Gagne Begins Looking Elsewhere

From the moment free agency began, Paul Holmgren has been on a signing frenzy.  Rumors swirled and everyone knew something had to give.  Names like Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter popped up most frequently in trade rumors, along with a few others.

And with the latest signings of Nik Zherdev and Dan Carcillo pushing the Flyers $2.5 million over the cap, it seems inevitable that someone has to go.

On ESPN.com, they are reporting Gagne’s agent, Bob Sauve, has been given permission by the Flyers to talk to other teams. With a no-trade clause in his contract, Gagne has the opportunity to choose where he will wind-up next season.

There are several teams that could be in the market for his world-class skills.  Gagne is a gifted left-wing sniper, who is as good in his own zone as he is on offense.  He plays power-play, penalty kill, and he’s a go to guy for the closing seconds of key games.  He can be a benefit to any playoff bound team going into the 2010-11 season.  However, his $5.25 million dollar salary and oft-injured 30-year-old body may hamper his chances in some cities.

Although, it’s impossible to speculate on where he would like to go, it is possible to speculate on which teams might be a good fit.

The Los Angeles Kings are the obvious first choice, since they have already given Gagne a look and he’d be a great fit to play alongside Anze Kopitar.  This would also be a bonus for Gagne as the Kings are a team on the rise and possibly a cup contender next season.  Adding him to the roster could only help their efforts.  The Flyers could benefit in this deal by squeezing them out of a young goaltender like Jonathan Bernier, but such a deal would probably require the Flyers to surrender additional assets.

All this falls through, however, if the Kings somehow sign the illusive Ilya Kovalchuk.  When working the Kovalchuk deal, remember this LA, for all of his goals Kovalchuk has never been out of the first round of the playoffs, while Gagne’s return from foot surgery was game four against Boston.  It sounds like a win for everyone.

The Atlanta Thrashers may not be a cup contending team next season, but last season they were young and talented, only missing the playoffs by five key points.  Evander Kane could use an experience veteran to get him moving in the right direction, and imagine a top line that boasts, Kane, Nik Antropov, and Gagne.  They’re a team with strong goaltending and a decent defense.  With some better goal scoring and a few role players, they could develop into a cup contender in a few years.

What could the Flyers expect in return?  Not much besides draft picks.

Imagine where the Thrashers would have been last season without a vacuum at left-wing.  Maybe they would have qualified for the playoffs on the last day.

The Phoenix Coyotes went into last season bankrupt and looking like the league’s goat, but behind the leadership of their captain, Shane Doan and new bench boss Dave Tippett, they made an interesting playoff run, losing after a tough battle with the Red Wings.  The Coyotes have strong goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov, a promising outlook, and a lot of cap space.  If the right pieces fall into the desert, Jobing.com Arena could be working well into the blazing summer heat.

What could Phoenix offer the Flyers in return?  The Coyotes have a couple of young goaltenders, Al Montoya and Matt Climie, who could offer the Flyers promise for the future.

The Colorado Avalanche stumbled at the end of last season behind young starter Craig Anderson.  If his consistency improves down the home stretch, the Avalanche could be a team deep in the playoffs.  And a youngster like Paul Stastny would only get better with Gagne on his wing.  The problem is they don’t have much to offer the Flyers in return besides some late draft picks.

The Montreal Canadiens surprised everyone by defeating the President’s Trophy winners and the defending Stanley Cup Champs before losing steam against the Flyers.  This off-season they’ve retained most of last year’s team.  Adding some goal scoring depth could improve their chances, as Michael Cammalleri might need some help next season.

The Canadiens don’t have much room under the salary cap, but if they move a few things around they could afford him.  On the bright side, Gagne speaks the language.  What can they offer the Flyers?  Not much besides late draft picks or future “maybe” talent.

There are a few other teams he could consider, but these five make the most sense.  The Kovalchuk gridlock will keep a final decision from being made, but either way Gagne will most likely have a new home next season, and certainly all the Philly fans wish him the best.

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