With three additions, Flyers say 'We're better'
PHILADELPHIA -- For Philadelphia Flyers chairman Ed Snider, it was pretty easy Tuesday to look at his franchise and know it was better with the additions of defenseman Mark Streit, goaltender Ray Emery and center Vincent Lecavalier.
"You don't add three terrific players like that without getting better," Snider said following a press conference at Wells Fargo Center. "We're better, no question about it."
The hope is the three veterans -- each over 30 years old -- can help the Flyers get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a 10th-place finish in the Eastern Conference in 2012-13.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said he felt the addition of Streit especially fills a need. He had six goals and 27 points in 48 games with the New York Islanders in 2012-13, but prior to that averaged 50 points over the past five seasons he's played (he missed 2010-11 with a shoulder injury).
Days before the start of free agency, the Flyers traded minor-leaguer Shane Harper and a 2014 fourth-round draft pick for Streit, 35, then signed him to a four-year, $21 million contract.
"We added Mark, a type of defenseman we need," Holmgren said. "A guy that can play on the power play, a guy that provides offense 5-on-5, a defenseman that gets up in the rush and joins the rush and at times can lead the rush and make plays coming out of our end -- we've needed that."
Helping the Islanders end a playoff drought that dated to 2007 made Long Island a tough place to leave, but Streit said he felt he needed a change of scenery.
"After the season was done, I had that feeling that it was time to move on for me," he said. "After the season, I was thinking about teams, and I had a few teams on my mind. The Flyers were on the top of that list. I always loved playing here against them. I thought they had a great team, a great mix between young and older players. A lot of skill, but a lot of grit. It was tough to play against those guys. It's a great hockey town, great tradition. As soon as I got traded, I was really hoping to get something done here. I'm so excited and thankful they gave me the opportunity. I'm really thrilled. I think this team has a really big potential."
It's the same potential Lecavalier, 33, saw that swayed him toward signing a five-year, $22.5 million contract after being bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning. He said he was sold when Holmgren and Flyers coach Peter Laviolette laid out their plans and the roster at a meeting a few days after he was let go by the Lightning.
"It was that meeting … what they said, just their style of play, the roster, what they were saying," Lecavalier said. "They left the meeting, I was like, wow, that was a really good meeting. I was excited. The next day I started making phone calls, trying to do my homework on this organization."
"Everyone had just good things to say about it," he said. "Expectations are high, that's what I like. They want to win, and that's what I want to be a part of."
Lecavalier said it wasn't easy leaving the Lightning, the team that selected him with the first pick of the 1998 NHL Draft and for whom he played 14 seasons. But landing with the Flyers is the best-case scenario.
"When I signed my deal I thought I'd be a Lightning forever," he said of the 11-year, $85 million contract he signed with Tampa Bay in July 2008. "Obviously that didn't happen, [but] I'm proud to wear this [Flyers] jersey. They've proven in the last 18, 20 years, making it to the playoffs so many years, how hard they play. You come into this building, you better be ready to go because you know the Flyers are coming out hard. I'm proud to be part of that."
In addition to Lecavalier's skill -- he had a streak of 13-straight 20-goal seasons snapped in 2012-13; he's scored at least 30 five times; and won the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2007 when he scored 52 goals -- is his playoff experience. He has 52 points in 63 postseason games, including four goals in seven games against the Flyers in the 2004 Eastern Conference Final en route to helping the Lightning win their only Stanley Cup.
"I remember before the series thinking this would be a tough series and it was," Lecavalier said. "Playing against Keith Primeau, who I learned a lot from, how hard he played, what he brought to his team. It could have went either way -- it was one of those series. You win Game 7 … that was probably our best series of the playoffs."
The Flyers also are getting a player with playoff experience, Emery, who went 17-1-0 to help the Chicago Blackhawks finish with the best record in the 2012-13 season and was the backup to Corey Crawford as they won the Stanley Cup. Emery started all 20 games for the Ottawa Senators in their run to the 2007 Final.
"If you look at Ray's record since he's been in the NHL, all he does is win," Holmgren said. "All he does is win."
Emery played 29 games for the Flyers in 2009-10, a season that was cut short in February 2010 by a hip injury later diagnosed as avascular necrosis, which nearly ended his career. Though that season is remembered for the Flyers' run to the Stanley Cup Final, what most forget is Emery's 16 wins tied for the regular-season team lead.
"I remember [Emery's] last game, he shut out Calgary 3-0, and the next morning I got a phone call that his hip is bad," Holmgren said. "And it was just … everybody remembers our goaltending situation after that. Who didn't we have playing after that? And we went to the Final. If we had Ray Emery, who knows?"
What Emery remembers from that season was what the Flyers did for him off the ice.
"I'm fortunate the organization, the diligence they put in, to find the best surgery," he said. "For them to put in that much effort into … they flew me all over the place to look for doctors and all that. Coming back, especially after how things have gone, it's real special for me to get a chance to play for them again and hope to do well in this situation, just from the effort they put in saving my hip and allowing me to play again."
The next step for Emery, as well as the other additions, is meshing their skills with the Flyers' core group and getting the team back to the postseason.
"I think last year, looking back, we were a team good enough to get into the playoffs, but we had a lot of bad things happen to us," Holmgren said. "Our aim is to rectify that and get ourselves into the playoffs this year."
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK