NHL Trade Deadline: Philadelphia Flyers Netminder Analysis

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NHL Trade Deadline: Philadelphia Flyers Netminder Analysis

As the NHL trade deadline vastly approaches, the hottest rumor coming out of Philadelphia is the possibility of moving top prospect James van Riemsdyk to Atlanta in exchange for Finnish netminder Kari Lehtonen.

When first hearing this rumor, like many Flyers fans, my mouth dropped. 

Lehtonen for van Riemsdyk?

However, after thinking about this possibility, it wouldn’t be a bad deal for the Flyers.  The Flyers are already stacked down the middle with Richards, Carter, Briere and hopefully Giroux for years to come which makes van Riemsdyk very big trade bait. 

If Flyers GM Paul Holmgren decides to deal van Riemsdyk for a current NHL player, he would have to free up some of the Flyers very fragile cap space.  Moving either Martin Biron or Antero Niittymaki would be inevitable if Holmgren wants Lehtonen.

The Flyers have 21 games left before the playoffs.  They aren’t a lock for one of the top eight spots, but if they keep playing at their current pace (6-3-1 in their last 10), they should have no problem locking up, at worst, the No. 4 seed in the East which would guarantee home ice in the first round.

Looking at the season in general, there has been a large debate on who the Flyers No. 1 goalie should be come April.  Flyers head coach John Stevens was recently quoted saying both goalies will get plenty of starts down the stretch.

Does this mean Stevens will ultimately pick a No. 1?

Can you have two goalies both playing in the playoffs?

Many NHL fans and purists of the game would say “No” to the latter, saying you need one go to guy in the postseason.

History would agree with that statement as well, as many NHL goalies have emerged courtesy of a long playoff run (see Giguere, C.Ward or Broduer if you want to go back a decade or so).

However, last year was a perfect example of possibly going with two goalies.

After losing games three and four in the Western Conference Quarterfinals last season, Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock told Dominik Hasek to take a seat and inserted Chris Osgood. The Red Wings won their next nine games overall en route to yet another Stanley Cup in Hockeytown.

After a very strong outing in his first playoff run last spring, Biron started this season in a rut losing his first four starts while giving up some very bad goals (see Sjostrom on Oct. 11 or Marleau on Oct. 22).

As the season has been more of a success than a failure up to this point for the Flyers (33-18-10; fourth in the East), both Biron and Niittymaki have had their highs and lows.

The numbers don’t separate the two either. Biron has posted a 19-13-5 mark with a 2.86 GAA and a .910 SV percent.  Niittymaki has posted a 14-5-5 record with a 2.61 GAA and a .916 SV percent.

Right now, the Flyers goaltending job is a toss-up. 

If I had to guess, I would favor Biron due to the fact that he has a proven playoff track record.

However, should the Flyers ultimately trade Biron or Niittymaki for a brand new face in net this late in the season?

If history has anything to say, the answer is yes. 

It seems like any Flyers' goaltender that gets hot is out of a job within a year or two (see Boucher, Cechmanek, Esche).

Now we have Biron who a year after a 30-win season and a tremendous playoff performance in his first full season with the Flyers is on the trading block.

Will this year be any different?

Will Holmgren pull a Bobby Clarke and trade away a top prospect in exchange for a rental?(Maxime Ouellet + picks and cash for Adam Oates, who ended up playing 11 games with the Flyers.)

I don’t like to predict things, especially who's going where at the NHL trade deadline.  However, if I had to guess, I wouldn’t be at all shocked if Biron is moved at the deadline and the Finnish tag team that is Lehtonen and Niittymaki are stopping the pucks in Philly.

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