His retirement from the NHL was a foregone conclusion when it was announced that he would not play last year.

And his future with the Flyers actually started in the playoffs, when he joined the team on the road in a support role for the players and coaches.

But Derian Hatcher made both moves official yesterday when he announced his retirement and accepted a position as player-development coach, picking up where Eric Desjardins left off.

"I am very excited," Hatcher said in a release. "I wasn't sure what I wanted to do when [general manager Paul Holmgren] offered me this position.

"It sounded like the perfect way to stay in the game and see if I like it. I will be watching the younger players and making sure everything runs smoothly for them. I will be involved with running the rookie camp this summer, where I will get to work closely with some of our younger players."

Hatcher, 37, takes over for Desjardins, who left after one season to pursue business interests.

After playing parts of 16 seasons, most of them with the Dallas Stars, whom he captained to the Stanley Cup in 1999, Hatcher missed all of last season while he remained on the Flyers' payroll and tried to rehab his ailing knees.

He eventually opted for right knee replacement and had surgery June 1.

There never really was any hope that he would make it back to the ice. When the playoffs began, he was asked if he would help with the team and later asked to consider this position.

"We are pleased to add Derian to our coaching staff in this very important capacity," Holmgren said. "Derian will spend valuable time with the young players throughout our organization, working on their on-ice game as well as helping these young players deal with the issues playing and or preparing to play professional hockey."

Never known as a scoring defenseman, Hatcher totaled 80 goals and 251 assists for 331 points and 1,581 penalty minutes in 1,045 regular-season games for the Minnesota North Stars (1991-92 to 1992-93), Dallas Stars (1993-94 to 2002-03), Detroit Red Wings (2003-04) and Flyers (2005-06 to 2008-09).

He also recorded 33 points and 248 penalty minutes in 133 career playoff games.

He was signed by the Flyers as a free agent on Aug. 2, 2005, and in parts of four seasons recorded nine goals and 24 assists for 33 points and 193 penalty minutes in 203 regular-season games.

He struggled coming out of the lockout, having not played for most of two seasons, but followed that with 2 solid years as a top defensive defenseman.

He was named the 14th captain in Flyers history in January 2006 and served in that role until the following September. In 2006-07, he was the winner of the Barry Ashbee Trophy as the Flyers' most outstanding defenseman and appeared in his 1,000th career NHL game vs. the New York Islanders on April 7, 2007, becoming the 218th player in NHL history to reach that milestone.

Hatcher, of Sterling Heights, Mich., played in two Olympics (1998 and 2006) and was a member of the 1996 World Cup of Hockey championship team.

Snap shots

Among the goaltenders the Flyers are considering as the free-agency period begins is former Flyers starter Robert Esche. A club source said Esche, 31, contacted the Flyers after it was announced that Ray Emery had reached a deal with the team. Esche played with Emery in Russia this past season . . . The team also announced the addition of former Phantoms public-relations employee Brian Smith to the Flyers' PR staff. *