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Tuesday, August 2, 2005
Updated: August 3, 12:29 PM ET
Flyers sign three big defensemen, deal Markov news services

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Flyers bulked up their defense Tuesday by signing hulking blueliners Derian Hatcher, Mike Rathje and Chris Therien to free-agent contracts.

Mike Rathje

Derian Hatcher

Hatcher, who captained the Dallas Stars to the 1999 Stanley Cup title under current Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock, signed a four-year deal worth $14 million. Rathje left the San Jose Sharks for a five-year, $17.5 million contract, and Therien rejoined the Flyers for one season at $500,000. Philadelphia wanted to beef up its defense and did it by signing three veteran defensemen -- all of them about 6-5 and 235 pounds.

"After the season, we lost [Vladimir] Malakhov, [Marcus] Ragnarsson and [Mattias] Timander. They are three big defensemen. We felt that we had to replace them and get better and we did," Flyers Gm Bob Clarke said. "Rathje is a premier defensive defenseman. He is a really good passer who gets the puck out of his own end. Hatcher is similar except that he is a more physical player and more intimidating because of his physical play. They are both really top-notch defensemen."

To make room and clear some space under the new $39 million salary cap, Philadelphia traded defenseman Danny Markov to the Nashville Predators for a third-round pick in next year's draft.

"We knew Chris (Therien) wanted to come back and play here. Both Keith Primeau and Jeremy Roenick called me on their own and said that Chris would help the team and that he is not only important on the ice, but in the locker room."

This is Therien's second stint with the Flyers. He spent the first 10 years of his career with Philadelphia before he was traded to Dallas. The Flyers also re-signed forward Jon Sim, a key contributor to the Philadelphia Phantoms' AHL championship team last season.

The 33-year-old Hatcher was one of the top defenseman on the market and he was snatched up by the Flyers on the second day of free-agent shopping season. He is expected to provide size and leadership to a team that fell one game short of the Stanley Cup finals in 2004.

"He's a physical player and intimidating," Clarke said.

Hatcher said he is fully recovered from a knee injury that limited him to just 15 games in 2003-04, the last hockey season before the lockout.

"Derian's a guy who plays big minutes and heavy minutes," Hitchcock said.

Hatcher and Flyers center Jeremy Roenick have had their battles in the past, including an act of retribution in the '90s when Hatcher broke Roenick's jaw after Roenick injured Dallas star Mike Modano.

"I don't think it's an issue now," Hitchcock said. "They've played each other since so I don't believe it will be a problem."

Hatcher said his decision to sign with the Flyers was influenced by the fact that Clarke drafted him in 1990 when Clarke was the GM of the Minnesota North Stars.

"He believed in me a long time ago," Hatcher said. "I had five good years with Ken Hitchcock in Dallas. And the terms of the deal mattered, too. I have a family and I didn't want to be moving around every two years."

Sim played parts of five seasons with Dallas under Hitchcock. He scored 10 goals in 21 playoff games for the Phantoms.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.