While many have proposed various and sundry ways to repair the Flyers team in this offseason, none have truly addressed the problems adequately. Sure, it’s easy to say that the Flyers WANT Bouwmeester – but really, what NHL team doesn’t (except MAYBE Anaheim, who already have Niedermeyer and Pronger)? And can the Flyers shed enough cap space to carry a second defenseman with a $6+ million salary? I don’t think so. So really, what should be done? Frankly, I think that everybody in the forwards needs to be nervous. OK, OK, except Richards and Giroux. But everyone else, you should be considering if you can streamline your lifestyle. I hear the screaming now – HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY PROPOSE TO TRADE ______ (fill in player’s name here)?!?!? I justify myself thusly:
Knuble – good heart player, still has miles left, but getting slower isn’t helping and he is OLD. Maybe with a restructured contract he could be a valued piece of the team.
Gagne – one concussion away from retirement, and his defensive play this year suffered. He’d take a trade to Montreal, who have some key pieces the Flyers could use. Be a shame, but sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do.
Hartnell – how many minor penalties???? ‘Nuff said?
Carter – while I love centermen as the basis of a team, he doesn’t really play to his size or make any hits at all. His wrist shot is incredible, and his breakaway speed is breathtaking … but the rest of the time he is damn near invisible.
Lupul – possibly the streakiest player I have ever seen. I’d rather know night-in and night-out what guy is showing up at the rink – the high-energy forechecker that scores pretty goals with a wicked shot, or the loafer that sometimes wears Lupul’s jersey.
Asham – actually, I believe Arron is pretty safe. He plays Flyers hockey, and isn’t paid much either. Some key goals late in the season and in the playoffs don’t hurt either.
Carcillo – would anyone really take this guy? League leaders in PIMs don’t get much trade value … oh, unless you’re Holmgren and need cap room!
Cote – fan fave, but with all the other pugilists on the team (Hartnell, Carcillo, Asham) has he outlived his usefulness? I’d keep him around just because his wife is stellar hot.
Briere – overpaid, so it’ll be hard to get someone to accept his salary. The team played WORSE with him in the lineup. Just not a Flyers player, but his no-trade clause and fat paycheck are nasty albatrosses for the team. Still a point-per-game producer, so maybe some team looking for a #1 centerman will take a flier on him.
Powe – while I really like Darroll Powe, he did well enough for some other team to recognize his value as well and ask for him as the subsidiary player in trade negotiations. Would be a real shame, but hey – hockey is a business.
I do NOT believe that the Flyers should entertain thoughts of trading James Van Riemsdyk, as he is just getting into pro hockey and will be a force in a few short years. Also easy to justify would be a couple Phantoms making the NHL jump – specifically Jared Ross and Pat Maroon (and maybe David Laliberte). I think Maroon has the best chance out of training camp this year, but that will depend more on the holes opened by trades than his skill anyway.
So on to the defense. Timonen definitely plays his value – but then, can the cap hold two top-paid blueliners? If you add Bouwmeester, you’ve got over $13 million tied up in your first defensive pairing. That leaves about enough money for them to sign ME to a contract as the starting goalie. Realistic would be the signing of some lesser light – Mike Komisarek (if the injury issues are judged to be behind him), Hal Gill (just to piss off the Penguins), Jordan Leopold (because the Flames already have Phaneuf, and two ain’t fair), or Christian Backman (who quietly had a great season for Columbus). I’ve heard Steve Montador’s name, but I don’t see the consistency in him that the Flyers desperately need in the back end. I’ve also heard various pundits insist that Matt Carle is the best trade bait of Flyers d-men; I would argue that Jones is better. Either could be moved without too much pain. I’d like to see the Flyers make an offer to Alberts – just in recognition that he was the ONLY defenseman on the team who took the body at the blue line. Oddly enough, while he only scored 12 points all season, he was a +11. That’s not bad. Ryan Parent is still maturing, but is rapidly becoming a decent shutdown defenseman – if only he would use that size of his! In the wings the Flyers have Luca Sbisa (obviously), Danny Syvret (who TORE UP the AHL this season), and the ever-steady Lasse Kukkonnen.
Finally, goalies. Honestly, I have NO idea what to do. I like Biron, but if he asks for a raise he needs to find it elsewhere. Niittymaki is a great backup – but that’s all he is, a backup. They’re a dime a dozen. So should the Flyers concentrate on a top-flight goalie, OR a first-rate defenseman? There’s no way that they could do both in my estimation. To some degree, the acquisition of the defenseman alleviates the need to have a smoking-hot goalie, whereas the inverse is decidedly true. But the list of available goalies doesn’t impress anyone – Manny Fernandez, who basically said he doesn’t have the chutzpah to be a #1 goalie anymore? Carey Price, the kid-wonder who the Flyers sent crying home to momma last year in the playoffs? I’m sure Khabibulin and/or Huet are available in Chicago – as long as you have several million to drop on a goalie. Maybe the best would be to gamble, and shoot for a younger goalie that could mature between the pipes a la Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Scott Clemmenson anyone?
Oh, and while I do like John Stevens, he only gets one more year. His ability with the younger players is fantastic, but you make someone like that your AHL coach or an assistant. The head coach should be able to produce consistency from the team – and while the whole locker-switch thing worked, the team has still been streaky for two years. Oh, Ken Hitchcock, where have you gone???
Last thought (I promise) – Holmgren needs to maintain some real wiggle room in the cap this year. Having to sign complete amateurs to one-day contracts when the team is fighting for a playoff spot is totally inexcusable. The depth in the AHL at defense with this club, but they can’t take the cap hit??? Get real. Another reason to shed some big-salary players up front, and depend on Holmgren’s ability to scout and sign real young talent, and Steven’s ability to coach them.
And for those who wondered, I did in fact root for the Flyers during the playoff series with the Penguins. I may have finally turned the corner. GO PENS!!! Or not!