Flyers sign Jagr, continue to shake up team

By JAY BOEHMER
Senior Hockey Insider — jboehmer@highhopesblog.com
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The 39-year-old Jagr, who spent the last three years in Russia's KHL, has signed with the Flyers. (Courtesy Philly.com)

NHL free agency started at noon Friday, and Paul Holmgren didn’t wait long before continuing his streak of wild offseason moves.

The most interesting of these moves was the signing of 39-year-old Jaromir Jagr (yes, that Jaromir Jagr).  The big-bodied, soft-handed forward was three years removed from the NHL when talks began of him returning.  Few expected him to land in Philadelphia.

With a cap hit of $3.3 million, many cried out that the Flyers were overpaying for Jagr.  That is likely true – he probably won’t produce to the extent a contract like that would warrant – but it’s not the Flyers’ fault.

This season, with the salary cap – and more importantly, the cap floor – rising, teams are overspending.

Currently, 12 teams sit below the minimum spending of $48.3 million (nearly $10 million more than the post-lockout salary cap, for reference).  These franchises are simply buying their way into legitimate standing this offseason.  And with that, teams at the upper-end are forced to spend more to survive the bidding wars.

Maybe it had to happen now, but it seems like another offseason, another year, may have yielded better results for the Flyers’ strategy of restructuring the team with new signings after saying goodbye to Carter and Richards.

Free agents are just commanding far too much money right now.

That’s the landscape that has led to signings like Ville Leino’s six years, $27 million for a cap hit of $4.5 million.  The Flyers offered him a more reasonable $3 million, he turned it down.

So with that, the Flyers’ payment for a player like Jagr isn’t unreasonable.

Their other moves for the day included inking Jakub Voracek to a contract extension, signing Max Talbot out of Pittsburgh, signing free agent defenseman Andreas Lilja – an aging one year replacement for the aged Sean O’Donnell – and trading Kris Versteeg.

Max Talbot, a 27-year-old forward, has played both center and wing, and excels at defensive hockey and penalty killing.  Expect him to play as a third line center or fourth line winger.  He won’t play a huge role, but will certainly be interesting to watch.

At the very least, Talbot and Jagr’s signings will make the Flyers’ games against Pittsburgh a bit more exciting.

The Kris Versteeg trade could be the most interesting of the bunch.  Getting back a 2nd and 3rd round picks for a player who cost a 1st and 3rd is a shame, but to be expected.  Versteeg’s departure, however, makes room under the cap for another move.

What kind of move the Flyers are gearing up for is still a mystery.  Some say it could be a big trade, or maybe just another free agent signing – Simon Gagne is still available.

Whatever happens, next year’s team is going to be almost unrecognizable from last year’s.

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