TAMPA - The Flyers aren't just clearing cap space for the fun of it. They're trying to set up a deal that would give the offense more life.
The Flyers yesterday freed more than $2 million of cap room by putting goalie Ray Emery ($1.5 million salary) on the long-term injured reserve list - he could still return this season - and placing seldom-used winger Riley Cote ($550,000 salary) on waivers.
The Flyers now have about $2.8 million of cap space - and that figure could grow, of course, if a player on their current roster is in a deal. A team's roster cannot surpass $56.8 million.
The NHL trade deadline is 3 p.m. tomorrow and general manager Paul Holmgren is furiously trying to add some sizzle for the stretch run.
Ottawa's Matt Cullen (12 goals), Los Angeles' Alexander Frolov (13), and Columbus' Raffi Torres (19) are among the forwards in whom the Flyers have expressed interest, according to an NHL source. To a lesser degree, the team has interest in Atlanta winger Colby Armstrong.
Torres ($2.25 million cap hit) would fit under the Flyers' cap even if they didn't trade someone off their roster. The Flyers would have to remove some salary in deals for Cullen ($2.875 million) or Frolov ($2.9 million). All three are potential unrestricted free agents this summer.
The Flyers are also high on Nashville defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who has four goals and 12 assists and is plus-1.
But the Flyers have allowed two goals or fewer in 11 of their last 12 games, so their priority figures to be offense.
Sources said Carolina winger Ray Whitney, a potential unrestricted free agent after the season, is seeking a three-year deal for $4 million a season and that he probably doesn't fit in the Flyers' budget. Whitney played for Flyers coach Peter Laviolette in Carolina.
Emery's injury is backdated to his last game, on Feb. 1. Players must sit out at least 10 games and 24 days to be placed on LTIR. Emery has missed six games. The earliest he could return is March 9 against the Islanders.
No decision has been made on whether or not Emery will have hip surgery.
"This just gives us more flexibility for the next 48 hours," assistant general manager Barry Hanrahan said last night.
Returning to action. The Flyers play in Tampa Bay tonight and will try to increase their winning streak to five games.
"We were very happy the way we were playing the last four or five games, but we all know with the break that can stop the momentum, so it's almost like a new start," winger Simon Gagne said.
"You don't know how you're going to react after a long break, but the way we were playing lately, the confidence should be a little bit on our side."
With Emery shelved, goalie Michael Leighton could get most of the starts the rest of the way. He has a 2.19 goals-against average and .925 save percentage with the Flyers.
"I tried to stay sharp over the break," Leighton said. "We've had a good four or five days of practice, so I was just trying to get a good rhythm back. We're on a four-game winning streak so we just want to carry that over into the two big games, back-to-back."
After tonight's game, the Flyers play Florida tomorrow.
Parent returning? Holmgren earlier in the week said Oskars Bartulis was not injured, but he has not practiced with the team since playing for Latvia in the Olympics and is believed to be suffering from a groin injury. If Bartulis can't play tonight, Ryan Parent could be activated or Joey Mormina could make his Flyers debut.