Flyers Prepare for Eventful Offseason

Well, the Philadelphia Flyers post-mortem articles are flying around at full speed these days. Not to feel left out or anything but it is probably as good a time as any to once again give you some of Brian’s bold predictions on what the Flyers should do and what will happen this off-season around South Philly once the Stanley Cup champ is officially crown…

The salary Cap: The truth is the Flyers might not have to make a trade in order to stay under the cap this year. The cap is supposed to go up about $3 million. According to NHLNumbers.com, the Flyers were about $1.5 under the cap.

Assuming the Flyers don’t bring back any of their unsigned free agents, that will leave around $4.5 to play with. Ville Leino is the only free agent the Flyers have a need to resign and that might be a bit of a problem if the Flyers want to trade for a big name UFA or a trade. We will look at some of those options later.

Head Coach: Peter Laviolette spent his first full season as the Flyers head coach. How soon we forget it wasn’t that long ago Laviolette replaced John Stevens who replaced so-an-so and so on and so on and…you get the picture. The head coaching position was as much a turnstile place of employment as the goaltending position was.

Fortunately for the Flyers, despite his tough attitude and current relationship with Captain Mike Richards, “Lavy” isn’t going anywhere, at least for one more season. Remember these are the Flyers and anything can happen at any time but it is pretty safe to say no change will be made this time around.

Forwards

Not everyone under contract is safe these days. With the Flyers all of a sudden deciding to make goaltending a priority (heck, it’s only been since Ron Hextall was in his prime that it was ever a priority) someone on the roster might become a sacrificial lamb and be moved to make salary cap space for a trade. But first, let’s take a look at each position.

One left wing, James van Riemsdyk began to look like the player that resembled the second overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Needless to say he isn’t going anywhere.

Kris Versteeg was traded for a first and third rounder and was not worth the trade (sorry Kris). Because of his performance with the Flyers he won’t be moved unless it’s part of a bigger package.

Leino might command somewhere between $2.5-3 million but the only way he gets that here is if the Flyers either go on the cheap for a goaltending prospect (Can you say Cory Schneider, Semyon Varlamov, or Jonathan Bernier?) or move Scott Hartnell, which is not out of the question. The Flyers have tried to move Hartnell in the past (see LA Kings for details) so if the Kings still have interest in him it could come as part of a package since LA has a ton of good prospects and the Flyers need to get younger in all positions.

Dan Carcillo probably won’t be back since Jody Shelley is signed for the next two years and can replace Carcillo full time.

In terms of top prospects (sorry, I almost hurdled remembering that the Flyers really don’t have any) the Flyers might have gotten lucky at left wing.

Keep the name Brendan Ranford in your hip pocket. He is a former seventh round pick in 2010 and improved his play all four years he’s played for Kamloops (WHL).

Ranford had 33 goals and 86 points in 68 games finishing tied for 13th for a team that didn’t even make the playoffs. If he has a problem it is that he is like a lot of the Flyers forwards these days and that he is under six foot. So much for being the second coming of John LeClair but if he can score while on a line with Danny Briere or Jeff Carter having a player who can keep the Flyers under the cap and play well at the NHL level that would be a something special for a team that treats the draft like the bad high school dance, they try and avoid it at all cost.

What I would do: The Flyers should move Hartnell and resign Leino for two years for around $2.5 per but if he wants more than that they should let him walk. Let Carcillo walk and add Ranford or Eric Wellwood to the lineup to not only add speed but skill to the lineup.

What the Flyers will do: As you will soon find out the Flyers will do the opposite of everything I say but I do think they will find a way somehow to get Leino signed but Hartnell will probably be used as trade bait.

At center the Flyers have Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Darroll Powe, Andreas Nodl, and Blair Betts. They can also use Claude Giroux and Danny Briere from time to time. Carter has the most trade value but the whole point of building a championship team is you don’t take pieces away from your roster you add to it.

The Flyers should move Carter but only if they get a huge package for him (a forward, defenseman, and a top prospect and/or first round pick). Despite recent news reports that Richards and the coach not getting along you can bet Richards isn’t going anywhere… for now. Powe and Nodl probably won’t be resigned but Nodl does have a chance at staying.

What I would do: The Flyers need to consider making a bold move at the draft. Carter could be used to get into the first round and go as high as in the top 5 if they dangle Carter to teams who can’t afford to wait on another prospect and miss the playoffs (I will explain why later. In the mean time keep this in the back of your brain. The Florida Panthers pick third overall and the New York Islanders fifth overall). If he’s not used to trade up that high than you’re only other option is for a top flight goaltender currently in the NHL but not for a top prospect.

What the Flyers will do: Someone will get traded from the roster but it’s hard to tell if it’s one of the centermen. Knowing the Flyers they will keep all of the above mentioned centers since the Flyers don’t have a single blue chip prospect waiting in the wings.

At right wing Briere, Carter, and Giroux make the right wing strength. Nikolay Zherdev won’t be back. He made $2 million so assume he is off the books. Again, Carter is the key to what the Flyers will and won’t do in the off-season.

Jason Akeson has had four solid years at Kitchener (OHL) but like most of the Flyers prospects he is under six foot. He will go to the AHL and see what he’s made up. The Flyers also like Mike Testwuide and with Zherdev not likely to be back he will get a crack at a roster spot in training camp.

What I would do: The Flyers need to add a power play guy so adding someone on the either wing is a priority. The Flyers can’t go into next season with the same power play unit who so far has been horrible under Laviolette

What the Flyers will do: Zherdev is gone. Other than that everything else stays the same but someone will be added to replace Zherdev.

Defense

Chris Pronger injury issues aside, the Flyers have gotten very old very quick on the blueline. Pronger and Kimmo Timonen will both be 37 this year and Sean O’Donnell will be 40 and a UFA so don’t expect O’Donnell to be back. Timonen’s cap hit drops with two more years left to go on his contract. I doubt they could move him next year when his cap hit will go down to $3 from $4 mill.

Andrej Meszaros and Braydon Coburn aren’t going anywhere, but Matt Carle and has only one more year left on his contract. Moving him might prove worth it since the Flyers need a goaltender. He and Hartnell are most likely to be move to make cap space.

Still, if you move him that will make the d-line that much older unless you get a top prospect from another team in because the Flyers don’t have one. Kevin Marshall, Joonas Lehtivuori, and Eric Gustafsson could see time on the blueline if someone gets moved.

What I would do: Ok, remember that whole Flyers trading Carter thing? Well, here is where this comes into play. If you’re the Flyers and Florida picks third overall, and Adam Larsson is sitting there for the taking, you better keep this in mind. The New Jersey Devils pick fourth overall. You can bet the house NJ won’t let Larsson to get past them when the time comes to pick. Don’t let the Devils get someone like Larsson who is not only NHL ready but can play on the blueline for the next 10-15 years for you.

Scouts have told me he’s ahead of Victor Hedman at the same age and see how he has worked out so far for Tampa. Trading Carter for a player that high in the draft not only gets you under the cap without blowing up your roster but it makes your blueline that much younger to replace Timonen and possibly Pronger down the road.

What the Flyers will do: Someone will be brought in to replace O’Donnell. Don’t expect it to be a prospect already in their system. Carle could be moved but it’s a 50-50 deal at this stage of the game. If he gets moved it will be at the draft.

Goaltending

I know, I know. This is the one you have all been waiting for.

Well, it’s pretty much a done deal that the only goaltender that will definitely be back next season is Sergei Bobrovsky who had a solid season in net. He might however start in the minors so he can get work in. Brian Boucher is a UFA and he is a solid backup, but he is not a starter. Despite Michael Leighton having one more season to go he is most likely to go or stay in the minors for insurance in case Boucher does not come back or gets hurt.

The Flyers will get another goaltender. The question is, who?

The list of name UFA’s are Ilya Bryzgalov, Tomas Vokoun, J.S. Giguere, and a cast of others who realistically wouldn’t be able to help the Flyers get over the hump. Giguere made the most money last season of the three $6 mill, with Bryzgalov coming up the rear at $4.25. Bryzgalov is the youngest of the three (30) and he had the better season overall than the other two with Giguere having the worst.

Still, the Flyers could go the trade route for someone younger than all three and not only have a goaltender of the present but of the future as well. A couple of names stand out right away. You might recall I mentioned earlier Bernier, Cory Schneider, and Semyon Varlamov. Jonathan Quick is another on the hit list but Schneider should be on top of the hit list followed by Bernier. The book is still out on Bernier and unless you know your hockey Flyer fans will scratch their collective heads of the Flyers have to give up a Jeff Carter to get him, which they shouldn’t have to do for any of the above mentioned goaltenders if for no other reason than the others haven’t proven themselves just yet, but you can see why someone would trade for any of them.

If Bernier can be had, which is highly unlikely, he will be who the Flyers make a major push for. Schneider is more likely to be moved since he’d like a crack at a starter’s job instead of being behind Roberto Luongo. Varlamov is said to be thinking about going back to Russia if he’s not handed the job in Washington and the Caps don’t want to just let him walk, even if it means trading with the hated Flyers. Quick will most likely be moved or remain as the Kings backup so don’t count on him coming to Philly.

In the system, the Flyers have a couple of prospects to keep your eye on. Joacim Ericksson had another solid season in Sweden and might finally come overseas considering the Flyers goaltending situation. Nicola Riopel spent time in the AHL and ECHL and more than held his own. He will need a full season in the AHL for further evaluation and isn’t ready. Adam Morrison had a solid year for Saskatoon (WHL) but like Riopel will have to split time in the A and the E.

A wild card is Jacob De Serres who is finally coming into his own having spent more than enough time in juniors between the WHL and the QMJHL. He had his best season ever this past season with Saint Johns (Q). He will get a long look in training camp and could shock some but he’s most likely going to spend time in the A first.

If I am a betting man, and I am not, here is the pecking order of who the Flyers will target in the off-season.

Bryzgalov
Vokoun
Schneider
Bernier
Giguere
Varlamov
Quick

The Flyers will always seek a veteran first before going for a prospect. If that is the case someone will have to come off the roster, but not necessarily Carter. Moving Hartnell and/or Carle should do the trick providing the Flyers don’t resign any of their current free agents. If they feel that Leino must come back than at least one will be moved for any of the vets.

If the Flyers have to make a trade for Schneider or Bernier, than Carter will most likely be moved but only as part of a larger package. The Flyers MUST get younger on defense and the Kings do have a prospect or two that could be part of the equation.

Also, the Flyers must get back into the first round of the draft but the Kings don’t have a first round pick this year so they might ask for one down the road (2013?). The Canucks do have one and if they win the cup they could send theirs to Philly.

What I would do: The team is built to win now, not later. That said, the Flyers not only need a goaltender of the present but of the future. If they can get one in one shot than I would make the trade for Schneider or Bernier. Even if they don’t trade Carter for either I have plans for Carter so hang on to your hats on this one.

What the Flyers will do: They will sign either Bryzgalov or Vokoun depending on who comes cheapest. Bryzgalov does not want to stay in Phoenix so he most likely will become a Flyers but the Panthers have Jacob Markstrom waiting in the wings if the Panthers decide Vokoun wants too much which he most likely will.

The NHL Entry Draft: Ok, now you get to see what my master plan is.

The Panthers pick third overall pick this year. The Flyers can’t afford another season out of the first round (See Pronger, Versteeg, Luca Sbisa and other dumb moves for details). The Panthers can’t afford another season out of the playoffs. The New Jersey Devils pick fourth overall behind the Panthers.

If Larsson is still on the board when the Panthers pick my advice to the Flyers is to send Carter, Hartnell or Carle, and whatever else you have to send to the Panthers for that pick. It has been forever since the Panthers have made the playoffs and they need players who can play now, not wait on another top prospect.

Also, you don’t want to let the Devils get their hands on this Larsson would could patrol the blueline for the next 10-15 years and you have your two best defenseman over age 35 and are not in good shape physically. Have Pronger and Timonen mentor him. With the money saved under the cap there is not excuse not to get a goaltender.

Trust me when I say this, I under no circumstances do I want to trade Carter. I love his game and when healthy is a force. However, this is one time when trading him actually makes sense. With the money saved under the cap the Flyers can pick and choose who they want to sign as a free agent.

The bottom line is the Flyers can’t afford to stay out of the first round of the draft. The last first rounder they kept was van Riemsdyk in 2007. Sbisa was drafted in 2008 but was part or the Pronger trade along with their first round picks in 2009 and 2010. Than the Flyers not only traded their 2011 first and third round picks for Versteeg, which isn’t looking like a good trade so far, but they Flyers also traded Michael Chaput who was there top pick in 2010. That means the highest draft pick the Flyers have from last season’s draft was Tye McGinn who was taken 119th overall in the fourth round!

Think about that for a second. The highest draft pick the Flyers have had over the past three drafts is Marc-Andre Bourdon who was taken 67th overall in 2008 (third round). That’s not bad, that’s pathetic.

My point is, unless there is a trade of some kind at the draft, which the Flyers have done quite frequently at every draft in recent years; don’t expect the Flyers to do much at this year’s draft as well.

That said they should take my advice and make a bold move this time around. They know they need a goaltender, and making a move or two at the draft is how they will mostly get under to cap to do so.

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2 Responses to “Flyers Prepare for Eventful Offseason”

  1. Disappointed Reader
    May 17, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    You wrote this as if you are playing “GM Mode” on NHL ’11. I understand that you have to appeal to the masses, but this reads more like a beginners guide to free agency for the casual fans who start paying attention in April. I apologize if that is your audience, but wow. Hartnell wont waive his NTC, nor would LA take on his ridiculous cap hit. Briere and Giroux play center on occasion? Try every shift they are on the ice. This is such an idealized approach to the summer; Any fan with an inkling of hockey sense would read this and think the writer was someone who just got into hockey, then memorized everything he read on hockey forums and blogs, and somehow managed to regurgitate it all in a single article.

  2. Robert Colquhoun
    May 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    Goaltending is their biggest concern, and it has been since Hextall – you’re right. My guess is that they will persue Nabokov from Long Island for cheap, rather than move any relevant piece. Hartnell is not going anywhere.