Two things were apparent on May 7, 2011, the day after the Philadelphia Flyers were bounced from the second round of the playoffs. The first was that the Philadelphia Flyers were an extremely talented team, arguabley a better team that went to the finals in 2010. The second was that if the Flyers had had a true #1 goalie they surely would have been able to live up to expectations and once again hoist the Prince of Whales trophy.
This is nothing new if you’re a Flyers fan. It’s a problem the team has had for arguably 20 years and yet it has never been remedied. Last year I wrote about the Flyers best prospect Joacim Eriksson who will surprisingly be allowed to re enter the NHL draft. It didn’t quite make sense for a team with goalie issues to let their top goalie prospect to seemingly walk. But on Tuesday the Flyers made their diehard fans forget about Eriksson, and their casual fans jump for joy. I’m here to rain on the parade.
On Tuesday night WDEL 1150 AM, a radio station out of Delaware first reported that the Flyers had acquired the negotiating rights to goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov for forward Matt Clackson and a 3rd round pick. Clackson is nothing more than organizational depth. In 204 games in the AHL Clackson has just 6 goals, 13 assists, and 574 penalty minutes. The 3rd round pick is the real value for Phoenix in this trade.
Now before you rush out and get your Bryzgalov jersey let me remind you that the Flyers have seen this movie before and they know how it ends. Last year the Flyers had acquired the rights to two different players. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov and defensemen Dan Hamhuis. And as your Flyers 2010-2011 year book will tell you, neither was on the team. The Flyers failed to sign either Nabokov or Hamhuis and instead were forced to look elsewhere for goalie and defensive help.
It is not guaranteed that Bryzgalov will don the Flyers sweater this year. Last offseason the Flyers needed a goalie way more than they do this offseason and they weren’t able to get a deal done with Nabokov. I think many Flyers fans are forgetting that you have to actually sign Bryzgalov. However this move could have huge implications on the Flyers team you will see next season.
As Cracked Bell contributor Charlie O’ Connor pointed out via his Twitter account, IF Bryzgalov does end up signing than you can wave Ville Leino goodbye. Even if Bryzgalov doesn’t sign with the Flyers it’s going to be tough to find the money it’ll take to lock up Leino.
Another is what happens to Sergei Bobrovsky. Because of the Flyers high expectations last year, and the goalie carrousel in the playoffs, I think many Flyers fans are forgetting the Bobrovsky was a rookie last season. To think that Bobrovsky would regress next season if he was given the same amount of time as he was in 2010-2011 is just dumb. He went from playing in 35 games in 2009-2010 to playing in 54 in 2010-2011. Bobrovsky was simply worn out.
Bryzgalov is going to be 31 to start the season and this will likely be his big chance to cash in. He will probably command anywhere from 5-6 million a season and you have to assume he’s looking for a 4-5 year deal. With the Flyers currently have 18 players locked up for next season with a cap hit of about $59,000,000. The cap will likely go up to around $63,000,000 for next season which should help the Flyers in their negotiations, but won’t help them enough.
To free up cap space you could see the Flyers move Scott Hartnell, but this is extremely unlikely. Hartnell has a no trade clause, and is expected to earn 8.4 million over the next two seasons. If Paul Holmgren was able to convince a GM to take on this contract the Flyers would be getting next to nothing in return. Another guy who could have seen his last day as a Flyer is Kris Versteeg. Versteeg came over from Toronto in exchange for a 1st and 3rd round draft picks. He is expected to earn a little over $3 million next season. Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn could also be shipped out as they are both expected to earn over 3 million next season. Other than Hartnell, the players I named could be used to free up cap space and replenish the depleting farm system with prospects or draft picks. If the Flyers are serious about Bryzgalov than don’t expect them to be idle during the NHL Draft.
While Bryzgalov would be an upgrade I’m wondering if the hassle would be worth it. The Flyers would need to trade more than one guy in order to get a deal with Bryzgalov done because of cap implications. The Flyers have a 22 year old goalie that showed signs of brilliance last season and seemingly came out of nowhere to take this city by storm.
My advice to Holmgren would have been never to make this deal in the first place. Holmgren is a big fan of trading draft picks and because of that it’s left the Flyers system depleted. The Flyers strength is their strong defensive core which isn’t getting any younger, but is still one of the top 5 defensive units in the league. I wouldn’t look to make a slight upgrade in the goalie spot which will have a huge cap hit, but instead go with the younger, cheaper option in Bobrovsky for the 2011-2012 season. With a defense like the Flyers you don’t need a world beater between the pipes. Next season Bobrovsky will get stronger, get better, and be able to handle the grind of a full season in the NHL.
But Paul Holmgren hasn’t called me, and I doubt he will. But in my mind it’s just not worth it.