Hoorah! Today is NHL draft day! What, you didn’t know? You knew that Michael Jackson died, but not that it’s draft day in the NHL??? I’m sure you knew yesterday was NBA draft day – it was all over the *&^^&%^*&@ media!
But really, it’s not a big deal in Philly, since they have pick #21, and then pick #85 is the next. Will they get a decent prospect at #21? Most likely, and in fact there’s some really good wingers in this year’s draft that I expect to fall that far, as well as some promising defensemen. Perhaps no one that looks really ready to jump in at NHL levels, but who expected last year for the #19 pick to play half a season for the Flyers? Luca Sbisa, we salute you!
The real issue will be what deals get done on draft day instead. The Flyers are not necessarily looking to be moving loads of people, but certainly involved in some big deals. And then free agency starts July 1st as well.
So really, what do the Flyers need? I’d say they’re pretty darn set at center ice, with Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Danny Briere, and Claude Giroux all good centermen. Maybe a nice defensive pivot with some faceoff skills could help – like Sammy Pahlsson, Bobby Holik, or Ryan Kesler – because after Glen Metropolit was lost to waivers last season there was a big gap there. Jared Ross has potential, but GAWD he is small! Darroll Powe is a great defensive forward that I really like, but his faceoff skills are lacking. Regardless, these are most likely not the blockbuster –type deals that Paul Holmgren is looking to make, although they may be corollary to one as a salary-shaving move.
Left wing? If we assume that Simon Gagne is staying, and Scott Hartnell isn’t tradeable, and Dan Carcillo has more scoring potential than Riley Cote, that leaves one wing open … except that I expect either Briere or Giroux to play wing instead of center. Giroux plays a more natural right wing, and Briere needs to gel with linemates longer than most natural left wings– so the makeup of the line will definitely depend on who leaves and who stays. But again, not really an issue in terms of depth, as Josh Gratton and Jonathan Kalinski are both in the system.
At right wing, Mike Knuble is a free agent, but you can expect him to sign again because he definitely understands that they need to cut his salary although he has been a consistent producer. I think he wants to stay, and Holmgren wants him. Aaron Asham also is pretty much guaranteed a roster spot – he’s consistently a good hitter, doesn’t take dumb penalties but plays rough, and he’s CHEAP. And of course, we have the absolute inverse of that in Joffrey Lupul. He’s expensive (4.5 million starting this season), plays like he’s in Europe, and couldn’t be more inconsistent. Some nights, he can wow people; other times, he barely shows up. If we assume that Briere plays center, then Giroux could play right wing, his trained position. And the Flyers coaching staff seems much more confident in Andreas Nodl than I am.
Defensively, the Flyers have a gaping hole that needs to be filled – a physical defenseman. I feel they have plenty of playmakers in Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle, Braydon Coburn, and Luca Sbisa, with Danny Syvret ready to make the NHL roster anytime. More stay-at-home types include Andrew Alberts (who definitely deserves a contract I think), Ryan Parent, and Randy Jones. Lasse Kukkonen is still with the organization as well, as a nice steady backup.
Goaltenders. Well, the newest Flyer (unofficially) is “Sugar” Ray Emery, the fiery goalie from Ottawa’s run to the Cup a few years ago. Kind of a gamble, but if the Flyers resign Antero Niittymaki or get someone like Craig Anderson or Mike Clemmenson to split time, it may just work out. Emery is definitely a talented goalie, but his ego needs to maintain an even keel so having him split time may be the best idea. Marty Biron will try to sign elsewhere before accepting a short-term salary here, so expect to see him in another uniform by the end of July.
The Flyers have most of their trade-bait up front, in the persons of Joffrey Lupul and Danny Briere. I also think Randy Jones may need a change of scenery. For all the rumors regarding Matt Carle, I think he’s a good fit here and a good partner for Braydon Coburn. Danny Syvret is being primed to take Timonen’s job – but that ain’t for several years, so maybe he is available to dangle. And I REALLY don’t like the rumors that James VanRiemsdyke is on the trade list – sure, he looked bad in his first game as a Phantom ... but wouldn’t you??? Give him time to mature, and he’ll be a great compliment to Giroux as his power winger. Also available are those draft picks, because while they aren’t great, this is a pretty deep draft and teams love to get prospects.
So who should be targeted by the organization? EVERYONE says Jay Bouwmeester. Personally, I disagree. He’s a complete player, one how hits, plays defense, and contributes on offense. He’s someone you create a defense around. Frankly, that isn’t what the Flyers need, since their defense is already anchored by Timonen. They need a compliment to Timonen – someone to do the things he doesn’t, like hit everything that moves and clear the front of the net. So spending an exorbitant amount on a contract with JBo just seems unreasonable to me. ESPECIALLY since there are plenty of other players available. My top choice – Mike Komisarek. He’s 6’4” (just like JBo), but weighs 243 lbs! He led the NHL in hits by a defenseman last season, and led the Canadiens in blocked shots as well. At only 27, he has several useful years ahead of himself. He also accumulated 121 penalty minutes last year – by the odd number, you can tell he fights! He’d make a PERFECT pairing with Timonen. Other appropriate free agent defensemen available include Steve Montador, Christian Backman, and Jordan Leopold. Even Johnny Oduya from the Devils would be a good addition! (Picture trading Lupul and Jones to New Jersey for the rights to Holik, Johnny Oduya, and Mike Clemmenson!)
Well, I guess the fun starts next Wednesday – or tonight, depending mostly on other teams. I do hope that Bouwmeester doesn’t talk to anyone before free agency starts, because if he’s off the table the price to sign the others goes up exponentially. Oh, and Chris Pronger – fuggetabotit!