The Philadelphia Flyers raised some eyebrows when they offered over $160 million to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Flyers fans like myself had no illusions that they could sign both of these leading free agents, and were even weary about getting one of them. However, if the Pittsburgh Penguins got Parise or if the New Jersey Devils resigned him, it might have hurt Philadelphia even more.
Yet that won't be a problem anymore, as Parise has not only left the Devils and the Atlantic Division, he has left the entire Eastern Conference. Both Parise and Suter decided to join forces with the Minnesota Wild instead, as they got deals that more than surpassed the ones the Flyers, Penguins and Devils offered.
Both of them will receive 13-year, $98 million contracts that make the Wild relevant for the first time since their inception. They are the Western Conference's problem now, whereas the East no longer has to worry about Parise. And although the Flyers didn't get him, they have to feel lucky that the Penguins and Devils didn't.
New Jersey's quest to repeat as conference champions has now gotten harder, in spite of getting Martin Brodeur back for two more years. As for Pittsburgh, Parise was supposed to be the final piece of the puzzle that got it back to the Stanley Cup. After all, the Penguins were blown out by the Flyers in the playoffs just before Parise helped New Jersey blow Philadelphia out.
With the Penguins and Devils slightly easier to deal with now, the Flyers can now go for another big player and come out further ahead. Of course, while Philadelphia was driving up the price for Parise and Suter, it lost Jaromir Jagr to the Dallas Stars. Perhaps the Flyers need to take care of their current players first - particularly Matt Carle and the high price he may command.
Parise and Suter were holding up the entire free agent market before they joined the Wild, so now the dominos should start falling soon enough. If they fell in the direction of Pittsburgh and New Jersey, it would have been an ominous start for Philadelphia. But the Flyers can breathe a sigh of relief, as they won't have to regroup as severely as the Penguins and Devils.
Maybe not making a splash is more of a relief, since Philadelphia made a lot of moves last summer and lived to regret some big ones. This time, the Flyers likely won't do anything as big as sign Ilya Bryzgalov and send away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter - then see it all blow up in their face in the playoffs. Yet seeing the Devils get weaker and the Penguins fail to get stronger may be reward enough.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and a Flyers fan since the age of eight.
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