Philadelphia Flyers: 5 Moves GM Paul Holmgren Should Make When NHL Lockout Ends
After making some bold moves that included trading former captain Mike Richards and signing veteran free-agent forward Jaromir Jagr, Holmgren's busy offseason resulted in the Flyers still being a top contender while also having some important players for the future.
But Holmgren will have to make a few more changes to his roster if the Flyers are going to make it past the second round of the playoffs this season.
Let's look at five changes that Holmgren should make when the lockout ends.
Explore Ways to Strengthen the Team's Goaltending
The Flyers are going to need a better backup goaltender than Michael Leighton if they want to win enough games to earn the best possible seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Sergei Bobrovsky was the backup last year, and even started in the Winter Classic, but he's now with the Columbus Blue Jackets after being dealt in a draft-day trade in June.
The current goaltending tandem of starter Ilya Bryzgalov and Leighton isn't good enough for the Flyers to win the Stanley Cup. Leighton hasn't played in the NHL since the 2010-11 season, and played in 56 games for the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL last year.
Holmgren has to upgrade the depth and overall talent at the goaltending position for the Flyers to avoid being ranked in the bottom third of the NHL in GAA this season. Philadelphia ranked 20th in GAA last year.
If Byrzgalov struggles, the Flyers should consider trading for Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas if he's willing to come back to hockey. Thomas' history of playoff success is exactly what the Flyers need, and he would be a major upgrade over Bryzgalov and Leighton.
The Bruins would probably prefer not to trade Thomas to another Eastern Conference contender, but if they don't have many options, trading him to the Flyers would be better than not dealing him at all and wasting valuable salary cap room.
Sign a Top-6 Forward
Scoring goals at the same rate that they did last season will be difficult for the Flyers with the departures of Jaromir Jagr, Matt Carle and James van Riemsdyk during the offseason.
After learning that forward Jakub Voracek has suffered a knee injury while playing in the KHL during the lockout (via Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly), Holmgren must make a move for another top-six forward.
Voracek's club released statement saying he will miss 4 weeks - sound like a bad knee sprain; Flyers trying to get details— Tim Panaccio (@tpanotchCSN) October 7, 2012
Head coach Peter Laviolette could have young forwards such as Brayden Schenn and Matt Read play a larger role in the offense, but for the Flyers to score goals and win games consistently next season, especially in the playoffs, they need another reliable forward who can provide the team with some depth.
Add Another Defenseman Through Free Agency or Via Trade
You cannot make a Flyers' to-do list without putting a top-pairing defenseman high on the list. Finding a No. 1 or No. 2 defenseman is certainly the greatest need that the Flyers have right now, but unfortunately for Holmgren, he doesn't have many options to improve this part of his team.
Some of the best unrestricted free-agent defensemen still on the market include Colin White, Kurtis Foster, Brett Clark and Jaroslav Spacek. There's not a whole lot of talent in this group, but White and Spacek could be two solid options.
The Flyers could also try to complicate the rival New York Rangers' future plans by extending an offer sheet to young defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who would provide Philadelphia with scoring from the blue line. However, that is unlikely to happen.
Holmgren has to do something to upgrade his team's blue line before the season starts, and signing a veteran such as Spacek is probably his best option.
Acquire a Power Forward
The departure of forward James van Riemsdyk won't just affect the Flyers from an offensive standpoint, it will give the team less size in its top-six forward group, and the need for another power forward.
The free-agent signing of Ruslan Fedotenko was a good pickup for the Flyers, but he won't provide them with the size and strength needed in their top-six forward group.
Expect sophomore forward Sean Couturier to provide the Flyers with the toughness and physicality that the team expected to see from van Riemsdyk after drafting him second overall in the 2007 NHL Draft. Couturier is a phenomenal defensive player, and his development in year two of his career will be a story to watch in Philadelphia this year.
Two power forwards for Holmgren to consider adding to his roster are Anaheim Ducks stars Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry.
Perry is about to enter the final year of his contract, and could be one of the biggest free agents to hit the market on July 1, 2013. Rather than having Perry leave the team for nothing in free agency next summer, the Ducks would be wise to see how much young talent they can acquire from the Flyers in exchange for the star winger.
Sign a Veteran with Stanley Cup Experience
The Flyers have a number of players with a lot of playoff experience, but only five of the team's players have won a Stanley Cup in their careers (Maxime Talbot, Andreas Lilja, Ruslan Fedotenko, Ilya Bryzgalov and Chris Pronger).
Although it's not a huge need, adding another veteran forward with Stanley Cup experience would be a good move for the Flyers.
Jason Arnott is surprisingly still available on the free-agent market, and would provide the Flyers with championship experience and some needed grit on the third line. Philadelphia's penalty-kill ranked 17th in the league last year, and is an area that Arnott could improve if the Flyers signed him after the lockout.
Leadership, penalty killing, toughness and playoff experience are crucial parts of all Stanley Cup teams, and these are four important qualities that Arnott can give the Flyers.