Paul Holmgren has a standard answer to trade rumors and suggestions that come up fairly regularly about adding or subtracting players from the Flyers' roster.

It goes like this: "We're always trying to improve our team and we would be crazy not to at least look into the possibility of adding a player like [fill in the blank]."

Holmgren had two responses yesterday when asked about the rumors that keep coming up about Randy Jones or the signing of free agents Mats Sundin or Brendan Shanahan.

"You know my standard line already; I'm going to have to come up with a new one."

There really is no need. That one works fine because it is the bottom-line answer. Since becoming the Flyers' general manager, Holmgren has always looked at ways to improve the team. If a good trade possibility comes up, he delves into it, and if there is a free agent out there who would improve the Flyers' chances, he checks into that, too.

Right now, he is looking at Sundin and Shanahan. Sundin is a more active subject since he is reportedly close to deciding if he wants to play again, and if so, where.

Holmgren said Tuesday night that the Flyers have contacted the Swedish forward's agent, J.P. Barry, and told him the Flyers are interested, but he hasn't heard anything back.

"They're playing it close to the vest," he said.

And as far as Shanahan goes, he seems to have disappeared off the horizon. The Flyers haven't heard anything from the former Red Wing/Ranger in weeks.

The newest rumors these days seem to revolve around defenseman Randy Jones, who is only days away from returning from hip surgery, bringing his $2.75 million salary with him.

Having Jones back should be a boost for the team, but a drag on the salary-cap issue. The Flyers will have to move players around to make him fit back in.

Last week, Jones was rumored to be sought by Columbus and other unnamed teams. This week the rumor is Jones and Joffrey Lupul to Florida for Jay Bouwmeester.

"No," was Holmgren's response yesterday and last week when asked about those rumors.

A defenseman, Bouwmeester would make a great addition to the Flyers' blue line, and, as Holmgren says, he would be crazy not to look at him. Bouwmeester is making $4.875 million this season and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

The Flyers would need substantial money to add him now. And Florida has cap issues of its own and would most likely be looking for solid prospects and draft picks instead of trading salary for salary.

As for Jones, Holmgren said he is eager to have him back. "He's a good player. I'm looking forward to seeing what we look like when we get him back.

"I'm looking forward to seeing what we look like when we get all our injured players back. But there is nothing you can do about injury. I'm sure teams are looking at where we are right now with the cap throwing stuff at the wall," he said.

Right now the Flyers have four players out - Jones, Ryan Parent (shoulder), Danny Briere (groin) and Matt Carle (torn intercostal muscle, which goes between the ribs).

Jones should be back in by next week, Parent is set for a Dec. 26 return, and Carle skated yesterday and might play this weekend. Briere will be out through December.

Carle had a positive report yesterday. "It definitely felt better today and we're coming into tonight and getting back into the routine a little bit," he said. "I'll take warmups and get back into the daily-routine mind-set and try to get some practice under my belt Friday to see if I can go for Saturday [against Pittsburgh].

"I was pretty frustrated yesterday," Carle added. "You hope for one day to wake up and feel pretty good and I saw the doctor yesterday and he said some positive things. I'm here today. I feel a lot better today." *