Since I've written plenty of previous articles while hopped up on goofballs, I thought it would be a fun departure to drive to the nearest New Jersey shore point, drink a couple pints of sea water, and freak out with my own delusional predictions to the cacophony of rumors and speculation regarding the Philadelphia Flyers offseason moves.
(Holding my glass up to the pasty nerds everywhere crouching over their Orange & Black crystal balls.) Bottoms up!
Michael Leighton: I'm not in the room. I don't know Paul Holmgren's heart.
But regarding the rampant speculation involving Michael Leighton's status as the Flyers starting goaltender, I call shenanigans.
SHENANIGANS, I SAY!
You say the Flyers will seek a trade for a starting goaltender as the 2010 NHL Draft approaches?
Then why did they just tie up what will be nearly half their available salary cap space by bolstering their blue line with the acquisition (and all but assured signing) of Dan Hamhuis?
The Flyers haven't spoken to Leighton about re-signing him yet, nearly two weeks after the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Finals? Big deal.
Things like this would seem to project to the hockey world the Flyers have no confidence in Michael Leighton as their starter, which could indeed be true.
But it could also be a ruse; an attempt to keep Leighton's salary expectations and long-term plans as reasonable as possible.
If you stare at this situation long enough, you don't have to be an NHL insider to conclude that Leighton will be the Flyers starting goaltender for the 2010-2011 season.
Philadelphia will need to work within the confines of a budget projected to be around $9-10 million in available salary cap space. Of course, that figure hinges on whether the NHL increases the salary cap for the 2011-2012 season.
Should the salary cap remain at it's current $56.8 million, or worse, decrease by any amount, the Flyers could need to make a trade.
But considering the ratings success the NHL has experienced this past season, it's hard to imagine the league would see fit to stand pat or reel in spending.
With that in mind, I'll put it simply: Leighton is the only capable, tested starter the Flyers can afford for a return trip to the Stanley Cup Finals next season, like it or not.
The Acquisition of Dan Hamhuis: Believed to be in the market for a four-year deal worth $16 million, Hamuis will get at least that much from the Flyers. If Philadelphia doesn't pony up the dough prior to July 1, another team surely will if Hamuis hits the open market.
For those taking off their shoes to do the math, that will work out to roughly 40-50 percent of the Flyers available cap space.
Tear up your offseason wish lists, Flyers fans. Philadelphia is committing to defense; not goaltending.
Braydon Coburn Gets Paid: if a player like Braydon Coburn is the fifth defenseman on the Flyers depth chart, Philadelphia will have the deepest defensive corps in the NHL, bar none.
Coburn was offered a two-year extension by the Flyers in April (amount undisclosed), which he declined, pointing to negotiations toward a significant raise, which Chuck Gormley of the Courier Post put at $3 million annually .
Coburn just completed his fourth year of NHL service, which means he now qualifies for salary arbitration.
When you take into consideration that comparable players such as James Wisniewski, Cam Barker, and Denis Grebeshkov currently earn salaries in the neighborhood of $3 million per year, it's safe to assume Coburn will get his money one way or the other.
Trade him? Now what would be the sense in sending a player who could be a No. 3 or No. 4 defensman for most teams (but would sit at No. 5 on a deep Philadelphia roster) for the paltry savings of $1.4 million? Bullocks.
Not only would the savings be minimal, the Flyers have no defenseman in their system to bridge the skill gap Coburn's departure would bring to the blue line. That nullifies any gains made by the acquisition of Hamhuis.
The Flyers will also not find a comparable defenseman on the open market for anything approaching Coburn's current salary.
Coburn should stay put.
Daniel Carcillo: As a third-year player, Carcillo does not qualify for arbitration until 2011-2012. Philadelphia need only qualify Carcillo to a new contract at a 10 percent raise over his current salary, which would put him around $1 million for 2010-2011.
Darroll Powe: Should the Flyers retain Powe by offering him a minimum qualifying offer of $570,000, it will spell the end of Riley Cote in a Flyers sweater as he rides the waiver wire to Adirondack.
Trade Jeff Carter? : Not gonna happen for several reasons.
First, Carter is entering the final year of a contract that pays him $5 million annually.
Has anyone on the "Trade Jeff Carter" bandwagon paused long enough to consider this is a contract year for Carter? That if he wants to go from fabulously wealthy 25-year-old to an obscenely wealthy 26-year-old, he'll need to put forth his best effort this season?
Or that Carter's value would be higher as the 2011 trade deadline approached?
Or that with the injuries that occur regularly throughout the season, Carter wouldn't necessarily be the odd man out of a deep stable of Flyers pivots?
Or that, as I opined on this space last week , teams that sell off young, premier offensive players with their best days still ahead of them rarely receive equal value in return.
If the Flyers were to find the right deal for draft picks, can't-miss NHL prospects and a chunk of salary cap breathing room, I suppose anything is possible, even a trade for Jeff Carter.
But the Flyers are going to need all the firepower they can muster to get past the Penguins and Capitals, who will likely be laying in wait for next season's playoffs. The Flyers can't count on early exits by Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin & Co. every year.
Of course, since crystal balls and salt water cocktails tend to produce the same delusional conclusions, I could be all wet on these predictions. But that's another column.
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