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With Weber out, Flyers will look from within

by Mike G. Morreale

So now that the dust has settled from the Shea Weber saga, Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren feels it's time to move forward.

The Nashville Predators on Tuesday put to bed any visions of Weber donning a Flyers jersey next season when they matched Philadelphia's 14-year, $110-million offer sheet, thus retaining their three-time NHL All-Star.

Shea Weber
Shea Weber - 2011-12
Defense - NSH
GOALS: 19 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 49
SOG: 230 | +/-: 21

Holmgren said he learned of the Predators' decision to match at 3:15 p.m. ET on Tuesday and his initial reaction was "disappointment."

"We were hopeful they wouldn't match, but obviously they did," Holmgren told reporters via a conference call Wednesday. "We tried to add, in our minds, the best defenseman in the game to a good, young, up-and-coming team, and it didn't work."

So in a span of 21 days, Holmgren and the Flyers were rebuffed in their attempts to sign unrestricted free agent defensemen Ryan Suter and Matt Carle, forward Zach Parise and restricted free agent Weber.

"There were players available via free agency that we went after … good players who we had a lot of interest in," Holmgren said. "It's only July 25, so I wouldn't rule out anything since there are players out there. We don't want to make any drastic changes, but we're going to continue to look at ways to get better. The object is to have the best team going into training camp and that's what we're trying to do.

"We're trying to add to [the team] without subtracting and we'll continue to try and do that."

On paper, the Flyers appear no better or worse than the team that lost to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference semifinals in five games last season.

While there are other options available, among them restricted free agent defensemen P.K. Subban, Michael Del Zotto and John Carlson, the list of difference-makers along the back end has dwindled significantly.

Holmgren even admitted that "the market for available blueliners is tapped right out," but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll no longer seek ways to improve the team defensively. The Flyers struggled mightily in their own end during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, yielding an average of 4.0 goals a game in 11 games.

The 44 goals allowed in the playoffs were three more than the New York Rangers, who played nine more games. As it stands now, however, the Flyers might be forced to find solutions on defense from within with Erik Gustafsson, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Brandon Manning and Bruno Gervais in the picture.


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"I love our defense," Holmgren said. "The youth, we have good size and have kids who have had a taste now in Marc-Andre, Erik and Brandon. We like Bruno Gervais, who we had in the summer. We're perfectly happy with our defense right now. Trying to add a guy like Shea Weber doesn't speak to anything other than you're trying to add one of the best guys in the League.

"I don't think there's [many] Shea Webers out there that are left in that category."

Bourdon played 45 games with the Flyers and Gustafsson appeared in 30 games last season. Manning played in four games.

It also has been rumored that Holmgren has shown interest in acquiring either Shane Doan or Bobby Ryan to further bolster his forward group.

When asked how his meeting with Doan went last week, Holmgren said it appears as though the veteran forward has his heart set on returning to Phoenix.

"I don't want to put words in Shane's mouth, but first and foremost, he'd like things to work out in Phoenix, so I don't believe he'll do anything until he has some kind of answer in his own mind what's happening there," Holmgren said. "He's a very loyal guy. In the end, he'd probably rather be in Phoenix where his family was raised. But if he's ready to make a move, we have interest."

With regard to Ryan, Holmgren wouldn't go into any detail. The Anaheim Ducks reportedly have been entertaining offers for Ryan, who was born in and spent part of his childhood in the Philadelphia suburb of Cherry Hill, N.J.

"You're asking me to comment on a player on another team and I can't do that," Holmgren said. "We look at all ways to make our team better. We like our team so we'll see what the rest of the summer brings."

Additionally, Holmgren said that it is "just a matter of time before restricted free agent right wing Jakub Voracek is signed."

"We envision Jake playing with Claude [Giroux] next year so that's the way we look at it," Holmgren said. "There are players out there, who are restricted, that are available and Jake is one of them."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale

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