Monday, July 1, 2013

Reported qualifying offers 7/1

Four players who saw time with the Adirondack Phantoms last season have reportedly received qualifying offers, a procedural move that allows the Philadelphia Flyers to retain their exclusive rights before the National Hockey League’s free agency period opens Friday.

The Camden (N.J.) Courier-Post newspaper reported on Monday the Flyers issued the offers to winger Eric Wellwood and defensemen Erik Gustafsson, Oliver Lauridsen and Brandon Manning. The newspaper also reported the Flyers did not issue the offers to Phantoms defenseman Blake Kessel and center Mitch Wahl, which will make the two of them unrestricted free agents effective July 5.

Accordingly, Kessel and Wahl will be free to sign with any team. Wellwood, Gustafsson, Lauridsen and Manning could theoretically do the same, but Philadelphia’s reported action Monday means that another NHL team would have to first sign one of those four players to an offer sheet. The Flyers could then either match that offer, or decide to let the player walk and receive some form of compensation from the other team. However, signing AHL-level players to an offer sheet is a rarity.

The qualifying offers are based on what the players earned last season, but players do not automatically have to accept that. They could reject them and take the team to arbitration.

Gustafsson, Lauridsen, Manning and Wellwood all saw time with the Flyers last season. Gustafsson had eight points in 27 games, while Lauridsen and Manning played well filling in for injured players. Wellwood is not scheduled to return until at least January while he recovers from his Achilles injury.

Kessel spent most of his sophomore season in the ECHL, where he ranked second among all defenders with 41 points, but he had fallen deeply down the Flyers’ depth chart since last year. He was basically only ranked above Tyler Hostetter, who did not get into any AHL games this season.

Wahl was acquired in the trade that sent Mike Testwuide to Calgary in late February. There was hope that the center might be able to channel some of the prolific numbers he put up in junior hockey, but he only recorded four points in 15 games. The Flyers subsequently assigned him back to the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies, where he had spent much of the past two seasons, for that team's playoff run.

Not bringing them back gives the Flyers some room heading into free agency, which begins July 5. Teams are allowed to sign 50 players to NHL contracts. By my count, the Flyers are currently at 44. That includes the four players who were tendered qualifying offers, but have not yet signed them. It also includes Scott Laughton, whose contract would not count if he is sent back to juniors. It does not include Anthony Stolarz, whose contract would only count if he plays professionally this year. It also includes Chris Pronger, who is expected to spend this entire season on long-term injured reserve.

They still need to sign a goalie to complement Steve Mason, which would give them 45 contracts. They may look to add another three or four players, likely non-goaltenders, in free agency to round out their NHL and AHL rosters. Teams like to have some wiggle room against the 50-contract limit.

The Flyers had one other player who was due to be a restricted free agent, winger Shane Harper, but they traded him to the Islanders in the Mark Streit deal. Harper did not receive a qualifying offer, Newsday reported, and will accordingly become an unrestricted free agent like Kessel and Wahl.

Stay tuned this week for the revelation of the AHL Big Board, a list of the best available free agents at this level, a joint production between Jonathan Bombulie of The (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) Citizens' Voice and myself. Look for that to go live tomorrow or Wednesday. Ill also have another rundown of the Adirondack and Philadelphia depth charts at some point before free agency opens on Friday.


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