You need a backup goaltender. On paper, the choice seems simple.
Goalie A has some limited NHL experience including traveling with a team during a run to the Stanley Cup Finals is 29 years old, has almost 3,000 minutes of experience in North America and has to clear waivers if he's sent down.
Goalie B is 22 years old, doesn't have to clear waivers, has no NHL experience aside from a few short weeks of preseason and practice action and has never played a meaningful game on North American ice. He's also more expensive than Goalie A.
On paper, everything seems to favor Goalie A. There's one problem, though. He's not Sergei Bobrovsky.
Bobrovsky shocked everybody in camp by completely living up to the hype surrounding him. He surpassed it, and quite honestly, he earned a spot on the Flyers roster. You can't take that away from him.
But if Johan Backlund (Goalie A, by the way) hadn't missed half of training camp with a lingering hip injury and if he had seen more game action than a lets-mail-it-in-because-we're-Phantoms-and-we-know-it game from his defense, he likely would've been handed that backup role for all the reasons listed before.
Instead, Backlund has fallen to a numbers game, as he was placed on waivers today by the club, according to TSN. The Flyers can only keep one (well, they can keep both but that would be silly), and as a result of Bob's fine play and Backlund's lack of a chance, the young Russian gets to stay. And like I said, nobody can take that away from him. He earned it.
With Backlund on waivers, though, the Flyers are taking a serious chance. Paul Holmgren alluded yesterday that this would be the direction the Flyers would go in today, telling the media that "if we went that way, I don't think anyone would claim him." That quote comes via Frank Seravalli, who added that the second year on Backlund's contract makes him less of a risk to be claimed.
It's a calculated risk from the Flyers, for sure. Backlund could be claimed by another team in the next 24 hours, never see the AHL again and go on to be somebody's next great goaltender. It wouldn't be a shocker, especially the way the Flyers goaltending past has played out over the last 23 or so years.
The question is simple, though. Is the risk worth it? With Bobrovsky in the fold, the Flyers seem to think so. It's not like the goaltending cupboard is empty without Backlund. The bigger thing is what this means for Backlund's future in the organization.
While Bobrovsky could be sent down and brought back up at any point later in the season if needed or warranted, Backlund cannot. If he clears waivers now, he'll be subjected to re-entry waivers for the rest of the season, and at half price to any team in the league, he'd certainly be plucked away.
As a result of this decision by the Flyers today, and as a result of his terrible injury luck, Johan Backlund is a Phantom for the foreseeable future. Or he's out of the organization. Either way, don't expect Backlund to be with the big club any time soon.