Free Agency Starts Today; Heatley to Edmonton?

The NHL’s free agency period begins today and it will be interesting to see who signs where and for how much.  The Flyers and their rivals will be of special interest to Philadelphia fans and the Flyers have some decisions to make quickly.  First, they would like to re-sign right wing Mike Knuble. Although 37 years of age, he has been a pretty consistent player for the Flyers and has been solid on the power play. With Joffrey Lupul’s trade to Anaheim, it becomes even more crucial that the Flyers ink Knuble.  They also have to consider whether they will re-sign defenseman Andrew Alberts and goalie Antero Niittymaki.  Ideally, they would also sign a centerman who is good at face-offs.  The problem is that they are still right up against the salary cap with only $4.2 million to spend. 

There are several possibilities with the goalie situation.  They could re-sign Niittymaki if they can do it for under $1.5 million – this is all they have marked to spend on the back up goalie.  If Niitymaki wants more than that or if the Flyers decide to go in a different direction, there are three experienced goalies that the Flyers would be interested in – New Jersey’s Scott Clemmensen, Florida’s Craig Anderson, and San Jose’s Brian Boucher (a former Flyer).  Each of the three could probably be had for under $1.5 million.  Clemmensen was great in filling in for Martin Brodeur when he was injured this past season.  Another possibility is that the Flyers could go with rookie Jonas Backlund for less than a million.  That would save money but it may be wise to have a proven NHL-calibre goalie as a back up in case Ray Emery does not pan out as hoped. 

If the Flyers don’t re-sign Knuble or another winger, look for them to try to fill holes with players in their system like Andreas Nodl and James van Riemsdyk.  The Flyers really want JVR to make the team this coming season and will give him a very long look especially if they haven’t signed another forward. 

As for the face-off center, Mike Sillinger of the Islanders and Mike Comrie of Ottawa could be possibilities, but they may not come as cheaply as the Flyers need.  It will be interesting to see how they Flyers try to squeeze their needs under the cap, if they are able to do so. 

The Senators and Oilers have agreed to a trade with Dany Heatley going to Edmonton for forwards Andrew Cogliano and Dustin Penner and defenseman Ladislav Smid.  Heatley must approve this deal because of his no-trade clause.  Supposedly Heatley was due a $4 million payment of front-loaded salary at 12:01 am July 1, but this may be able to be deferred until midnight on July 1.  So, if this deal is going to happen, if would likely be today. I would think the Sens would want to deal him before the payment had to be made.  Other talk has Heatley nixing this deal, so that saga continues.

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