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July 15, 2005 - Flyers may buy out veterans

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Flyers may buy out veterans
By WAYNE FISH

phillyBurbs.com

John LeClair knew his chances of playing out the final year of his Flyers contract were iffy at best even before terms of the proposed new collective bargaining agreement were disclosed.

But now, with the CBA reportedly providing NHL teams with a one-year amnesty period to buy out players and not have that projected money work against its salary cap, LeClair faces even darker storm clouds.

At $9 million, LeClair is the highest paid member of the team and could be the first casualty if the Flyers exercise their rights to get their payroll in line for 2005-06 and beyond.

Others who could be on the chopping block include Jeremy Roenick ($7.5 million) and Tony Amonte ($5.8 million).

With potential stars such as Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in the wings, the Flyers might be even more willing to part with some of their veteran stars.

LeClair is a realist. At 36 and coming off back surgery, the left wing understands his time could be up in Philadelphia. Even employing a 24-percent rollback on his salary probably wouldn't be enough to make him attractive.

"I just try not to think about it,'' he said. "It's not in my hands. It's their decision. It's tough to sit there and speculate. I honestly understand the possibilities that are out there for myself, but it's not worth losing sleep over something that you don't know is going to happen.''

Injuries have limited LeClair's effectiveness the past four seasons. Following a run of five straight 40-or-more-goal seasons ending in 1999-2000, LeClair has scored only 73 goals since.

Keith Primeau said the Flyers' advantageous position didn't happen by accident. The captain could see this coming from a while back.

"I was excited last fall,'' he said. "Seeing the young players ... how could you not be more excited after the performance they put together in the spring?

"The future looks good, and the organization had the foresight to understand what was happening. It did a tremendous job of scouting and recruiting young players that they could put right in their lineup when this [lockout] finally concluded.''

A chance for Crosby

Flyers general manager Bob Clarke got his wish ... almost.

For the past year, Clarke has been saying the NHL should have a special draft lottery for can't-miss prospect Sidney Crosby, with each team getting an equal chance to acquire his services.

The 17-year-old Nova Scotia native is considered the most talented hopeful since Eric Lindros in 1991.

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Since there was no season, the NHL came up with a plan sort of along the lines of Clarke's idea. It will be a "weighted'' draft with a Ping-Pong ball style format. Recently unsuccessful teams will have a slight advantage.

Teams such as the Flyers, who have had a great deal of success over the past few years, are longer shots.

The teams with three balls and a 6.12 percent chance are Atlanta, Buffalo, Columbus, the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh. Two-ball teams (4.08 percent chance) include Anaheim, Calgary, Carolina, Chicago, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nashville and Phoenix.

The Flyers are lumped in with the remaining 16 one-ball teams for a 2.04 percent chance.

Give, give, give

While the NHL owners are expected to unanimously ratify the new CBA at next week's board of governors meeting, there might be a little less good will at the union's get-together.

That's to be expected, according to some of the cooler heads. The players know they made a lot of concessions by agreeing to a salary cap.

"That just shows that the players continue to give,'' Primeau said. "It shows that we want to play. We offered the rollback last winter while we still had the chance for a season.

"We've softened our stance in the cap structure. It shows that we want a resolution and want to play again.''

Added LeClair: "Anyone who comes out negatively, they're getting the spotlight. Anybody who comes out positive doesn't get reported. It's hard to get a real good feel of what's going on.''

Rust never sleeps

Some players competed in Europe, some in the North American minors, but most of the NHL's star-caliber players have been off for a year.

So how fast can these guys get their game back up to speed?

"I get a sense that some of the older players, who enjoyed themselves from a physical and health standpoint the last 12 months, might take a little bit longer time to get prepared, but they'll do their best to get in the type of condition they need to be in come September,'' Primeau said.

Eric Desjardins said: "It's going to take some time. I'm sure all the players are trying to stay in as good shape as they can. Maybe half haven't played for over a year. I'm sure the coaching staffs are going to do everything they can to get us ready.''