Go Get Gomez! by Jeff Lyons
Next Wednesday is the Fourth of July, the time when all sports fans' attention is focused on hockey. Yes, hockey. Because by next Wednesday, your Philadelphia Flyers could be a much different looking team. And a much better team than last year's awful version.
The free agency signing period begins on Sunday, July 1. And the Flyers are looking to score that first-line center they so desperately need. The biggest names out there are Daniel Briere and Chris Drury of Buffalo and Scott Gomez of New Jersey.
I want nothing to do with Briere. Sure, he managed 32 goals and 63 assists for the Sabres last year, but I think he's soft. The Flyers want an all-around player - someone who will play defense and hit as well as score and pass. Briere is all about the offense. And Buffalo has reportedly offered him a long-term deal. Briere is believed to be looking for $7 million a year. That's too much for a softie.
Drury is an intriguing option. He's a winner - he was a member of the Little League World Series championship team from Trumbull, Conn. back in 1989. He was the winning pitcher and tournament MVP. Since then, he's won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche and been a leader with every team he's played. He's never scored more than 68 points in a season, but he has scored 30 and 37 goals over his last two seasons. He's a great leader, but is rumored to headed to San Jose or somewhere else on the West Coast.
The guy I want is Scott Gomez. Nothing would make me happier than to see Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren stick it to the New Jersey Devils. The Devils have salary cap issues and probably won't be able to fit Gomez in their budget.
At 27, Gomez is the youngest of the available free agent centers. He's been stuck in N.J.'s defense-first system since he broke into the league, and you can only wonder how much he could score in a more free-wheeling offense. He's won two Stanley Cups with the Devils and he'd be the perfect fit for the orange and black. He can pass, he can score, play defense and get under the opposition's skin. Think Ken Linesman or Keith Acton, but with better stats. The thought of Gomez on a top line with Simon Gagne and Michael Knuble is downright droolworthy.
Holmgren pulled off a steal when he grabbed free-agents-to-be Kimmo Timonen (defense) and winger Scott Hartnell from Nashville for a draft pick. That draft pick was the same one the Predators sent to the Flyers in the Peter Forsberg trade. Tight-fisted Devils GM Lou Lamoriello probably isn't taking any phone calls from Holmgren. If Gomez doesn't get the money he's looking for (probably at least $7 million a year) from the Devils, look for Holmgren to sweep in and make him an offer he can't refuse. If the Flyers can land Scott Gomez, this off-season will be an unqualified success. Holmgren is creative enough to make it happen. Here's hoping he does.
Jeff Lyons, senior managing editor of the Philadelphia Bar Reporter and Bar Reporter Online, is currently being driven crazy by the Phillies bullpen and is a lifelong Philadelphia sports fan.