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.
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.
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...