A few thoughts and suggestion for Paul Holmgren and the Philadelphia Flyers on possible off-season moves.
Ray Emery. Please no, Mr. Holmgren. Leave him in Russia. I don't care if he is the best combination of NHL experience and cost available on the free agent market. Emery is not worth his risk.
His attitude and demeanour is cancerous. To make up for his personality and issues he would have be as good or better than Martin Brodeur and I think everyone agrees he is not.
When it comes to goaltending, I believe Holmgren has two choices. Nikolai Khabibulin and/or Kari Lethonen. The latter will be more expensive based on his current annual salary of $3M and he will certainly be looking for a raise and term.
Is he worth more than $3M? I believe he is. Signing him to a multi-year deal is a no-brainer. At 25 years of age, he is in the prime of his goaltending career.
With his signing would come hope for the Flyers fans. It would mark the first time in a long time that Philadelphia would have a young and true No. 1 goaltender. Dare I say franchise goaltender?
Nikolai Khabibulin will certainly be the opposite of Lethonen in terms of raise and term. At his age (36) the "Bulin Wall" will certainly not look for a raise on his current annual salary of $6.75M.
The going rate for Khabibulin will probably be in the $3-4M/yr range. A tad high for a goalie that will be 37 next year.
However, the signing of Nikolai Khabibulin will cost more in terms of dollars than it will in length of contract, and that bodes well for a team living at or above the cap ceiling.
Holmgren wouldn't offer him more than a two-year contract, or at least I hope he wouldn't. The intangible Nikolai Khabibulin brings to the Flyers is a Stanley Cup ring (with a very good chance of making it two rings this spring).
The Flyers and their fans have not had a true starting goalie in net who owns any championship jewelery since, well Bernie Parent. Unless you count Antero Niittymaki's Calder Cup ring. But I highly doubt any Flyers fan does.
Khabibulin would maybe stifle all the talk that hangs over the Flyers each season about the lack of a goalie that can take a team to the promise land.
I'm not a capologist by a long-shot. But a thought occurred to me the other day. When Danny Briere is healthy and in the line up, he is a great asset to the Flyers.
But with the injury woes and fact that in two seasons the Flyers have improved but have not been able to get over the hump into the realm of true cup contender due to other holes in the line up, it's time for Holmgren to get creative.
The reality is Homgren and the Flyers can't make the necessary changes to the line up because of the albatross-like contract they awarded Briere. Briere's cap hit is set at $8M until the 2009-10 season, drops to $7M for 3 years after than and eventually into a more manageable $3M and $2M in the final two seasons of his contract.
Much was made about Briere choosing Philadelphia over his hometown Montreal Canadiens as an unrestricted free agent. The boos he receives all game long at the Bell Center is proof of that. Here's where Holmgren's creativity needs to kick in.
Paul Holmgren should take advantage of Montreal's very poor centennial season which will be followed up with a list of ten UFAs that Bob Gainey may or may not re-sign. Gainey will have to acquire somewhere along the line a star scorer.
Vincent LeCavalier from Tampa Bay appears to no longer have legs. So where does Bob Gainey turn? Well, only a couple of years removed from offering Danny Briere a huge contract to come home, he could get him at half the price.
Holmgren should waive Danny Briere this summer and keep his fingers crossed that Gainey and Les Habitants (or any NHL team) are still interested in his services. With the emergence of Claude Giroux late in the season and playoffs it appears he is ready to occupy a top six spot on the Flyers' forward unit.
Giroux's cap hit is $850,000 until 2010 and drops to $765,000 for 2011. Even with paying half of Briere's salary the Flyers would be saving enough money to chase a top quality starting netminder.
This would also allow for Holmgren to attempt to re-sign Upshall, who was traded to Phoenix at the NHL trade deadline out of financial necessity as opposed to a true hockey decision.
Scottie Upshall's energy and occasional offensive contribution was missed greatly in round one of this this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The reality is Holmgren has many hefty contracts he needs to get creative with. However, if he could somehow find a way to unload a portion of Briere's contract many of his other decisions could become a lot easier to make.