The Philadelphia Flyers have a number of issues to be addressed this offseason in terms of roster adjustments. One issue they thought they had permanently eradicated is goaltending.
Alas, here we are one year into Ilya Bryzgalov’s nine year $51 million deal and the Flyers have goaltending questions once again. The question, however, has more to do with the backup netminder, Sergei Bobrovsky.
Bobrovsky’s contract is set to expire at the conclusion of next season, when he will become a restricted free-agent. As such, should the Flyers choose not to re-sign him, they may receive compensation in the form of draft picks from the team that does.
Bobrovsky is a phenom in the making, but he is still a little wet behind the ears. His sophomore year was not as strong as his rookie season, but at only 23 years old, his potential is through the roof.
Paul Holmgren will be looking to shed salary wherever he sees fit with his club right up against the salary cap ceiling. Getting Bobrovsky’s cap hit off the books will be at the top of the list in that regard. Holmgren can take full advantage of Bobrovsky’s current trade value this summer when he can expect to see the biggest return for the young keeper.
Having Bryzgalov signed for eight more years with a $5.6 million cap hit makes Bobrovsky expendable at the conclusion of the 2012-2013 season. Currently, Bobrovsky is making $1.75 million as the Flyers backup.
Keeping Bobrovsky can only have negative repercussions the longer he remains with the club. Any time Bryzgalov struggles, Philly fans and the media alike will be calling for Bobrovsky. Add to that the constant criticisms that surround the Flyers' goaltending as a whole, and keeping Bobrovsky as Bryzgalov’s backup could be devastating for the mental makeup of the team’s netminders.
The Flyers had the opportunity to make Bobrovsky the goaltender of the future but patience is a quality that the organization seriously lacks, and owner Ed Snider made it priority one for Holmgren to acquire a top goaltender last summer, no excuses.
The best Holmgren could scrounge up was Bryzgalov, and the price tag to satisfy the needs of both the owner and the goaltender was significantly high.
Holmgren now must gaze into the Flyers crystal ball and decide what the future holds for the Flyers goaltenders.
It will be difficult, maybe impossible, to move Bryzgalov with his cap hit, not to mention his considerably low trade value coming off a less than stellar playoff run and a season mired in ebbs and flows.
Bobrovsky may be on the fast track to super stardom, then again he may not be, but offering him a contract at this point would be a gamble. The Flyers will not be able to re-sign him to the type of contract that he will no doubt command and subsequently be able to justify that contract on a backup goaltender if he doesn’t reach his potential.
Letting a rare talent like Bobrovsky walk away will be tough to watch for Flyers fans who have dreamed of having a world class goalie since Ron Hextall hung up his pads. Unfortunately, it appears that is exactly what the team will need to do.
It is the nature of the game since the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was drafted. Teams that spend freely will eventually pay for that spending. Lengthy contracts become a heavy burden rather than a security blanket.
The Flyers threw caution to the wind last summer and inked Bryzgalov to an enormous contract. They sealed Bobrovsky’s fate at that point. Holmgren needs to trade Bobrovsky now. Should he hesitate in the slightest, Bobrovsky is sure to leave via free agency.
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