Tonight the Flyers will face-off in South Philly against the New Jersey Devils in the 5th game of the preseason. In this lineup will be Defenseman Randy Jones. That, in and of itself is not news however the questions surrounding Jones’ position on this team may be some of the most ressing remaining before the opener in just over a week.
Prior to last year Jones was a restricted free agent and was given a 2 year 5.5 million dollar contract extension. He suffered a torn labrum in his hip during preseason action which required surgery. He missed half of the year and when he returned he was generally unimpressive. He finished the year a +8 with 4 goals and 4 assists in just 47 games played.
WIth the Flyers moves in the offseason clearly geared towards beefing up their blue line it appeared that Joens might be an afterthought. Besides bringing in Chris Pronger to anchor the first pairing, the Flyers also brought in hard nosed Norwegian defense man Ole Kristian-Tollefson from the Blue Jackets to compete for a spot. Tollefson along with impressive youngsters Ryan Parent and Danny Syvret have drawn praise from Head Coach John Stevens for their efforts thus far during camp. The same cannot be said for Jones…
“Physically, he feels better but Jonesy is capable of playing better than he has to this point, He needs to get back to that level of play that we’ve seen before and that comes from moving his feet and not standing still when he defends and when he has the puck.”
Even if Jones’ play reaches the level that his head coach expects it to, where does he fit into the lineup? The top 2 pairings for the Orange and Black appear set in stone with Chris Pronger paired with Matt Carle and Kimmo Timonen teaming up with Braydon Coburn on the second grouping.
In the new world of the salary capped NHL a team that plans on competing for the cup simply cannot afford to pay a third pairing defense man nearly 3 million dollars. Keeping Jones on this roster over the likes of Syvret or Tollefson will cost the team approximately 2 million in cap space and could be the difference between them being able to make a mid-season acquisition that may require them to take on salary. Also, Jones’ roster spot could have a direct impact on whether James Van Riemsdyk’s salary could be fit into the club’s numbers for the start of the season.
Do you remember the last week of the year when the Flyers had to call up amateur defense men like David Sloane and James Fritsch just to field a full lineup. They were so strapped for cash they couldnt even call up a Phantom from across the parking lot and it cost them.
I doubt Paul Holmgren wants to scramble for some guy off the street in the middle of a playoff run again.