We are less than 48 hours away from the opening bell sounding for free agency in the NHL, and the Flyers have yet to reach a pact with Matt Carle.
As Tim Panaccio reported on Thursday, it looks like the defenseman will be testing the market. While talks are said to be continuous and amicable, and Carle's agent was forthcoming about his client's wish to stay in Philadelphia, the door was left wide open for a quick escape. Here's Kurt Overhardt:
“We continue to talk to them but I wouldn’t be surprised if he is available on July 1. But we’re going to continue to talk to the Flyers. Just move forward accordingly.”
According to Panotch, management prefers Carle's cap hit is not in excess of $5 million. However, there are reasons to believe he will get a significantly better offer after July 1. Opinions on Carle's value vary greatly, and the fact is the free agent pool is not exactly teeming with quality blue-liners.
After trading Washington for his rights, the Calgary Flames agreed to terms with D-man Dennis Wideman on a five-year, $26.25 million deal on Wednesday. You can bet Carle and his agent noticed. It's believed this type of deal may be just the starting point for a player of Carle's caliber once he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
In the eyes of many Flyers fans, Carle had an up-and-down season in 2011-12, and that's putting it mildly. Some don't want to see him back in Orange and Black at any price. Polarizing as he is though, the front office is in a bit of a pickle. Defense was their chief concern for much of last season, and while the issue was addressed to an extent with the acquisition of Luke Schenn, losing Carle likely would undo much of that progress.
Even if you honestly believe it would be addition by subtraction, failure to sign or supplant Carle equates to further reliance on an oft-injured, aging veteran like Andreas Lilja, or Adirondack's finest: Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson.
Still, the Flyers are probably in the right by not making it rain for Matt Carle. They can negotiate into free agency, and if at that point somebody comes along and makes Carle a rich(er) man, so be it. Even in this barren market, he's not quite an irreplaceable player -- even though who they would get to replace him remains an unsolved mystery.