Claude Giroux, Jeff Carter and Ville Leino were the top three upcoming free agents for the Flyers at the beginning of the season. With Giroux and Carter signing on the dotted line with cap friendly contracts, there is only Leino left.
Flyers fans should not worry about the Finnish winger being resigned though. With his success with linemates Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell, it is unlikely he would want to test the free agent market. Likewise, the Flyers are determined to keep that line, their best line, together. Leino and his agent have already met with Flyers management in preliminary discussions.
Leino has been brilliant this year, especially taking into consideration he is coming off-season hip surgery. Leino has great vision along with a big body to shield the puck as he waits for the perfect pass. Leino has 15 points in 17 games this year, 12 of them assists. Given his age, 27, and his numbers this year and last playoffs Leino could find himself with a deal in the 3 million dollar a year range. Which I am sure fans and management would be willing to agree to.
But this deal may come later rather than sooner. With Giroux and Carter signing, the Flyers have just under 2 million in cap space for next year. The current NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement bars teams to go over the cap number of the current season, for the next season. In plainer terms, the Flyers can not commit anymore than this season's cap ceiling ($59.4million) to next season during this season's play. So unless Leino signs for a cap hit of under 2 million a year, Ville, the Flyers, and their fans will have to wit until some trades are made until they can make a deal fair for both sides.
I fully expect a deal done prior to the conclusion to the season, and I would even say before playoffs. For this to happen, the Flyers will have to clear probably another $2 million in cap to secure Leino's new contract. I would suspect that once Leighton and Walker are healthy, one or both of them will be offered around.
With Bobrovsky playing well and most likely hitting his contract bonuses, his cap hit will be slightly higher than Leighton's. It would make very little sense to keep Leighton as backup when he would have more trade value than Boucher and a higher cap hit than him also. Boucher has shown he is a capable back up and if need be, Backlund is available too. Walker is most likely the 8th defensemen for the club, and with a cap hit of 1.7 for a few more years, is not an optimum fit. His replacement could be Marc-Andre Bourdon or Erik Gustafsson. They had impressive training camps and could easily jump up from the Phantoms and be effective players for the Flyers.Depending on the dollars coming back in the deals, Walker and Leighton could bring back a piece to add to the team now and allow the Flyers the wiggle room for that loopy Collective Bargaining rule to extend Leino.
So Flyers fans be patient as it will most likely be a few weeks or months before Leino gets a contract. But he will get one!