Philadelphia Flyers: Road Map to the 2012 Offseason
This drastically altered the look of the team, as the club seemingly changed it's personnel from a high-scoring team to a defense-first team led by a Vezina caliber goaltender.
As we all know, the 2011-2012 Flyers turned out to be an even higher scoring team—No. 2 in the NHL—while the defense and goaltender floundered in sea of terrible play and inconsistency.
As we head into the 2012 offseason, the Flyers look to be a team with a young and skilled group of forwards. Questions concern its blue line and in net.
With that in mind, here are the steps that I would take to improve the team towards a cup run next season.
What to Do with Their Own Free Agents
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The Flyers, and the league as a whole, received a pleasant surprise with the announcement that the salary cap has risen to $70.3 million for the upcoming season.
That number has the potential to change with the current CBA expiring in September. Until a new CBA is agreed upon, all teams will operate under the $70 million cap.
On to what the Flyers should do with their own restricted and unrestricted free agents:
This is a no-brainer as Voracek displayed a great all-around game, while still clearly possessing untapped potential. He should be the Flyers' first priority this off-season.
I would expect him to receive a contract of three or four years with a cap hit around $3.5 million.
Marc-Andre Bourdon and Harry Zolnierczyk
Both players established themselves as valuable pieces to the organization. They are also cheap, as they made $875,000 and $900,000, respectively.
Both should be resigned and receive small raises. I'd expect them to get deals of one to two years at or just below $1 million.
Ben Holmstrom and Tom Sestito
Both players are good pieces that will mostly play for the Phantoms, but will be serviceable injury call-ups.
Holmstrom made $750,000 while Sestito made $550,000 last year, so both would be cheap signings.
Mike Testwuide and Andrew Rowe
The last two RFA for the Flyers are the most expensive of the group—aside from Voracek—but they are also the least valuable.
They should be allowed to leave, as their production doesn't warrant taking up two of the team's 50 contracts.
The Unrestricted Free Agents
This list is comprised of Pavel Kubina, Matt Carle, Jaromir Jagr, Michael Leighton, Ian Laperriere, Johan Backlund, Blair Betts, Dan Jancevski, and Jason Bacashihua.
I'm listing them all together for the fact that none of them should be resigned, except maybe Jagr if he'd take a one-year contract at no more than $2 million.
But, that won't happen.
Do NOT Trade Sergei Bobrovsky
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There's a lot of talk of trading Bobrovsky, and it does make sense. At this point, his value is that of maybe a second-round pick, and I don't feel like that's worth it.
If the Flyers hold onto Bobrovsky for this year and allow someone to sign him as a restricted free agent next year, that's the compensation they would likely receive anyway.
Or, perhaps he'll play well and his value will increase. It's a no-lose situation to hold on to Bobrovsky.
If someone wants to overpay for him this offseason, that's another story. But, a second-round pick is not nearly enough to warrant giving up a young goalie with potential.
Trade James Van Riemsdyk for Luke Schenn and Second-Round Pick (35th Overall)
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I know we're all getting tired of hearing about these two in-trade rumors, but it makes sense. Both players have struggled to live up to their lofty pre-draft expectations, and could probably be best served with a change of scenery.
While I believe JVR will be a consistent 30-plus goal per year winger—he was on pace for 28 games and 60-plus points before injuries derailed his year—he is a player that needs time on a team's top six as well as power play time.
It appears he'll struggle to get those things in Philadelphia. Having said that, the Flyers should, in no way, simply give him away.
With Luke Schenn, the Flyers would be getting a good No. 4 or No. 5 defenseman for this year. He has the potential to become a very good No. 2 defenseman in the near future.
Schenn plays with a hard-nosed physical defensive game, but also with a limited and still developing offensive side.
I also have the Leafs adding their second-round pick, as I see JVR as the more valuable piece with higher upside than Schenn.
That pick would also give the Flyers options in the draft, as they could package it along with their first pick (20th overall) to move up.
They could also simply stand pat with both picks and acquire two potential players for the future.
Sign Jason Garrison
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Ryan Suter is likely going to get more money in free agency than he is worth, so he should be avoided.
On to Jason Garrison.
Garrison is a bit of a late bloomer. The 27-year-old has played just two and a half years in the NHL.
But, he broke out in a big way this past year—posting 16 goals and 33 points—while also establishing a good defensive edge to his game in the process.
Some will question whether this year was an aberration for Garrison. Those who do could turn out to be right, but I believe that he can replicate this season and would be worth the risk.
I'd like to hope that his limited NHL output would limit the list of teams interested in him, but I don't know if that'll be the case.
I'd like to see the Flyers sign him to a contract, like for four years, with an annual cap hit of $3.5 million. Anything less would be great, but I'd go a little higher if necessary.
Sign Paul Gaustad
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The Flyers group of forwards has all the speed and talent in the world, but what they need more of is grit, toughness, defensive ability and a faceoff specialist.
Paul Gaustad would cover all of those bases.
He would be an ideal fourth line center who would provide some veteran leadership, as well as be a reliable asset to take those crucial late-game defensive zone faceoffs.
There are reports that Gaustad would like to return to Buffalo, and I imagine if offers are equal he will go back.
If the Flyers are going to get him, they may have to pay a little extra.
I'd like to see the Flyers sign him to a two or three-year deal with an annual cap hit at about $3 million.
Scott Hartnell ($4.200m) / Claude Giroux ($3.750m) / Jakub Voracek ($3.500m)
Danny Briere ($6.500m) / Brayden Schenn ($3.110m) / Wayne Simmonds ($1.750m)
Maxime Talbot ($1.750m) / Sean Couturier ($1.375m) / Eric Wellwood ($0.580m)
Harry Zolnierczyk ($1.000m) / Paul Gaustad ($3.000m) / Matt Read ($0.900m)
Zac Rinaldo ($0.544m) /
Nicklas Grossmann ($3.500m) / Braydon Coburn ($4.500m)
Kimmo Timonen ($6.333m) / Andrej Meszaros ($4.000m)
Jason Garrison ($3.500m) / Luke Schenn ($3.600m)
Andreas Lilja ($0.738m) /
Ilya Bryzgalov ($5.667m)
Sergei Bobrovsky ($1.750m)
CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter)
(these totals are compiled without the bonus cushion)
SALARY CAP: $70,300,000; CAP PAYROLL: $65,546,944; BONUSES: $3,555,000
CAP SPACE (22-man roster): $4,753,056
A couple notes
I would waive Jody Shelley.
I can't understand why the Flyers haven't done this already, but he's a waste of $1.1 million. If they really feel the need to have an enforcer, Sestito is cheaper and better.
Andreas Lilja is on the roster simply because his 35-plus contract will make him count against the cap, regardless. He holds the seventh defensman position on the roster, but if any of the starters get hurt they'd call up Gustafsson or Bourdon.
Chris Pronger should be placed on LTIR, unless the new CBA alters the 35-plus rule to allow him to retire.
Danny Briere should move to the wing, because Brayden Schenn needs to play center full-time.
Side Note on the Potential Amnesty
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There is talk of an amnesty clause being in the new CBA but, honestly, who knows.
If there is a one-time amnesty, I'll address it.
If there is an amnesty, due to the fact that a new CBA won't be agreed upon until the offseason has played out, I believe it will be similar to the amnesty that was put in the recent NBA CBA. Teams can use it one time during the course of the CBA.
If that is the case, then the Flyers should hold it for this season.
They should play out the year with Ilya Bryzgalov and see if he can recapture his level of play from his Phoenix days.
If he does, fantastic. If not, I'd use the amnesty on him in the next offseason.