NHL Free Agency & Trades: Holes the Philadelphia Flyers Will Be Looking to Fill
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The Philadelphia Flyers were a solid team throughout the 2011-12 season, finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference and unleashing a relentless offense in their first-round victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
At several points during the season, the Flyers gave indications that they were among the elite teams in the league. They finished with 47 wins and 103 points, but every time they had a chance to show they truly belonged, they were not up to the task.
That manifested itself when they played their archrivals—the New York Rangers. They lost all six of their meetings with New York, and they also dropped three out of four games against the Boston Bruins.
That same pattern continued in the offseason. They looked as good as anyone in the first round in their upset over the Penguins, but then they were beaten into submission by the New Jersey Devils in the next round.
After making major moves last offseason by trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to Columbus, general manager Paul Holmgren will try to upgrade the team's soft spots and holes through free agency and trades.
Flyer goalie Ilya Bryzgalov needs some solid work from his backup goaltender.
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Sergei Bobrovsky filled the role of backup goaltender to Ilya Bryzgalov last season.
He did the job that head coach Peter Laviolette needed him to do in the first half of the season when he was 11-4-1 and had a 2.42 goals against average. However, he was not as dependable in the second half of the season when he was just 3-6-1 and a bloated 4.16 goals against average, according to the CSNPhilly.com.
Prior to the draft, the Flyers traded Bobrovsky to the Columbus Blue Jackets for two draft picks in 2012 and an additional selection in 2013.
With that move, the Flyers need to find a competent backup for Bryzgalov through a trade or free-agent pickup. Potential free-agent candidates include Brent Johnson of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Scott Clemmensen of the Florida Panthers and Al Montoya of the Islanders. Martin Biron was also a candidate until he re-signed with the New York Rangers Friday.
Flyer captain Chris Pronger's future is very much in doubt.
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There has been little change in defenseman Chris Pronger's condition since he was forced out of action last year with post-concussion syndrome.
General manager Paul Holmgren told Frank Servalli of the Philadelphia Daily News that Pronger has his "good days and bad days" and there is no change in his status.
When healthy, Pronger was among the most effective and intimidating defensemen in the NHL. He was a hard hitter with excellent defensive skills and a booming shot from the point. Because of his hard-hitting and responsible style, Pronger was a team leader and its captain. The Flyers need to attempt to replace him in the offseason.
This is a difficult assignment, but Pronger gave the Flyers' defense an edge it didn't have after he went on the injured list.
Defensive Foot Soldier
Free-agent Matt Carle filled a solid role in 2011-12.
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Defenseman Matt Carle is not a star, but he has been a solid regular in the Flyers' lineup for four season. He has scored at least 35 points in each of the last three years and has been on the positive side of plus-minus figures in all four of his years with Philadelphia.
Carle will be a free agent July 1, and Pronger's status makes it essential that the Flyers re-sign him. In addition to Pronger's problems with post-concussion syndrome, the Flyers have other problems on defense. Veteran Kimmo Timonen, 37, appeared to slow down in the playoffs last year.
Carle's agent Karl Overhardt has been talking with general manager Paul Holmgren, and he said he still feels positive Carle can remain with the Flyers. Overhardt told CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio that he would not be surprised if Carle was a free agent by July 1.
The Flyers acquired defenseman Luke Schenn (Brayden Schenn's brother) in a draft-weekend trade for forward James van Riemsdyk, but additional defensive depth is needed.
Grittiness Up Front
While the Flyers have excellent offensive depth, they could use a defensive specialist among their forwards.
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Few teams in the league have anything close to the offensive depth and firepower that the Flyers have up front. Claude Giroux (93 points) is one of the top offensive players in the league, and Scott Hartnell scored 37 goals last year—which is pretty good for a player who falls down as much as he does.
Wayne Simmonds gave them 28 goals in his first season after coming over from the Los Angeles Kings in the Mike Richards trade. Matt Read had 24 goals. Danny Briere did not have his best season, but he still had 49 points. Max Talbot and Sean Couturier are both decent contributors, and there are high expectations for Brayden Schenn.
But the Flyers could use some more defensive grittiness from their forwards. Center Ben Holmstrom showed that kind of play in limited action and could win a spot. Adding a hard-nosed forward who specializes in defense could take pressure off the Flyers' defense.
Bobby Ryan of the Ducks would like to be traded to the Flyers.
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Dealing with trade rumors is often a part of life for a professional athlete. Some let it go in one ear and out the other, while others take it personally.
Count Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks in the latter group. Ryan, who scored 30 goals or more in each of the last four seasons, has been involved in trade talks. Ryan, a Cherry Hill, N.J., native, told the Camden Courier Post that he didn't feel he was appreciated by the Ducks and didn't like the trade rumors.
He also said that he would like the chance to play for his hometown Flyers. He said playing in Philadelphia would be "very ideal and comfortable."
The Flyers have top-end offensive players like Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere, so they may not need Ryan as much as some other teams. However, if they had the chance to trade for him, Holmgren would have to give it serious consideration