This season was a very important year for the Flyers, as the team showed a ton of promise with a handful of rookies playing very well. Matt Read, Sean Couturier, and Brayden Schenn all showed that they have the potential to be stars on this team for years to come, and with a player like Claude Giroux leading the charge this team has a very bright future. Despite this, the present looks much more cloudy, and this could be a very important offseason if the Flyers look to make a push next season and possibly play for the Stanley Cup.
I should probably start by addressing the recent trade rumors for the team, with two players being at the absolute heart of it all. I of course, am talking about Sergei Bobrovsky and James Van Riemsdyk. Trading Bob would certainly hurt me, since I fully believe that he will be a star goaltender in the NHL, but we certainly don't have the room to pay him 1.75 million to be a backup goaltender and wait for him to become a free agent and leave. If the Flyers get a good offer for Bobrovsky, they should probably take it, considering with the way Ilya Bryzgalov played this season, he could use a veteran backup to push him, instead of a young, up and coming goaltender. JVR is a bit more complicated, he could be a star in this league, but he needs more consistency and definitely needs to improve his defense before that happens. Rest assured JVR will likely not be worth his 4.25 million dollar price tag next season and that definitely has the front office terrified that they have to pay him. This has lead to a major rumor (that has been shut down by Paul Holmgren, but since when do GMs tell the truth?) that JVR could be worked in a deal for Rick Nash. Nash's price tag is high, but if the Flyers can skim money from some of the other forwards this might be a good move for the team, is JVR going to be as good as Rick Nash? maybe, but we don't know that and Rick Nash is already a star at age 27, has a lot of time left, and plays fantastic hockey, he could be huge for the Flyers. It's fun to think about, but it's a silly pipe dream, if JVR is traded, it would likely be to Nashville for Ryan Suter or Shea Weber's signing rights, and if a deal were to take place between the Flyers and Jackets, Bobrovsky would have to be included, which could be a little much but worth it for Columbus and possibly even the Flyers, still, much like Stamkos last year, it's a silly pipe dream and is not going to happen.
Next we move to the Free Agents section, lets go through each position and see who the Fly Guys have to re-sign, who they SHOULD re-sign, and who they should target.
Players to re-sign: none (except a couple of minor league guys that can be replaced)
The Flyers after the temultuous season in net could definitely use a veteran backup. While it's true that you can't fault Bryz and Bob for a few of the goals last year because of the defense, but the fact remains that both of them were extremely inconsistent in net and that should be addressed with an inexpensive veteran backup. Jonas Gustavsson is an interesting one, if you can get him for a low price, he has the talent to push Bryzgalov if need be and can accept a backup role. Clemmensen more relies on no one wanting him, which is not likely, but Clem has proved to be an excellent backup and actually a capable starter, so he could push Bryzgalov really hard if signed to a cheap contract. I'm sure Flyers fans remember good old Nitty and Marty, Marty Biron is an excellent backup, as we saw last year behind Lundqvist, and his history in Philly could push Bryz to be the best he can be. Nitty has always been a very talented goaltender, but that talent has never been applied to a starting job and injuries have slowed him down, nonetheless he's a very capable backup and could once again push Bryz next season.
I say the Flyers should not re-sign Jagr for two reasons, the first being that he clearly wore out late in the season and in the playoffs, and despite obvious improvements still does not play very good defense. For that, I just don't think hes worth the money. Voracek showed great flashes but was excruciatingly inconsistent and played mediocre defense, for that I give him a maybe, no more than 2.5 mil for you. Harry Z looked good last year, but could use some time in the AHL, would be a great call up if needed. I don't think I even need to say anything about Blair Betts, one hopes he retires.
If anyone watched the Flyers last season, there was a glaring problem with the forwards that no one cared to notice, the defensemen aren't the only players that have to play defense, which was something I feared after Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were traded. Players like JVR, Wayne Simmonds (as great as he played last season, very impressive), Voracek, and even first liners like Scott Hartnell and Jagr seemed lost in the defensive zone, letting their man hold the puck, get by them, take free shots, and deflect pucks, it's not all on the defensemen, and this can be fixed through FA.
I'll start by saying, don't even think about Zach Parise, not gonna happen, absolutely not, don't have the money, but if it does, Parise is a great defensive forward along with his scoring.
The most interesting one on my list is Alex Semin, I put him on there if the team gets rid of JVR and Jagr, they could use some scoring and find D elsewhere, Semin is a fantastic player but is horribly motivated, he's likely headed to the KHL, but if he really wants to play in the NHL, the Flyers could sign him to a relatively cheap contract, 4-5 mil, and if Peter Laviolette could motivate the classic prima dona Jaromir Jagr, maybe he can get Semin to buy in too. Smyth would definitely need to take a pay cut from his 6 mil contract, but if signed for 3-4 million, could put in solid scoring along with very good defense, a nice compliment to Hartnell and Giroux. Brad Boyes has a ton of potential, can score in bunches, and plays solid defense, a line with Giroux and Hartnell could be the thing that breaks this still young player into stardom. Doan and Rolston are in the twilight of their careers, but Doan is still a fantastic scorer, plays great all around hockey and would be worth every penny we can give him, but likely going back to Phoenix. Rolston would be more of a 3rd or 4th line solution if signed cheap, he's one of the best defensive forwards in the league and has the kind of passing and shot to play the point very well on a power play, Rolston is a guy the Flyers need to look at no matter what, if of course they can get a good price.
Finally we get to the most glaring need for the Flyers, defense. The Flyers currently sport a group dubbed by me as "The Most Expensive Mediocre Defense One Can Aseemble" or MEMDOCA for short. Matt Carle is solid, but will most likely want about 5 million, absolutely positively not worth it. Bourdon showed that he can definitely play in the NHL, and if they can sign him to a 2 way deal, absolutely bring him back, if anything get him as a 7th defenseman. The Pavel Kubina trade was dumb from the get go, his offense is only okay and his defense is deplorable, bad bad move by Holmgren, get him out of here.
First things first, The Flyers need to absolutely make a huge push for Ryan Suter, Chris Pronger is never coming back and even if he could hes very old and will not be the same, he is finished, the Flyers have accepted this and must pursue Suter with everything they have, if that requires paying him more than 7 million, do it, he is worth it, he excels in all facets of the game and is an asset to any team that can sign him. Dennis Wideman could be the steal of the offseason, a team is likely to sign him to about a 5 million dollar contract, definitely worth it for the solid defense and excellent offense he brings to the table. Joe Corvo could be a cheap target for the Flyers, who could use a guy who can play good defense, play the puck, and not cost too much money. Roz is in the same boat, but likely will command a larger contract, and therefore could be out of the Flyers price range, and Barrett Jackman is not particularly good at playing the puck, but if Andrej Meszaros can stay healthy that's not particularly needed.
Long story short the Flyers need to focus on defense this offseason, whether it be the forwards or the defensemen, get better at playing defense. If possible, a trade with JVR and Bob for Rick Nash could be very beneficial to the team, but would hurt their ability to sign Ryan Suter, which should be a huge target for the Flyers. Sign Suter, and the team can go far, sign solid defensive wingers who can score, and a veteran backup, and this team could potentially play for the Stanley Cup, but that keyword that seems to be a problem for the Flyers all the time is here again, DEFENSE.