Well the hour is finally almost here. At noon today, the NHL will open free agency, which is a welcome relief for fans who have sifted through countless speculative reports ranging from 'obvious maybes' to headline-heavy/reality-light big-name web traffic grabbers. When summer started early for the Flyers, we gave the reasons we wouldn't be getting too deep into all the possibilities, which can be summarized as: Through our many hockey hot stove seasons here in Philly, we've learned that (A) the Flyers are annually among the teams linked to seemingly every available player, and (B) far fewer reports correctly predict the major moves they do end up making before their announcement. To try to address every rumor... It just seems like a waste of our time and yours. And this is coming from someone who knows how to waste some time.
This week was dominated by countless Steven Stamkos-Flyers reports and even more "updates," ranging from their intentions to send him an offer sheet to "no way they'll go after him" (sometimes coming from he same building). The latter—the obvious endpoint to most observers—seems to have been true, and a lot of time and carefully hedged wording was spent on a player who won't be in Philly unless he's wearing a dark jersey. After the Stamkos dream died, we even got a Jaromir Jagr report that fizzled out hours later. 'Tis the season, and the reporters have a job to do, with inches to fill every day. It's not an easy time of year for them either, with multiple people in their ears for a variety of reasons, some of them self-serving. It's hard to decide on the newsworthiness of "possible" vs. "probable."
Meanwhile, the reality check of the season came when both Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were dealt in rapid succession—a combination no news outlet had as a real possibility until it was already done (at least not that I saw). It was another great reminder that teams are keeping their biggest plans so close to the vest that even a bombshell of that magnitude doesn't leak; meanwhile, we have days of Stamkos coverage that goes nowhere.
That's the NHL pre-free agency period in a nutshell, and it continues once the market opens until pen actually hits paper.
But, after the clock strikes noon today, we'll actually get some real signing news trickling through, although there will still be a ton of volume on the "possible signings" front.
As usual, the Flyers will be active, needing to fill a few holes. They're a determined and fast-moving group when it comes to nabbing the players they covet, so there's a good chance we could have a signing or two today. Jagr? Ville Leino? Brad Richards? Michal Handzus? Simon Gagne? Erik Cole? Jamie Langenbrunner? [insert random free agent]?
We honestly have no idea, and we're not gonna go nuts speculating hard on players who are, by the numbers, more likely to end up elsewhere than here. In a short time, there will be actual signing news to celebrate and pick apart.
At the same time, the biggest moves are likely behind them, with the Richards and Carter deals being about as big as it gets, followed by finally ending the goalie carousel.
Regardless of whether you're in favor of the Ilya Bryzgalov signing, it's at least nice to have a free agency rumor period not be dominated by linking the Flyers to every goalie and his backup. Last summer we were greeted with story after story on the Chris Masons and Dan Ellises of the world, with not a mention of the guy who actually ended up starting the majority of the games for the Orange & Black.
So let this be your free agency open thread. Feel free to weigh in on what you're hearing, your wishlists, anything related to the market that is about to spill over with player movement.