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June 15, 2004 - Flyers sign Primeau for four years and $17 million
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My Keith Primeau Page

Flyers sign Primeau for four years and $17 million

The team's next contract target is Alex Zhamnov.

Inquirer Staff Writer

Keith Primeau's leadership and gutsy play helped carry the Flyers to the Eastern Conference finals this season. Yesterday he got his reward when the team announced that he had signed a four-year, $17 million contract.

"It's an exciting day for me," said Primeau, who had nine goals and 16 points, both highs on the team, in this year's playoffs, in which the Flyers lost Game 7 of the conference finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"I can only hope I can repay the organization with my play."

For Flyers general manager Bob Clarke, yesterday's signing was the first of many on his list.

"Keith is the most important player we have," Clarke said. "Before we could go on to other signings, we had to take care of our leader."

The Flyers captain will get paid $4.5 million in the first two years of his contract, and $4 million in the last two years.

Primeau would have become a free agent July 1, but he decided not to test the market. He also avoided the uncertainty of being a free agent when the NHL's collective bargaining agreement expires Sept. 15.

"It was important for my family to know where we're going to be," Primeau said.

"Philadelphia is where I wanted to be, and that may have hurt my negotiations to an extent, because everyone knew where I wanted to play. But for my comfort level, there is nowhere else that Keith Primeau is supposed to play."

Now that Primeau, 32, is taken care of, Clarke can focus on other signings. Next on Clarke's plate is Alex Zhamnov.

"We're in talks, and we'll try to get him signed by the end of the month," Clarke said.

Zhamnov underwent surgery to repair two herniated disks in his lower back in mid-October. The Flyers center recovered fully and had four goals and 10 assists for 14 points in the playoffs.

If he is able to sign Zhamnov, Clarke said, he's going to wait it out with other players, such as Mark Recchi, until he sees what happens with the league's labor situation.

The Flyers have been in talks with defenseman Vladimir Malakhov, but no progress has been made, the GM said.

Clarke said the Flyers have executed an option on 26-year-old goaltender Robert Esche, so he remains under contract.

Clarke also said the Flyers have been talking with some of the players who form the core of their young talent to get them signed, including left wingers Simon Gagne and Todd Fedoruk, center Michal Handzus, right winger Branko Radivojevic, and defenseman Kim Johnsson.