Ben Eager started his season with a sprained knee.

But despite the preseason injury and a slow start, he managed to stick with the Flyers. As the season progressed, Eager got his chance and slowly began to make a place for himself as a player who could provide a jump, was willing to fight and could score an occasional goal. In 63 games, the 6-3, 225-pound left winger scored six goals and had five assists, and led the league with 223 penalty minutes. By the end of the season he had earned the respect of his teammates and was voted the most improved player.

His effort paid off yesterday when the Flyers announced they had signed Eager to a 2-year deal worth $1.2 million. Eager will get $550,000 next season and $650,000 in 2008-09.

"I'm really excited," said Eager, 23. "The team is looking ahead and I'm happy to be a part of things, especially with the core group that we have here. There's going to be a lot of excitement over these next few years and I'm happy I'll get to be a part of it.

"I thought that personally [last season] was a good year, and I learned a lot. From a team standpoint we struggled, but I think a lot of people learned from the year. I just want to continue to improve and help the team in any way I can."

Eager was the second young player to be re-signed. The Flyers, who experienced their worst season in franchise history, signed Scottie Upshall to a new deal last week.

"[Eager] is a big, physical presence on the ice and adds a key dimension to our lineup," general manager Paul Holmgren said in a statement. "We expect Ben to be an important part of our core of young players that we're going to continue to build upon.''

Left still to be signed among the Flyers' young players are Antero Niittymaki, Joni Pitkanen, Lasse Kukkonen and Dimitry Afanasenkov. *