Jul 022010

July 2 Philadelphia Inquirer

 “The Flyers bypassed the marquee free agents on the first day of the signing period and made their biggest news Thursday by acquiring beefy Tampa Bay defenseman Andrej Meszaros for a second-round 2012 draft pick.

In a dizzying day of wheeling and dealing, the Flyers re-signed restricted free-agent defenseman Braydon Coburn – he received a two-year contract for a cap hit of $3.2 million per season – and signed a pair of free agents: 6-foot-3, 237-pound veteran defenseman Sean O’Donnell and tough-guy winger Jody Shelley, formerly of the Rangers.

O’Donnell, soon to be 39, played in Los Angeles last season and won a Stanley Cup with close friend Chris Pronger in Anaheim in 2007. He signed a one-year, $1 million contract that has some incentives.

Shelley received a three-year deal for $1.1 million per season.

The acquisition of the 6-2, 223-pound Meszaros and the signing of Coburn and O’Donnell give the Flyers one of the league’s deepest, biggest, and best defenses.

Also one of the most expensive.

The Flyers’ top five defensemen – Pronger, Matt Carle, Kimmo Timonen, Coburn, and Meszaros – have a combined $21.8 million cap hit (of the $59.4 million maximum) for 2010-11. That computes to $4.4 million per player.

O’Donnell, a steady defenseman who was fourth on the Kings with a plus-14 rating in 78 games last season, said he signed with the Flyers because of his friendship with Pronger and because he thought the team was close to winning a Stanley Cup.

“If I didn’t think Philly was in that group of teams that was right there on the cusp, I wouldn’t have signed with Philly,” O’Donnell said.

General manager Paul Holmgren called Meszaros “a young, durable defenseman who can play in all situations.”

Meszaros, 24, had six goals and 11 assists and was minus-14 for lowly Tampa Bay last season. The Flyers are hoping he returns to the form he showed early in his career, when he played in Ottawa.

A member of Team Slovakia in the 2010 Winter Olympics, Meszaros was slowed by shoulder surgery and a broken jaw in Tampa. Playing for Ottawa, he was named to the NHL’s all-rookie team in 2006. That season stands as the best of his five-year career: 10 goals, 29 assists, and a plus-34 rating.”

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