Center of attention
Flyers reach 5-year, $37.5 million deal with Roenick
Updated: Friday August 03, 2001 2:01 AM
Roenick, a six-time All-Star, reached a five-year, $37.5 million agreement with the Flyers days before he was to become an unrestricted free agent.
The 31-year-old center agreed in principle to the deal after his old team, the Phoenix Coyotes, gave Philadelphia permission to discuss a contract, Flyers general manager Bob Clarke said Friday.
The Coyotes will receive a compensatory second-round draft pick.
"Well, to say I'm ecstatic would probably be underselling myself," Roenick said. "To end up with a team that I feel has a great chance to win the Stanley Cup, and as popular as hockey is in Philadelphia -- knowing how awesome the fans are in supporting their team -- I can't be any more excited to be a part of that and to get into that atmosphere."
Clarke said Roenick was the guy they wanted since the offseason began.
"Our organization ticketed one guy as the premier guy for us to try and get and that player was Jeremy Roenick," Clarke said.
Roenick essentially replaces Lindros, a restricted free agent who sat out all of last season while waiting for a trade.
Clarke said Lindros goes to the 'back-burner' once the NHL free agency period begins Sunday.
Asked if moving Lindros before Sunday is his top priority, Clarke said: "Not unless they catch me on the golf course."
Roenick, a two-time 50-goal scorer, led the Coyotes in goals (30), points (76) and penalty minutes (114) last season.
"I love passing the puck and setting up the guys I'm playing with to score good goals, and obviously I like to score goals," Roenick said. "I've scored a lot of goals in my career and I don't expect to stop now. I'd like to bring a lot of excitement and get the people involved in the game because they pay a lot of money to come and watch the games. And I feel they should have the best product out there when doing so."
He technically still belongs to the Coyotes. He will become a member of the Flyers once he signs his new contract Monday and the NHL approves the deal. The Flyers scheduled a Monday news conference to introduce Roenick.
Had Roenick signed with the Flyers before Sunday, Phoenix would not receive compensation.
"We followed all the rules," Clarke said.
Phoenix general manager Cliff Fletcher gave Philadelphia, Dallas and Detroit permission to speak to Roenick on Thursday.
Clarke had three or four conversations with Roenick's agent, Neil Abbott, Thursday night before an agreement was reached. Roenick was on his way to his brother's wedding in Erie, Pa., and could not be reached for comment Friday.
"We wish him nothing but the best of luck in the future with the Philadelphia Flyers," said Wayne Gretzky, co-owner of the Coyotes.
"This is a move we expected. We made a decision as an organization to move in a different direction. As evident by the roster moves we've made over the last few weeks, we are re-tooling our team in an effort to get younger and add depth to our roster."
Flyers coach Bill Barber said he's not sure what his line combinations will be, but Roenick could play on a line with left wing John LeClair, who re-signed this month with the Flyers, agreeing to a $45 million, five-year deal.
"Jeremy is an incredible talent," LeClair said. "He's one of the premier players in the league, a hard-nosed player. He's a real good fit. The fans will love his style."
Roenick began his career in Chicago, where he played eight seasons. He was sent to Phoenix before the 1996 season in a package deal that included Alexei Zhamnov and a first-round pick.
Roenick has 408 goals, 947 points and 1,134 penalty minutes in his 13 seasons. Both he and LeClair were on the U.S. team at the 1998 Olympics and have been selected for the 2002 team.
"J.R. is a Philly-type player," said right wing Rick Tocchet, who played with Roenick in Phoenix. "He can dazzle you with moves or knock you through the boards."
"We think the strength of our organization down the middle now is as good as any in the league. Without strength in the middle, it's difficult to win in this league," Clarke said.
The Flyers are unlikely to sign any other high-priced free agents this summer, but will look to add depth on defense -- something that could come in a trade for Lindros.
The Flyers hope Roenick puts them among the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
Without Lindros and with LeClair sidelined for almost all of last season with a back injury, Philadelphia finished fourth in the East and then lost to Buffalo in the first round of the playoffs.
"We're excited about Jeremy," said Barber, the NHL's coach of the year. "He's going to fit in very well with our situation. There's a lot of ice time for all our star players."