After escaping by the skin of their teeth, the Flyers had a semifinal rematch with the Bruins. Let's just say the epic comeback of last season did not see a repeat. The Flyers were outscored 20-7 in the four game sweep, and played like the Flyers of 2007 that ended the season with 56 points. One stat the certainly jumps off the table is that the Flyers actually outshot Boston in the series 149-129. The goal differential in light of the shot differential highlights the Flyers long time problem; goaltending.
Paul Holmgren, in what many consider to be the most comical comment of the Playoffs said. "I don't think that we can fault our goaltending at any point in this series." While he is right that the backchecking amongst the forwards was not as good as it should have been, to not blame your goalies that have a collected a 4.50 GAA and an 877 SV%, goaltending is clearly a problem for this team. It always has been, and unless Holmgren can man up and realize it is an issue that needs to be fixed, it may always be a problem.
Just like I did in my last article about the Calgary Flames, (I recommend checking it out if you have not seen it already) I am going to go through the makeup of this Flyers team and what opportunities are available to the Flyers, to improve their goaltending woes.
The Flyers clearly need to get a frontline top goaltender to answer there woes. They have tried the Chicago, and Detroit track, where you put no money into the goaltender, and it has failed them miserably. There are two star goaltenders in Illya Byzgalov and Thomas Vokoun, that are going to be on the open market and will ask approximately $5 million per season. The problem facing the Flyers is how to sign them to a contract. Here is a list of the salaries that the owe to their top 11 players for next season:
Daniel Briere: $7 million
Mike Richards: $6.6 million
Jeff Carter: $6 million
Scott Hartnell: $3.7 million
Kris (crippling trade) Versteeg: $3.1 million
Claude Giroux: $2.75 million
Kimmo Timonen: $5 million
Chris Pronger: $7.6 million
Andrej Meszaros: $4 million
Matt Carle: $3.8 million
Brayden Coburn: $3.2 million
Total: $52.75 million
Note: This is a list of actual salaries, the cap hit on the contracts are varying in both directions.
With the suspected cap hit of 62 million, the Flyers are left with less than 10 million dollars to fill out over half of their roster. This is before they re-sign Ville Leino, their top UFA. Thanks to Holmgren's short-sighted trade for Kris Versteeg without giving up a penny from the current roster, he has left his team in contractual problems that makes the Hawks woes of last year look like nothing. The Versteeg trade made even less sense when you realize that they had absolutely no need for another offensive player. It fails me to understand what the Flyers had to gain.
There are two scenarios that can arise that may allow Holmgren to sign either Bryzgallov or Vokoun. Either they are able to option a player making a lot of money, like Matt Carle or Brayden Coburn to the minors, or trade them. These guys, especially Coburn who is an absolute beast on the penalty kill, may garner attention from teams looking for a young and steady defenceman that carries a short term contract into the new CBA.
The other scenario that may arise, that will allow for the Flyers to sign a goalie, is if the market suffers from the "Turco, Nabokov syndrome." Essentially there is nobody in the market that is willing to pay for a goaltender, so you can either accept minimum veterans salary, or go play for a couple of weeks in Europe, before promptly requesting to come back to the NHL, only to be claimed by the least desirable destination in perhaps all of sports. Hmm....
I do not believe that the Panthers have any interest in re-signing Thomas Vokoun. They have the number one goalie prospect Jakub Markstrom in their system, and in a full rebuilding mode, there is no need for a 35 year old goaltender that will not contribute to any long term success. The only way I see him returning, is if the Panthers give him a huge one year contract. Again, from a hockey standpoint, it makes no sense for either side ti bring him back.
Bryzgallov is a very interesting case. If the Coyotes end up moving to Winnipeg, he has said that he has no intentions of playing there and will move on from the organization. While he may end up getting swayed by money, he has eliminated one of the few teams that will be in the market looking for a goalie. Also, with the ownership in limbo, it may be difficult for them to lay out the money they will need to bring him back to the desert, especially with Kieth Yandle as an RFA that they need to sign.
The only teams that I can see actually interested in investing and pursuing a top notch goaltender, are the Flyers, Avalanche, Blue Jackets and Islanders ( interested in pursuing a healthy goaltender). The Flyers are the only ones that actually have realistic championship capabilities, and will be a huge draw to any goaltender looking for a new home. So while the asking price may be $5 million, the Islanders may be scared off by paying for another goaltender, the Jackets might think that Steve Mason will remember how to play hockey, and the Avs might decide that they can find another one hit wonder like Craig Anderson, and keep their costs as low as they possibly can. With a very limited market, the Flyers may get away with making a lowball offer of about $3 million. While I think Bryzgalov will go to the KHL, I think that Vokoun may bite.
If these avenues do not work out, the only other option left for the Flyers is to make a trade. The one thing that they most definitely have on their side, is that they have a significant amount of assets. While I do not usually like to speculate, the one glaring trade scenario that really seems to work, is the Flyers acquiring Jonathan Quick.
As documented as the Flyers inability to procure a top notch goaltenders has been, the inability for the Kings to land their much coveted partner for Anze Kopitar has been almost as emphasized.The Kings have tried absolutely everything, they have signed Alex Ponikarovsky, traded for Marco Sturm and Dustin Penner, and lost out on the opportunity to choke themselves by signing Illya Kovalchuk to an enormous contract.
With the most heralded and top young goalie in Jonathan Bernier, the Kings should be looking to trade Quick, while he still has value on his low contract. Quick is signed for another two seasons at 1.8 mil each. The Flyers can afford this, and can also provide the Kings with the top line players they need. The Kings have an extensive number of restricted free agents to sign, highlighted by superstar Drew Doughty, and the best young third liner in the game Wayne Simmonds. After all the internal signings are completed the Kings will be left with approximately only 3 million dollars in cap space to begin the 2011 season
With not much flexibility to play around with, it seems the best option for them to acquire is James Van Riemsdyk. He is a on his entry level contract this season, and will be looking for a big pay hike, at the end of the upcoming season. By then, the Kings will be able to afford to pay him the money, with almost 18 million dollars coming off the books at the end of the 2011 season. Ryan Smyth (6.25 mil) Willie Mitchell (3.5 mil) Dustin Penner (4.25 mil) and Jarret Stoll (3.6 mil) even if re-signed will be at a discount from what they are currently making, and will free up some money for the Kings. JVR has certainly showed that he is developing into one of the premier power forwards in the entire NHL, and is the best asset that the Flyers can dangle to acquire a top notch goaltender.
While it will hurt the Flyers in the long run to lose a player pf JVR's ilk, the future for this team is now. With Briere, Pronger and Timonen on the wrong side of 30, this team is built to compete for a championship at this juncture, and must sacrifice a little for the future. The future is not completely lost however, with Carter, Giroux, Richards up front, there is still plenty of talent for the Flyers to continue to score with the best of them. However as is always the case, their success is contingent on finding a goaltender, and that is what they need to do. In essence, when Holmgren traded for Versteeg and the addition of his $3 million salary, all he was doing is ensuring he will need to lose a key piece of his future, it is time for him to admit his mistake and finally do it the right way.
Homlgren- go find a goaltender, and do whatever you have to do to get him. Your comments about goaltending not being the problem makes you sound foolish and in denial of the reality.
Who do you think they should sign?
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