell gain by signing with Philly when they'd be UFAs in less than two weeks?

(Is Hartnell a UFA or RFA?)

 
At 3:36 PM, June 18, 2007, Anonymous David Johnson said...

I hope the Flyers enjoy paying Timonen $6.3 million when he is 38 and playing like Teppo Numinen.

Hartnell was going to be a UFA I believe. I think he was set to be the first 25 year old UFA ever.

Timonen and Hartnell don't gain anything by signing now rather than in 2 weeks except that they now know where they are going to be and don't have to get worried about the game of musical teams and where they may end up on July 2nd. Plus it was unlikely that they were going to get any more money anywhere else than what they got from the Flyers which was quite a lot.

 
At 3:40 PM, June 18, 2007, Anonymous pete said...

I hope the Flyers enjoy paying Timonen $6.3 million when he is 38 and playing like Teppo Numinen

I would have gone with "like Derian Hatcher" myself, but that would've been a little too on mean-spirited.

Plus, yours is alliterative.

 
At 3:42 PM, June 18, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

Wow. $6.3m for about 3-4 years of likely declining hockey, Holmgren. He's toing to be painted a genius for this move in scooping up 2 of the top UFA's before everyone else, but that's just ridiculous.

A friend of mine on another message board made this remark:

"Quote from: Dan Boyle
'Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeackpot!'"

 
At 3:44 PM, June 18, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Snider and Mr. Holmgren,
Thank you for ensuring the financial well being of future generations of the Souray family.

Regards, Sheldon and Angelica.

 
At 3:47 PM, June 18, 2007, Anonymous David Johnson said...

I chose Numminen because they are both Finnish and Numminen was a similar player - good skater and playmker but not physical. Hatcher is big, physical but slow. In many ways Timonen is the anti-Hatcher.

 
At 3:51 PM, June 18, 2007, Blogger Kel said...

I wonder if Timonen has already promised the Flyers to retire a few seasons before his contract ends. Because he's only 31 when he signed this multi-year deal, Flyers takes the cap hit ($6.3M per is about market rate for a #1 D) only if Timonen is on the roster. Even if he retires earlier than his contract expires, the Flyers won't be penalized in terms of cap space. A potential loophole for sure, but we will have to wait a few years before finding out whether the Flyers will be able to take advantage of it, which requires Timonen's cooperation.

 
At 3:56 PM, June 18, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

Kel, I guess if it's a front loaded contract (years 1-3 pay way more than 4-6) that could be the idea.

 
At 4:08 PM, June 18, 2007, Anonymous Frank said...

Here is Philly's roster for next year:
Forwards:
(L) Gagne (5.25)
(C) Gomez (6.5) to be signed
(R) Hartnell (4.2)

(L) Sanderson (1.5)
(C) Umberger (1.15)
(R) Knuble (2.8)

(L) Upshall (1.25)
(C) Carter (.95)
(R) Kapinen (1.25)

(L) Afenasenkov (.9)
(C) Richards (.95)
(R) Ruzicka (.75)

Eager (.6), Fedoruk / Enforcer (.5)

Defence

Timonen (6.3) and Hatcher (3.5)
Pitkanen (2.5) and Gauthier (2.1)
Kukkonen (.68) and Jones (.53)
Rathje (3.5)

Goal

Biron (3.5) and Nittymaki (1.23)

Buyouts and Waiver Payments

Stevenson (.42)and Baumgartner (.6)

TOTAL CAP HIT 07/08 = 53.4 million

To get under the $50 million cap Holmgren will likely do a Lou Lamerillo move and keep Rathje on long term injury for all of next year or move him to the AHL and pay him there. Philly is rich enough to "eat" this extra salary.

So all Holgrem has to do now is sign Gomez on July 1, and sign a few of the RFAs and he's done for the year.

He's done a great job retooling the Flyers. Their top two lines will be big, tough and talented, with a good third checking line, and lots of young offensive talent.

Biron and Nittymaki will give them good goal tending.

Timonen will be the defensive quarterback on the power play they have been looking for. However, the rest of their defence is questionable and will be their big vulnerability.

 
At 4:57 PM, June 18, 2007, Blogger Paul Nicholson said...

Philly - congrats.

David Poile does a good job as GM, getting something for nothing. He gets back the pick from the Forsberg trade and gives up essentially nothing for it.

This is going to make selling those 14,000 seats a lot harder though.

This is just getting to be one huge frustrating mess here in Nashvegas.

 
At 5:22 PM, June 18, 2007, Blogger sager said...

Tell me this wasn't worked out at the time of the Forsberg trade... what is this, the CFL?

 
At 6:03 PM, June 18, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

I don't see how they'll get one of the top UFA C's, James. There's a lot of teams now with a lot more cap space than the Flyers to get one of them. Maybe they should aim lower on a Zubrus or Nylander type.

I spin this differently. They overpaid for both these guys in terms of money and term. They overpaid in terms of money for Biron. They had to give up a 1st and a 2nd for players that could've been had as UFAs. While I'm impressed with how determined Holmgren is, he's still got some work to do.

One more move from a contender? Balderdash. He only has a shot at a playoff spot now because the East has 3-4 spots permanently up for grabs. This team is, at best, the 4th team in their division, firmly behind the Devils, Rangers, and Penguins.

 
At 6:17 PM, June 18, 2007, Anonymous Kevin Forbes said...

saskhab,

It doesn't matter if it is front-loaded when dealing with cap hit. The cap hit is the same each year and is the average of the deal over the course of the length of the contract.

 
At 6:34 PM, June 18, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

I know the cap hit is the same, but the point might be that Timmonen will retire early if he can't keep up. He'll have been paid most of his money by then, and the Flyers get a lower cap hit when he is there then what they were willing to pay.

If he retires at 36 and goes back to Finland, he gets about 75-80% of his contract value but the Flyers only get dinged for 67% of it against the cap.

For contracts signed before age 35, it doesn't count against the cap if a player retires early.

 
At 6:57 PM, June 18, 2007, Anonymous Lyle Richardson said...

Holmgren's gonna have to dump some salary to comfortably afford Briere/Gomez...unless the cap does go to $52 million.

 
At 8:28 PM, June 18, 2007, Anonymous Frank said...

James, forget about Briere for Philly's first line centre, Holmgren is only interested in Gomez.

Holmgren likes his first line centres big and tough, and Briere is small and soft. Gomez has about 4 inches and 30 pounds on Briere and Gomez has no problem in going into the "danger" zones and taking physical punishment to make a play.

Once Gomez is free of the Jersey defensive game, and has Gagne to work with, his assists and goals will rise dramatically.

Holmgren will pay whatever it takes to get Gomez - even up to $7 million for 7 years. I know Vancouver is also interested in Gomez and are trying to unload Morrison and Ohlund to free up cap space. To get teams to take these salaries they are willing to include top prospects Schneider and Bourdon. If this deal gets done before July 1, watch for a bidding war for Gomez between Vancouver and Philly.

Gomez would like to go to Vancouver instead of Philly because its closer to his family in Alaska and he played his junior there. Also, he doesn't want to have to play 8 regular season and playoff games each year against his buddies in New Jersey and Lou Lam, who he has great respect for.

However, if Philly offers $7 million no other team is likely to match and Gomez will go to Philly. If he has to Holmgren will also dump Hatcher along with Rathje in trades - or "eat" their salaries in the minors - to free up the cap space.

If you talk to pro scouts they had Timonen rated as the top defenceman UFA. While Souray has a better shot, Timonen is a better "quarterback" on the powerplay, and is way better defensively. Hartnell was the top rated Right Winger, and has huge upside potential. Gomez is second only to Drury . Therefore it looks like Holmgren is "cleaning up" on the UFAs.

 
At 11:00 PM, June 18, 2007, Anonymous Lyle Richardson said...

Frank:

First of all, the Canucks aren't shopping Morrison and Ohlund. That was an internet hoax which claimed Darren Dreger reported "three insiders" claiming the Canucks were trying to move them to move up in the draft. I contacted Dreger and he informed me that was "absolutely false". Nonis isn't planning on moving Ohlund, and Morrison's trade value is low right now as he's had two straight years of surgery (hip last year, abdominal this year).

Gomez has never indicated any desire to play in Vancouver, or anywhere in the Western Conference for that matter. Doesn't mean that he won't sign with a team in that conference, but given the Canucks limited payroll they won't be bidding for Gomez unless they can dump considerable salary first, which is easier said than done before July 1st.

Even then, there's no guarantee they could win a bidding war for Gomez and could end up out a key center and arguably their most important defenceman for nothing.

You're also wrong about no team matching a $7 million offer from the Flyers. The NY Rangers are believed quite interested in Gomez and will push hard for him if they're unable to re-sign Michael Nylander. With just over $27 million committed to 13 players, trust me, the Rangers have the cap space.

They're not the only team interested and with more cap space than the Flyers right now. The Montreal Canadiens could also make a pitch as they too have available space. The Washington Capitals have the most available cap space of any NHL team right now and have promised Alexander Ovechkin and their fans that they'd bring in some veteran help this summer. Out West, the Edmonton Oilers also have considerable cap space, and hey! They're close to Alaska too!

Also, you claim that Gomez would rather play for Vancouver where he wouldn't have to face his former team. So why then would he sign with the Flyers thus guaranteeing he'll face the Devils eight times a year?

You then claim that the Flyers could trade or demote Hatcher and Rathje to the minors to clear salary. Wouldn't such a move (especially the latter) leave a big hole on their defence corps?

I'll be the first to admit that anything's possible but your scenarios aren't that plausible.

 
At 11:38 PM, June 18, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With so much speculation regarding what the salary cap will be next year, will the NHL be releasing those figures before July 1st? Because the way I see it, you're not likely to see something like what the Bruins did last year in stocking up on Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara within the first twelve hours of free agency if GMs don't even know what their cap limit is.

 
At 12:55 AM, June 19, 2007, Anonymous Matt Gunn said...

Holmgren is paying some huge money for these players, and quite a bit more than they're worth as far as I'm concerned.

I understand in order to get the top UFA players, you have to overpay, but $6.3 mil for Timonen? And $4.2 for an essentially unproven Hartnell?

Seems pretty ridiculous to me.

 
At 8:37 AM, June 19, 2007, Anonymous Lyle Richardson said...

I expect the cap figures will be officially released before July 1st. It wouldn't surprise me if the teams have already been informed what they would be.

 
At 11:18 AM, June 19, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

John Ferguson said on local radio that the final cap figure will be known before July 1, and likely in the next week or so.

 
At 3:04 PM, June 19, 2007, Blogger mike said...

Actually Gomez has only a one-inch height superiority to Briere, and outweighs him by nineteen lbs.

But then who's counting? It's the offseason exaggeration mill....

 

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