Each day from now until July 1, the day free agency begins, Sarah Baicker and Tim Riday will profile some of the NHL's top impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Flyers.
Mark Fayne, defenseman
Last team: New Jersey Devils
2013-14 cap hit: $1.3 million
Fayne has been quietly working his way up the Devils' defensive ladder. In recent years, he's played behind players like Andy Greene, Marek Zidlicky, Anton Volchenkov and Eric Gelinas. To the casual hockey fan, Fayne won't stand out. He's not flashy and his point totals won't jump off the page. But he's proved he's more than capable of playing big minutes. He can move the puck efficiently and can handle his own on both sides of the ice.
Fayne's greatest asset is his size. He is very sound in the defensive zone, but needs to take better advantage of his physical gifts. As for special teams, Fayne won't contribute much on the power play, but he's greatly improved his play while a man down.
Fayne has the size, sure. But what makes him compelling for the Flyers' needs is that he's young and he's got the puck-movement ability, too. Here's the thing, though -- the Flyers are doing OK on defense, as far as midrange players go. They could really use top-pairing guy and also, perhaps, a player to flesh out the bottom-tier of their defensive corps (unless they bring up a prospect like Shayne Gostisbehere -- but that's a story for another time). Fayne isn't either guy. He will be affordable, which is good for the Flyers' needs, and he could easily fit in here based on what I saw of his game with the Devils. Would he improve the Flyers' defense as it currently stands? Maybe. But he doesn't necessarily fill their needs to a T.
I really like Fayne's game. He reminds of Braydon Coburn a bit. After watching him play on New Jersey's top pairing with Greene last season, it appears Fayne is ready for an expanded role. He brought out the best in Greene, who potted eight goals and picked up 24 assists while Fayne handled most of the dirty work. New Jersey seems to be higher on youngsters Jon Merrill, Adam Larsson and Gelinas, which is why Fayne will most likely head to free agency. The Flyers have somewhat of a logjam at defense right now, but if they can get Fayne cheap he would be a solid addition. I don't expect Andrew MacDonald, Mark Streit or Coburn to play all 82 games again next season. And the Flyers will probably sit Kimmo Timonen every once and awhile to keep him fresh. Fayne is the type of guy who can step in and not miss a beat. But if he's looking to get first- or second-pairing minutes, Philadelphia won't be an ideal landing spot.