Pronger's Price was Worth Paying for Flyers; Boucher to Backup Emery?

Bleacher ReportAnalyst IJuly 1, 2009

UNIONDALE, NY - JANUARY 21:  Chris Pronger #25 of the Anaheim Ducks throws a hit against Blake Comeau #57 of the New York Islanders on January 21, 2009 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It's been four days since the Philadelphia Flyers acquired defenceman Chris Pronger in what was the biggest splash at the NHL draft. While I'm a little late on writing this, the reaction by a good amount of the fan base has been atrocious.

A good portion of those fans that thought the trade was a bad one have come to their senses, but there are still a good amount who think the move is a risky one.


Is it because they "overpaid" for a future Hall of Fame player?

Or, is it because he'll be 35-years-old at the start of the season?

Pronger is a proven winner in the NHL. He has more accomplishments than any one of the current Flyers. He has won the Hart Trophy and the Norris Trophy in the same season. He brought the Oilers to the Stanley Cup in his only year there and won the Cup in his first year with Anaheim.

To acquire such a player you're going to have to pay for it. These players don't grow on trees or come cheaply.

But did the Flyers really overpay for Pronger?

Let's take a look-see at what they gave up.

Joffrey Lupul was streaky, lazy and lacked intensity, which was one of the biggest problems with this club last year. Plus, with Lupul on the books for $4-plus million over the next four years was a no-trade clause.

Sure he tickled the twine 25 times last season, but so did five other players and that's not including Danny Briere and Claude Giroux. If Briere stays healthy and Giroux stays on the path he showed last year, the Flyers should be fine.

The next piece moved was the promising 19-year-old Italian defenceman Luca Sbisa. This is what most fans were most upset with. Don't get me wrong, when I first saw that he was involved, for about five minutes I was a little bummed out.

But then reality sunk in. I realized that although Sbisa will be a very solid defenceman in the league, he will never be on the level of Chris Pronger.

The final piece of the move was two first-rounders, which is what annoyed most of the fans. One of the picks was the 21st pick in this year's draft, which the Ducks didn't think highly of, trading it to Columbus.

With the amount of young players in the organization and the best players on the team under the age of 25, the picks won't hurt us that much.

How valuable are these picks?

Knowing the Flyers history, the picks would be in the second half of the first round, so the talent there isn't as good as it would be if the Flyers weren't one or two pieces away of being a Stanley Cup contender.

The Flyers believe they acquired the two missing pieces over the summer before the free agency period even began, as do I.

First, they agreed to terms with goalie Ray Emery on a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. The deal isn't signed yet but will become official tomorrow. Emery, 26, is a good goalie with a huge chip on his shoulder. He has something to prove and if his mental demons can be controlled, the signing will be a huge bargain.

I'm a supporter of the Emery signing because he comes a lot cheaper than resigning Martin Biron with more upside. To those haters of the signing, give him a break. He deserves a second chance and he's going to get it.

The second piece of course is Pronger. He's the biggest, meanest, and nastiest in hockey, not mentioning one of the best defenceman ever to play the game.

He's durable and reliable, he plays the game at his speed, and he hasn't showed any signs of slowing down. He plays a ruthless game and he brings an intimidation factor to the team. His 6'6", 214-pound frame classifies him as a physical monster.

He has a powerful shot that the Flyers have never had at the point, at least in recent memory. He'll play the power play while leading the penalty kill and he'll protect the Flyers' doorstep, keeping superstars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin from lurking around the net at will, like they did in the quarterfinals of the playoffs last season.

He cost a lot to get, but it was a price worth paying. The Flyers were close to becoming legitimate Stanley Cup contenders prior to the acquisition of Pronger. With him, they are legit contenders to challenge the Penguins in the East.

For more detailed analysis of the Pronger trade by fellow B/R contributors check out the latest articles by: Dan Kelly, Ronnybrook, and Chris DiFrancesco.

Brian Boucher to backup Emery?

According to Chuck Gormley, the Flyers will sign unrestricted free agent goaltender Brian Boucher once free agency opens tomorrow at noon.

Boucher, 32, was an excellent backup to Evgeni Nabokov last year with the San Jose Sharks, posting a 12-6-3 record with a 2.18 goals against average and a .917 SV % in 22 games, 20 of which he started.

He previously started three years for the Flyers through 1999-2002 in which he put together a 42-38-3 (ties) with a 2.53 GAA. His best season was the 1999-2000 season in which he had a 20-10-3 record with a 1.91 GAA and a .918 SV %.

The move to sign Boucher makes a lot of sense when you think of it. He'll sign cheap, as Gormley says the deal will be around $750,000. Gormley also he pointed out Boucher loves the area and is a team player. He never had a beef for being a backup, in fact he welcomes it.

I love this move as well. Boucher was one of four guys that I wanted the Flyers to sign as backups. The other three were Craig Anderson, Scott Clemmensen, and Ty Conklin.

Knuble unlikely to resign?

According to Tim Panaccio, the agent of soon-to-be unrestricted free agent winger Mike Knuble said that he has still not heard from the Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, with less than 24 hours before he hits the open market.

Kurt Overhardt, Knuble's agent, said, "Mike really wants to stay there, but he’s not going to take a ridiculous pay cut. You can’t expect him to agree to a significant discount because of their cap."

Also he says that he expects offers from as many as 16 teams tomorrow.

The Flyers want to give him a one-year deal loaded with achievable incentives that could give him the $2.8 million he earned last year or more without accounting against the cap. Knuble wants a two-year deal.

Knuble is a very important part of the puzzle, and there is no one on the open market that can do what he does that could come to the Flyers cheap.

He's a big dude (6'3", 228- pounds), but he's 37-years-old this weekend. I can see why the Flyers want to give him a one-year pact but he's so important to the power play and the offense, they have to resign him.

Listen, he scored 27 goals last year and has gotten better with age. He still works hard and although he has slowed down a little bit he can still be a productive player for the Flyers. He had 11 power play goals alone last year, and in four seasons with the orange and the black he has a total of 49 power play tallies.

With the addition of Pronger, the power play will get better. However, with Knuble leaving, it could get worse. Prongs could be Knuble's best friend if he were to resign with the Flyers.

The only problem is the cap. The Flyers are in the neighborhood of $5 million under the cap, and they need to sign a backup goalie and could use a face-off specialist.

Now if the rumor of Boucher signing with the Flyers is true, they would be close to $4 million under the cap, which would allow them to sign Knuble to the multi-year deal he wants.

That's another reason signing Boucher is a good idea. He's cheap, very cheap. With $4 million to spend, the Flyers could resign Knuble and get a face-off specialist for under a million and still be more than $1 million under the cap.

There is one free agent that wouldn't cost much out there that I think the Flyers should seriously take a look at.

Center Michael Zigomanis from the Pittsburgh Penguins is set to become an unrestricted free agent at noon, and according to KuklasKorner, and has no plans of returning as a Pen.

Zigomanis, 28, was leading the league in face-offs with a 62.9 percent before injuring his shoulder that ended his season. He was 158-93 in the circle.

The Flyers could use a fourth-line center like Zigomanis. He only made $650,000 last year with the Pens, and he qualifies for what the Flyers need in a fourth-line centerman:

  • How's he in the face-off circle? 62.9 percent, check.
  • Can he kill penalties? Check.
  • Can he slide in the lineup, in other words, can he play on the third-line? I think so, check.
  • Can you get him for under a million? Definitely.

Those are the requirements that I think they should look at if they were going to sign a cheap fourth-line center. He could be a huge addition if he were to sign with the Flyers.

But if the Flyers can't resign Knuble, they're going to need a winger.

There are some possibilities in the free agency pool like Chad LaRose, Chris Neil, Ruslan Fedotenko to name a few. It all comes down to the money.

But don't overlook James vanRiemsdyk.

I don't think he'll make the team out of training camp but it's possible. He deserves a look and the Flyers will give him a chance.

They also have some young prospects that could make the team as key players. Darrol Powe is pretty much a shoe-in to make the roster, but players like Jon Kalinski, Andreas Nodl, and Jered Ross each have opportunities to make the team as well.

If the Flyers do resign Knuble, I would love to see Kalinski make the team. I'm high on the kid and I like what he showed last year before his injury. I think he could bring a lot of energy to to the team. I hope he makes the roster, but Nodl looked good and Ross showed something as well.

They have some players in the system that could play wing on the big club.

There's also another need: assuming they don't trade Matt Carle or Randy Jones, they'll need a seventh defenceman. I've read on multiple sites of fans wanting to bring in a seventh blue-liner, but they don't need to.

Philly has several in-house options to be the seventh d-man. Players like Kevin Marshall, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Danny Syvret, and Michael Ratchuk each deserve a shot at camp. Out of those guys, Syvret seems the most ready to step in and play.

With less than 24 hours until the free agency period opens, expect the Flyers to be quiet. Don't expect any big signings because they don't have the cap to do so.


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