The first day of free agency is an exciting day for hockey fans, who hope their team makes a big splash and addresses its needs by signing the best fits possible. The cash-strapped Philadelphia Flyers, on the other hand, barely made a ripple.
With a defensive corps that features a 37-year-old Mark Streit, an oft-injured Carlo Colaiacovo and underacheivers Luke Schenn and Andrew MacDonald, Philadelphia general manager Ron Hextall sat and watched a number of players that could have helped his club sign with other teams.
Some likely were too expensive for the Flyers. Mike Green signed a three-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings worth $18 million and Paul Martin inked a four-year deal with the San Jose Sharks that will pay him $4.85 million per season.
Those monetary figures were reported by TSN, which also had Andrej Sekera’s six-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers worth $33 million and Francois Beauchemin’s three-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche at $13.5 million. But there were several defensemen who received contracts that would be considered affordable for Philadelphia.
Veteran Barret Jackman joined the Nashville Predators for two years and $4 million while John Moore inked a three-year, $5 million deal with the New Jersey Devils. The Vancouver Canucks spent a total of $3.25 million on one-year contracts for Yannick Weber and Matt Bartkowski, while the Winnipeg Jets re-signed Adam Pardy to a one-year deal for $1 million.
Sure, those names aren’t the sexiest in the league, but they were signed on the cheap, and the reward would have far outweighed the risk for the Flyers. Instead, Hextall brought in Davis Drewiske.
Undrafted out of the University of Wisconsin, Drewiske signed with Los Angeles in 2008 and has appeared in 135 games with the Kings and Montreal Canadiens. The 30-year-old, who hasn’t played in the NHL since 2012-13, has recorded five goals and 20 assists.
Drewiske, along with journeyman center Tim Brent, was signed to a one-year, two-way contract. Philadelphia also inked right wing Chris Conner to a two-year, two-way deal.
“We added a little bit of skill up front and a couple smart players who have played quite a few games up top,” Hextall told reporters. “We needed some depth, we need some guys to make us a better team at the minor-league level as well as options when players get hurt.”
Hextall’s biggest addition was goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who according to Sportsnet, signed a two-year contract that will pay him $1.5 million in 2015-16 and $1.75 million the following season. The 27-year-old Czech gives the Flyers a credible backup and a fine insurance policy should Steve Mason continue to be injury-prone.
“One of the attractive things for us with (Neuvirth) is, if something happens to (Mason), he’d have to carry the load, and he’s done that in the past,” Hextall said. “We think we brought in a real good goalie that’s going to give us a real solid backup. I’m sure he’s going to play more than the typical backup.”
A second-round pick of Washington in 2006, Neuvirth owns a 66-63-17 record with seven shutouts and a 2.73 goals-against average in 168 career games with the Capitals, Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders. He also is 4-5 with one blanking and a 2.30 GAA in 10 playoff contests.
The Flyers have approximately $4.5 million remaining in salary-cap space, which likely won’t be enough to attract a free agent such as Johnny Oduya but could help in re-signing restricted free agent blue-liner Michael Del Zotto. Hextall feels no urgency to get the deal done, however.
“There’s no hurry here,” he said. “They’re not in a hurry, we’re not in a hurry. … We’ll sit down there when things settle down in the next few days or the middle of this month and hopefully get something done, or keep working on it.”
Hextall may not be in a hurry, but after 40 years without a Stanley Cup championship, Flyers fans certainly are.