Flyers Sign Jagr, Voracek, and Lilja


By David Strehle
ot Stove Creative Editor

The 2011 free agent season began at noon today, and as has been the case so often in the past, the Philadelphia Flyers were one of the teams to make some noise early on in the process.

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After NHL clubs made several minor signings, GM Paul Holmgren’s signing of 39-year-old winger Jaromir Jagr was announced through the Flyers’ official Twitter account.  The terms of Jagr’s deal were one-year, $3.3 million.

The native of Kladno of the Czech Republic has scored 646 goals and posted 1,599 points in 1,273 NHL games over 18 seasons.  

Jagr won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in his first two years in the league, and had his best offensive season with the Pens during the 1995-96 campaign, when he scored 62 goals and added 87 assists for 149 points.

He last played in the NHL for the New York Rangers during the 2007-08 season, and has been a member of Omsk Avangard of the KHL for the past three years.  He was the club’s leading scorer in two of those three seasons.

Jagr made his desire known that he wanted to return to the NHL and had talks with the Penguins and Detroit Red Wings.  But just prior to the opening of the free agency period at noon, Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero made the announcement that he was pulling his contract offer off the table.  Detroit soon followed suit in pulling their interest in the UFA.

After adding young forwards Jakub Voracek (21), Brayden Schenn (19), and Wayne Simmonds (22) last week via the Carter and Richards trades, Holmgren went the other direction with the signing of Jagr.  But at 39, Jagr still has an elite skill-set.

Head coach Peter Laviolette will have options with how to employ Jagr.  He could have the 6′ 2″, 240-pound winger slide into Ville Leino’s spot on the right side of the Scott Hartnell-Danny Briere line, or he could have him on the right wing on the James van Riemsdyk-Claude Giroux line.

He has superior balance, especially while controlling the puck and holding off a defender.  He is much like Leino in that sense, but a step above.  Leino priced himself out of Philly with a reported demand for a $4 million per year pact.

One thing is for sure, though.  You should definitely expect to see Jagr on the Flyers’ power play unit, which was woeful last season.  The one-time arch rival of the Flyers will likely help the man advantage become more productive.

Voracek Signed

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Voracek, who came over from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Carter deal, agreed to a one-year, $2.25 million contract.  The 6′ 2″, 214-pound winger will likely play on the right side of whichever line on which Jagr does not end up.

Also a native of Kladno, Czech Republic, Voracek has scored 39 goals and posted 134 points in 241 NHL games, all in Columbus.  Last season, he scored 14 goals and racked up 46 points.

Defenseman Lilja Signed

As UFA defenseman Sean O’Donnell signed with the Chicago Blackhawks early-on in the afternoon, Holmgren opted for 35-year-old rear guard Andreas Lilja.  Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The 6′ 3″, 230-pound defender brings size to the club, and will likely be either a sixth or seventh defenseman for the Flyers.

A native of Helsingborg, Sweden, Lilja played in 52 games with the Anaheim Ducks last season.  He scored one goal and posted seven points, while amassing a terrible -15 rating.

Lilja won the Stanley Cup while playing for the Detroit Red Wings.

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