Despite the widely reported face-to-face meeting on Saturday between Columbus Blue Jackets brass and Philadelphia Flyers brass, a trade for star winger Rick Nash remains unconsummated. Assuming that the Flyers do not acquire Nash, what should be their priority with one week until the NHL trade deadline?
As I opined at the All-Star break, if Ilya Bryzgalov were unable to cement his role as the Flyers' No. 1 goaltender within two weeks of the break, the Flyers would need to bring in reinforcements. At the time, I offered that Evgeni Nabokov may be available, and Nabokov may be an ideal candidate, at age 36, to mentor his struggling countryman. As of this writing, the Islanders have lunged to within six points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Well, Bryzgalov has continued to scuffle, including in Saturday's meltdown loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins at home. The Flyers continue to lead the NHL in scoring, but they are now in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
Following Saturday's game, Bryzgalov told assembled media that he is "trying to find the peace in my soul to play in this city."
Bryzgalov did not do anything to make reparations for those comments on Sunday during the 35th Flyers' Wives Fight for Lives Carnival. Instead, he poured gasoline on the situation with the Philadelphia faithful. According to a report on crossingbroad.com, a fan engaged Bryzgalov by telling him what a great city Philadelphia is, and Bryzgalov replied coldly, "I think you care too much."
It would be a daunting task for the Flyers to unload Bryzgalov's nine-year, $51 million contract, but the Flyers could either carry three goaltenders or deal youngster Sergei Bobrovsky, who will probably never get an opportunity to shine in Philadelphia due to Bryzgalov's contract.
What options should the Flyers pursue?
Considering both potential availability and cap ramifications (the Flyers have about $800k in cap space per capgeek following the acquisition of defenseman Pavel Kubina, demotion of defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon, and placement of forward Tom Sestito on the long term injured reserve list). In addition, the Flyers are currently at the maximum of 50 allowed professional contracts.So, any acquired player would have be traded for at least one player under professional contract with the Flyers.
The Flyers should be inquiring about two impact goaltenders with reasonable cap hits:
1. Brian Elliott of the St. Louis Blues ($600k cap hit through 2014)
2. Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Colorado Avalanche ($1.25 million cap hit through 2013)
Elliott and Jaroslav Halak are arguably the best goaltending tandem in the NHL. Elliott leads the NHL with a stellar 1.56 goals against average and co-leads the NHL with a .940 save percentage. Elliott and Halak have six shutouts apiece this season. Elliott has made 29 appearances versus 32 for Halak. St. Louis may not want to alter the formula, but they could use an additional scorer.
Giguere has a .923 save percentage and a 2.13 goals against average in 28 appearances this season.
Both Elliott and Giguere are familiar with the Eastern Conference. Elliott spent parts of four seasons with Ottawa Senators, and Giguere spent parts of two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs (He did have an eight game stint with the Hartford Whalers in 1996.).
In regards to playoff experience, Elliott is 1-2 in four starts, and Giguere has a 2.08 career goals against average in the playoffs. He backstopped the Anaheim Ducks to Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals with a 1.62 GAA, but he would probably say that his best postseason was in 2007, when he posted a 1.97 GAA and hoisted Lord Stanley's Cup. His backup goaltender that season? None other than Mr. Universe himself, Ilya Bryzgalov.