The Philadelphia Flyers may have missed out on nailing down a big-name defenseman in the free-agent market, but they did land one of their key cogs from last season on Thursday when they signed forward Jakub Voracek to a four-year contract.
The deal reportedly is worth $17 million, according to CSNPhilly.com and other media reports. The 22-year-old restricted free agent, who will likely fill the void left by Jaromir Jagr on the Flyers' top line with center Claude Giroux and left wing Scott Hartnell, will earn $4.25 million annually.
"We are happy to have Jake under contract and look forward to him being a big part of our future," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said.
Voracek spoke about the possibility of playing alongside Giroux and Hartnell this season.
"I'm very happy that the Flyers give me that opportunity to play on a top line with 'G' and 'Hartsy' but, like I say, you never know what's going to happen in the season," Voracek said during a media conference call Thursday. "I've just got to work hard and, hopefully, we play great together. It's up to [coach Peter Laviolette] what he wants to do with the lines, but I'm sure we're going to figure out something good."
Voracek said he remained patient throughout the free-agent signing period, which began July 1.
"We all knew what was going on with the free agency, and whether I was signed or not, I was just patient," he said. "I knew I would get that opportunity to sign, and that's exactly what happened. I'm happy we agreed on the terms and happy to be locked up by the Flyers the next four years."
In his first season with the Flyers, Voracek produced 49 points, including a career-high 18 goals, in 78 regular-season games, as well as two goals and 10 points in 11 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Voracek hopes to improve on those numbers in 2012-13.
"Since last December, I started playing a lot more minutes for the team and was getting more confidence every day and every shift," Voracek said. "I was very happy with my last season with the way [Laviolette] trusted me.
"I know that if I work hard and do the right things over the summer, I'll get better every year. Hopefully, I'll have better numbers this year and we'll have a better overall team than last year."
Taken by the Columbus Blue Jackets with the seventh pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, Voracek was traded to the Flyers on June 23, 2011, along with a 2011 first-round pick (Sean Couturier) and a third-round pick (Nick Cousins) in exchange for center Jeff Carter. Voracek signed a one-year contract with the Flyers on July 1, 2011, following the trade.
While Voracek is looking forward to training camp, he did admit it is a tad disappointing knowing that fellow Czech and idol, Jagr, is no longer with the organization.
"It was fun for me last year, being around him all year long, watching what he does before and after games and during practices … it was priceless," Voracek said.
Jagr signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Stars on July 3, a contract reportedly worth $4.55 million. That was $1.25 million more than the Flyers paid Jagr, who scored 54 points in 73 games while mostly skating alongside Giroux. Perhaps it's fitting that very same role will now be filled by Voracek.
"It's too bad [Jagr] is gone, but he helped a lot," Voracek said. "It helped to be around him and I thank him for that and wish him the best of luck."
Voracek was asked if he thought the organization would get defenseman Shea Weber, who remained with the Nashville Predators when they matched the Flyers' 14-year, $110 million offer sheet.
"He's one of the best defensemen in the NHL, but it was 50/50 with the offer sheet and it didn't work out," Voracek said. "It was a good try and he obviously would have been a big part of the team, but life goes on, right?"
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale