In a shocking turn of events, Flyers Defenseman Matt Carle will be testing Free Agency come July 1st. His agent, Kurt Overhardt said he wouldn’t be “surprised” if his client had not been signed come Sunday. The move comes as a complete shock to most, as many had reported both sides had a hand shake agreement that would come to fruition on the first day of Free Agency. That may have been true, until the Dennis Wideman trade made on June 27th. Washington, who owned Wideman’s negotiating rights, traded them to the Calgary Flames, and he immediately signed a 5 year, $26.25 million contract.
Matt Carle must have been licking his chops when he heard Wideman was receiving $5.25 million a season, and decided to push for Free Agency. Carle played all 82 games last season (the only Flyers Defenseman to do so), and had 38 points; most teams would have him rated as the second best UFA Defenseman behind Ryan Suter. With many teams in desperate need for a top tier D-man, the Alaskan native may have seen this as an opportunity to cash in on a contract near $6 million per season. Philadelphia valued him more between $4.5-5 million.
But, this does not mean Carle will not return. Overhardt went on to say that the 27 year old Carle is “still very interested in remaining a Flyer” (quotes courtesy of CSN’s Tim Panaccio). But once he hits the open market, anything goes.
Luckily, Philadelphia was able to acquire 22 year old D Luke Schenn from Toronto in exchange from James Van Riemsdyk, and that acquisition gives the Flyers a little more depth. However, along with learning of Carle’s plans, the Flyers also learned they will be not be in the running for stud NCAA Defenseman Justin Schultz. A former Anaheim Ducks draft pick, the sides were unable to work out a deal after he left the University of Wisconsin, and he was granted free agency. But after speaking with his agents, GM Paul Holmgren learned his team was not on Schultz’s shortlist.
If Philadelphia is unable to resign the 27 year old , it will be a massive blow to their Defensive corps. His 18:39 TOI was the highest on the Flyers, and 26th highest in the league. With Kimmo Timonen vastly approaching the end of his career, and the injury concerns of Andrej Meszaros, Carle was supposed to the Flyers top guy for years to come.
Now those plans seem to have changed.
There will be plenty of suitors for Carle’s services. Detroit, who has a hole left from Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement, Colorado, who have no top Defenseman (and may lose Shane O’Brien) could be front runners in a “Carle sweepstakes”.
Other teams that could be interested are the losers for Justin Schultz, although Carle would be a much more expensive option than Schultz. The teams confirmed on Schultz’s list are New York Rangers, Toronto, and Ottawa, but Edmonton and Vancouver seem to be the front runners.
The pickings at Defenseman are slim if Philadelphia cannot get their guy. Some options that could be available: Florida’s Jason Garrison and Carolina’s Bryan Allen. Garrison played 77 games with the Panthers last season, scoring 16 goals and 17 assists, and posted a +6. He’s in line for a massive pay raise, making only $700,000 in 2012. The downfall to Garrison is that he’s a left handed shot, but can still run the offense from the point. The 31 year old Allen played all 82 games last season, netting just 1 goal to go with 13 assists. However, it was the first time he had played 70 games in 3 years, as he has large health concerns.
A less likely option, the Flyers could turn their attention back to restricted Free Agent Shea Weber. Philadelphia has shown interest in Weber since the trade deadline, as he seems ready to leave Nashville. GM Paul Holmgren said at the draft the team was not planning on sending the star Defenseman an offer sheet, but the Flyers defensive situation has changed since then. According to CapGeek.com, the Flyers have more than $11 million in cap space, and will have more than $16 million once Chris Pronger is placed on the LTIR.
If Philadelphia was interested, they could send Weber’s camp an offer that could be quite hard for the Nashville Predators to match.
With the first day of Free Agency just right around the corner, it promises to live up to the hype.
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