Flyers offseason: A silver lining in the 2013 goalie market

USA TODAY Sports

The number of teams looking for goalies might not be that big. If the Flyers are eyeing the possibility of a Bryzgalov buyout, this would be a good thing.

Flashback: July 2, 2011. Emphasis mine:

But this isn't necessarily even hindsight: If Bryzgalov hits unrestricted free agency, there's a chance he could have gone elsewhere, but the July 1 market clearly benefited the team, not the goalies. Bryzgalov would not have gotten $5.66 million a year (especially not for NINE YEARS) on the open market.

And we could have predicted that from a mile away. We definitely could have figured it out a week ago. It's simple: Six goalies, how many teams looking for goalies? Not more than six. Buyers market.

Could we have seen such a low number for Vokoun? No, not that low. But a number less than Bryzgalov? Much less than Bryzgalov? Yes. A thousand times yes.

The one team that opted out of that market wound up getting the worst of the deals, and again, that could have been expected -- not to mention that they had to completely re-shape their championship caliber team to make it happen. Hell, they have a history of this, completely misjudging the UFA goalie market a year ago by giving Michael Leighton a bad contract before free agency opened.

The short version of Travis' post from that day, linked and blockquoted above: One of the Flyers' biggest mistakes in that fateful 2011 offseason, in giving Ilya Bryzgalov the contract they did, was significantly misjudging the market for goaltending at the time. Not that many teams were in the market for goaltending, and none of the teams who were ended up paying much for it ... except the Flyers.

As it turns out, this summer we may see what the Flyers have learned since then.

In the middle of a discussion about possible goaltending targets on Friday's Fly By, BSHer Jaypoozle asked the following question that I really hope the Flyers' front office has already asked itself: "I don't think the market is that big for starting goaltenders. Does anyone want to put together a list of teams looking for a starting goaltender?"

That's why we're here. Here's every team I can think of that, if I were to ask them right now "are you looking for a starting goalie (or at least someone who could be part of a tandem)?", might -- under some circumstance -- say yes, along with a description of their problem.

  • Buffalo: Ryan Miller seems to be getting restless over there, and given that the team's likely going through a bit of a rebuild stage, he might be getting traded soon. If that were to happen, it comes down to whether or not they think Jhonas Enroth is ready to be a full-time starter. They may look for a tandem guy to pair with Enroth, if Miller goes.
  • Calgary: Miikka Kiprusoff is almost certainly retiring, but apparently the Flames have at least a handful of other options in their system, including Finnish netminder Karri Ramo, who the folks there at Flames Nation consider "the favorite" to be their starter next year. He's an unknown, so I guess they could be looking.
  • Florida: The only goalie they've got under contract for next year is Scott Clemmensen, who's old and also not particularly good, but young Swede Jakob Markstrom is the guy who's generally pegged as being their goalie of the future. He'll probably be the guy getting most of their starts, unless they aren't sold on him being the full-time guy just yet.
  • Minnesota: Niklas Backstrom's been their workhorse for years, and was this past season, but he's getting up there in age and is an unrestricted free agent. Meanwhile, Josh Harding -- the 2013 Masterton Trophy winner and Backstrom's heir apparent -- was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last November. Even though he played this past postseason and seems optimistic about his future, the uncertainty there may force the Wild to re-sign Backstrom or at least look for more help elsewhere.
  • New Jersey: Martin Brodeur's old, and, in turn, hasn't quite been his Hall-of-Fame caliber self the past couple of seasons. His backup, Johan Hedberg, is also old, and was a trainwreck last year in any game where he wasn't playing the Flyers. The folks over at In Lou We Trust put together a really solid look at UFA goalies this year, and think that amnestying Hedberg and having one of those free agents split some time with Marty may not be a bad idea.
  • NY Islanders: Evgeni Nabokov got the majority of their starts last season, and though he wasn't that bad (.910 SV%) he got lit up like a tree against Pittsburgh in the playoffs. At 38 next season, he and/or the Islanders might just be looking to move on. Not to mention it's been rumored that they're in on Roberto Luongo, so it'd appear they're in the market for an upgrade.
  • Phoenix: Mike Smith's a free agent this year and is probably looking for a decent sum of money following one really good year and one OK year in Phoenix. Whether or not Phoenix is looking for an upgrade more or less comes down to whether or not they want to/can keep/pay for him.

So that's seven teams looking for an upgrade. At most. And I think I may have been reaching on a couple of them. I'm not particularly well-informed of the goalie prospects of any of these teams, so they may have guys that I'm forgetting that they'll be looking to instead. If that's the case, that number may be even lower. Meanwhile, all of the other 22 teams either have a sure-fire No. 1 goalie or have multiple options for next year (i.e. Anaheim, St. Louis).

Even if there's some guesswork involved here, I think the point stands that there's a good possibility that, like in 2011, we'll see more possible starting/tandem goalies on the trade market/in free agency than we will teams actively looking to get one of them.

We've already discussed Jonathan Bernier, and my main concern with him was that I thought there'd be a big bidding war for his services -- likely by trade -- and I don't think the Flyers should get involved in something like that for him. Same goes for other goalies that may be changing locations this year, via trade or free agency -- guys like Backstrom, Miller, Luongo, Smith, Nabokov, one of Jonas Hiller or Viktor Fasth, Ray Emery, any one of Brian Elliott/Jaroslav Halak/Jake Allen, Anton Khudobin ... and probably some others that I'm forgetting. The In Lou We Trust post linked above mentions a few more in free agency. (Note: I am not saying those are all equally-viable or equally-desirable options; just noting that they are all, indeed, options.)

If the group of teams looking for an upgrade in net isn't that big, then the Flyers may have a little bit more leeway. If they are, indeed, looking to buy out Ilya Bryzgalov and replace him with someone else, they hopefully won't need to go out and pay some insane cost -- either in money or trade chips -- because it looks like there might just be more supply than demand.

Now, that doesn't mean it's going to be easy. If they do choose to buy out Bryzgalov, it'll be a tricky situation in either case. If they're looking to trade, the urgency might be ramped up a bit because they'll have to get it done before July 4 so they can make room via a Bryzgalov amnesty. If they turn to free agency, that means that they'll have already bought out Bryzgalov before July 5, and it'll make it more urgent that they find the right guy such that they aren't left in a situation that ends with Steve Mason starting 60 games next year. The timing will be tricky in either case.

But neither of those situations changes the fact that supply is probably greater than demand at this point, and there is no reason for the Flyers to pay above market value for any of these guys. If -- big if -- they learned their lesson from what happened two summers ago, they might just be able to put together a decent goalie tandem or even get a good starting goalie at a relatively team-friendly cost.

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