Baicker/Riday

Flyers free-agent target: Tom Gilbert

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Flyers free-agent target: Tom Gilbert

Each day from now until July 1, the day free agency begins, Sarah Baicker and Tim Riday will profile some of the NHL's top impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Flyers.

Tom Gilbert, defenseman
Age: 31
Height: 6-2
Weight: 206
Last team: Florida Panthers
2013-14 cap hit: $900,000

Scouting report
You'd probably assume Gilbert was a bruiser given his 6-foot-2, 206-pound frame, but he's actually a smooth-skating, puck-moving defenseman. He's an efficient passer and can provide plenty of offense. Over the years with Edmonton, Minnesota and Florida, Gilbert has proved he can play a lot of minutes. He has a very high hockey IQ. He knows exactly when to pinch and when to hang back in the offensive zone. He doesn't throw his body around often, but can more than hold his own against top competition.

Gilbert, a fifth-round pick of the Colorado Avalanche at the 2002 NHL draft, spent his first six seasons with the Oilers. He played all 82 games for Edmonton three years in a row from 2007-2010. He collected 23 goals and 86 assists during that span. Gilbert was traded to the Wild at the 2011-12 NHL trade deadline in exchange for fellow defenseman Nick Schultz. Minnesota used a compliance buyout on Gilbert after the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. After attending the Panthers' preseason training camp as a free agent, Gilbert signed a one-year deal with them last September. He spent most of last season on Florida's top defensive pairing with Brian Campbell.

Baicker's projection
I like Gilbert, but wherever he ends up this season, he won't play for less than a million. In my opinion, at the right price, he would make a lot of sense for the Flyers. He's got size, speed and smarts, and he has proved he can play more than 20 minutes a night in a top pairing. With Kimmo Timonen taking a lesser role next season, there's a vacancy there that the Flyers need to fill. I'd be all for Gilbert stepping in. The issue, of course, is that Ron Hextall needs to clear space to make it happen. It would be tough, but not impossible; Hextall has made it clear with his actions and words that he's looking to free some money however possible.

Riday's projection
Boy was Gilbert a steal for Florida last season. He logged over 21 minutes a game on the team's top defensive pairing and was only minus-5 on a very bad Panthers team. He set himself up for a nice raise with his strong play, finishing the season with three goals and 28 points. I'd like it if Gilbert were more physical, but he still possesses great two-way ability. Sure, he'll make a mistake from time to time in the defensive zone, but what NHL defenseman doesn't?

With Florida focused on locking up its key RFAs -- Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov -- Gilbert will likely be available come July 1. I think he would be a great addition to the Flyers' blue line, but some maneuvering would have to occur. Something tells me Ron Hextall is going to be a busy man at the NHL draft. If he makes a move that creates space for a defenseman like Gilbert, I'd be all for offering him a contract.

Flyers free-agent target: Steve Ott

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Flyers free-agent target: Steve Ott

Each day from now until July 1, the day free agency begins, Sarah Baicker and Tim Riday will profile some of the NHL's top impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Flyers.

Steve Ott, forward
Age: 31
Height: 6-0
Weight: 189
Last team: St. Louis Blues
2013-14 cap hit: $2.95 million

Scouting report
Ott, who was selected with the 25th-overall pick at the 2000 NHL draft by the Dallas Stars, is one of the grittiest players in the league. He won't light up the stat sheets, but he does a lot of little things well. He's a magician in the faceoff circle, can kill penalties and excels at throwing opponents off their game. He has a tendency to go overboard with his antics and physical play at times, but is a tremendous competitor with admirable determination. He can also play all three forward positions.

As a member of the Buffalo Sabres, Ott quickly became a fan favorite. He was named an alternate captain after the 2013 trade deadline and finished his first season with the Sabres with nine goals, 15 assists and 93 penalty minutes in 48 games. Before the 2013-14 season, Ott and Thomas Vanek were awarded captaincy of the team. However, Ott was dealt, along with goalie Ryan Miller, to St. Louis just prior to last year's trade deadline and struggled to find consistency with the Blues. He had just three assists in 23 regular-season games with St. Louis and had just two helpers in six postseason appearances.

Baicker's projection
Ott is a Flyers kind of hockey player. He's gritty, he can play both wings as well as center, he can take faceoffs and he can kill penalties. That's why it makes total sense that he's been linked to them in the rumor mill this spring. That said, while I understand the appeal, I don't think the Flyers should put effort into courting him. The Flyers don't need gritty, hard-workers on offense; they already have plenty. Money spent this offseason would be better spent on players who can score and help Claude Giroux's game -- and Ott isn't that guy.

Riday's projection
Ott is one of the guys you'd love to have on your team, but you hate when he's wearing opposing colors. In recent years, he's proved he can be much more than just an agitator. He emerged as a leader in Buffalo and toned down the reckless physical play that got him in trouble with the league earlier in his career with Dallas. He'll still take a bad penalty from time to time, but the other guy always seems to head to the box with him. He does everything with a purpose.

Ott's desire to win, work ethic and toughness are exactly the qualities that Flyers coach Craig Berube looks for from his forwards. I certainly wouldn't mind seeing him used in a third- or fourth-line role, but I think it's doubtful he'll wind up in Philadelphia. As I mentioned before, I believe the Flyers would be better off going after a goal-scoring forward if they elect to upgrade their offense through free agency.

Flyers free-agent target: Dan Boyle

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Flyers free-agent target: Dan Boyle

Each day from now until July 1, the day free agency begins, Sarah Baicker and Tim Riday will profile some of the NHL's top impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Flyers.

Dan Boyle, defenseman
Age: 37
Height: 5-11
Weight: 190
Last team: New York Islanders
2013-14 cap hit: $6.6 million

Scouting report
Boyle, who signed with the Florida Panthers in 1998 after going undrafted out of Miami University, is one of the smoothest puck-moving defensemen in the NHL. He's consistently produced offensively throughout his 16-year career, eclipsing 30 or more points nine times. And, despite his small stature, he's no slouch in his own end. The veteran blueliner has also shined on hockey's biggest stages. He helped the Tampa Bay Lightning hoist the Stanley Cup in 2004 and was a key contributor for Team Canada in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, where he won his first and only gold medal.

Last season in San Jose, Boyle had 12 goals and 24 assists in 75 games, but the Sharks announced after the season that he wouldn't be returning. San Jose traded his rights to the New York Islanders earlier this month in exchange for a conditional 2015 fifth-round pick. Talks between the Isles and Boyle have reportedly broken down and the team is now hoping to deal his rights before free agency opens on July 1.

Baicker's projection
Paul Holmgren always seemed to have a thing for signing these aging veterans to deals that were for too much and too long (see: Mark Streit). I have a gut feeling that Ron Hextall will look to move away from such signings, and for that reason, I don't see the Flyers acquiring Boyle this offseason, even though the Flyers' interest in him at last season's trade deadline was well publicized. Yes, he's a workhorse, and yes, he's steady in both ends of the ice. But at 37 and coming off a $6.6 million cap hit, I just don't think he's worth it. The Flyers already signed an undersized aging veteran this offseason in Kimmo Timonen, and he came at a discount. No need to add another.

Riday's projection
You can argue Boyle's career is on the decline, but he's still more than capable of playing a big role on any team's blue line. At 37 years old, you can put your money on Boyle signing with a contender. He only has a few more years left in the tank at best and he'd like another shot at the Cup before hanging up the skates. As Sarah mentioned above, the Flyers have already inked Timonen this offseason, so I wouldn't expect Ron Hextall to make signing another veteran toward the end of his career a priority. Boyle would certainly be an upgrade, but his price tag could be too high. Don't forget, the Flyers have three defensive prospects -- Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg and Sam Morin -- who will likely get a serious look in camp. The Flyers, especially Hextall, seem more interested in finding out if any of the youngsters are NHL-ready than anything else.