The Flyers were just a detail or two away last night from locking up goalie Martin Biron for the next 2 years.

Biron and the Flyers have agreed in principle to a contract that would pay him $3.5 million a year, and the two sides could finish everything up by today, according to general manager Paul Holmgren.

"We're close," Holmgren said while preparing for another in a series of meetings with fans last night. "This is a really good thing for the Flyers. It's a little more than I wanted to spend. But I don't think we could afford to let it get to July. I don't think we would have lost him, but it could have been risky."

The Flyers have been working to finish the deal since they got Biron from Buffalo on Feb. 27 at the trade deadline. And there was little doubt it would happen.

Biron was set to become a free agent on July 1 and was in the last year of a deal with Buffalo that paid him $2.1 million. If no deal had been completed, a second-round pick in this draft would have been wasted.

Biron needed some time to get used to the area and to let his family visit, but this was the plan all along. If Biron had any doubt, there would not be a new helmet and mask sitting in his stall at the team's practice facility.

The new helmet is painted black and orange with a picture of the Liberty Bell on the top, the Ben Franklin Bridge on one side and the Art Museum and Rocky on the other side.

Biron said yesterday that talks with the Flyers are going well.

"We had a lot of games and a lot of things I wanted to stay focused for. Now we've had a few days to talk and we'll see what comes up in the next few days," he said.

"I had a few meetings with [Holmgren] and a few good conversations with my agent and stuff, so we'll see what comes up," Biron said.

"I think it's going in the right direction. It looks like it could be a good thing for both sides. It's not like one side is trying to take advantage of the other side and vice versa. We've had nothing but positives."

He said he is excited about being with the Flyers and their chances for the future.

"The next few years are going to be prime years for this group of guys," he said. "They're good players and they can go right back to where they were last year and the year before.

"It's an exciting time because this could definitely be the team that could go from where they are now to battling for something good next year."

Hence, the helmet and pads.

Biron, who has been wearing his all-white helmet and yellow-and-white pads, had a pair of leg pads made and delivered last week. He liked them. No one else did.

"I had the new gear come in and I wore it for the team picture and everybody was saying they look small, they're skinny, they're dark," Biron said. "I didn't like the feedback I got on them, so I put them back in the box and had them shipped out. When you get bad feedback right away, it's not a good sign."

Most players are particular about the equipment they get used to and Biron is no different. He is still using the same pair of skates he had since his second year of juniors - about 11 years ago.

"They just feel good," Biron said. "There's no reason to change." *