The Philadelphia Flyers had a miraculous run to the Stanley Cup Finals this past year, but it ended in heartbreaking fashion.
Michael Leighton, the man some deemed as the savior of the Flyers season, let up one of the weakest goals in Stanley Cup Playoffs history. Leighton, who was most likely an easy bet to be resigned by Paul Holmgrem and the Flyers before that goal, now has an uncertain future.
The Philadelphia Flyers are in heavy pursuit of a suitable starting goalie to come to Philadelphia. They have already extended offers to the likes of Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco and have inquired about Tim Thomas.
Along with the goaltender issues, they have other spots to fill with limited cap space to maneuver. Currently, the Flyers have 17 players signed with a little over 10 million dollars in cap space. If you figure in that Johan Backlund will be put in the minors, they have about 11 million in cap space.
So you have 16 players signed with around 11 million dollars in cap space. The Flyers would need to put that 11 million towards a goalie, at least two defensemen, and probably two forwards, assuming Riley Cote will always be a healthy scratch.
That would put them at the 22 man roster to start the season, but what exact moves will help this team reach the Stanley Cup again? Below are five reasonable moves that will help the Flyers in the goal for the Cup.
Trade Jeff Carter for Jonathan Bernier:
Yes, Los Angeles Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi has already said that neither one of his young goaltenders are available (Quick and Bernier). The Kings are looking to sign Ilya Kovalchuck during free agency, but if they can't land Kovy, they will be looking for a top-six forward.
Jeff Carter is one of the most talented, young players that is going to be available via trade this offseason. The Kings already have Jonathan Quick as their proven starter and it would seem as if Bernier would be expendable. Bernier's cap hit is only around 800,000, while Carter's is at five million, which makes it a great trade for the Flyers. The Kings have plenty of cap room and the Flyers would increase their cap space to sign free agents.
While Bernier isn't a proven starter, the Kings would probably have to throw in a first or second-round pick in next year's draft to get Carter. While some doubt Bernier is a proven goalie, he has dominated the AHL; in three starts in the NHL, he is 3-0 with a 1.3 goals against average, and a .957 save percentage. He is an excellent option for a Flyers team that is already deep at the center position and is in need of a goalie.
Bernier is a goalie around whom the Flyers could build their future. Plus, the first or second-round draft pick the Flyers would acquire could provide another NHL-ready player. Plus, it opens up an extra four million dollars in cap space to acquire three forwards and two defensemen.
Re-sign Braydon Coburn:
During the Flyers playoff run, Braydon Coburn showed he was an essential part of the Flyers defensive core. Playing as the fourth defenseman, he worked extremely well with teammate Kimmo Timonnen.
Coburn, who made around 1.3 million last year, will be expecting close to double that amount—around the 2.5 million dollar range. Assuming the Flyers already made the deal with the Kings and then re-sign Coburn, they would have around 12 million to spend on at least one defenseman, maybe two, and three forwards.
Re-Sign Michael Leighton, Put Boucher in the Minors:
While Bernier should be developed in time to be the starter, you still never know. And Leighton is a much better insurance policy than Boucher. This only works if Leighton is willing to accept a backup role, assuming Bernier will be the starter. With Bernier, you expect him to probably only make around 60 starts because he is so young, and Leighton is a much better option to start the other 22 games.
Leighton would probably cost around two million dollars a season, and with Boucher in the minors, the hit to the Flyers would only be a million. That would bring their salary cap space to around 10-11 million dollars left to spend on at least one defenseman and three forwards.
Sign Anton Volchenkov:
The former Ottawa Senator was almost built to play for the Philadelphia Flyers. He is a big defenseman who likes to come up with the big hits. If he signed in Philadelphia, he would instantly become a fan favorite, and easily give the Flyers the best defense in the league.
The one problem here is playing time—would Volchenkov be content as the fourth defenseman on the Flyers (bumping Coburn down to the fifth defenseman, playing with Oskars Bartulis)?
Volchenkov would come at a hefty price too, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of five million. That would bring the Flyers cap space down quickly to around five to six million, with them needing to spend that on three forwards.
It would be well worth it though for the Flyers, who would not only have the most skilled defense, but also one of the most intimidating defenses.
Resign Powe, Asham, and sign Alexei Ponikarovsky:
Signing Powe and Asham should be easy, considering they will both be under or around one million each. Powe is a great guy on the fourth line checking unit for the Flyers, and Asham is a solid role player for the Flyers.
Signing Alexei Ponikarovsky is a bit of a stretch, considering not all the numbers laid out in this article could go exactly as planned. But what an awesome addition Ponikarovsky would be to the Flyers; he would be like a replacement to Mike Knuble, who the Flyers dearly missed this past year. His large 6'4" presence would be ideal for the Flyers in front of the net.
The Flyers remaining three million dollars in cap space would all be sucked up by signing Ponikarovsky. But by making this deal, the Flyers would be headed for the Cup.
While the exact numbers may not be exactly correct, most of these deals are feasible for the Flyers, in attempting to make another run at the Cup. By making these deals (or similar deals), they would have to be considered the favorites for the Cup during next season.
Their defense would be by far the best in the league with the additions of Volchenkov and Bernier and the re-signing of Coburn. Their offense would slip a little with the loss of goal scorer Jeff Carter, but the addition of Ponikarovsky could certainly help in the scoring department.
Deals like these are possible for the Flyers, but it all starts with their number one need at goaltender. If they trade Jeff Carter for Bernier and a pick, the options for the Flyers offseason is endless.
One final note that is not necessary for the 2010 offseason but would be highly preferable, would be re-signing Claude Giroux and Ville Leino. It has been apparent for the past several years that Giroux will one day be an All-Star with his flashes of brilliant playmaking. And Ville Leino, who excelled in the playoffs for the Flyers, looks to be like another player on the verge of great things.
Paul Holmgrem first needs to worry about preparing for next season, but after this offseason is over...Paul, do us all a favor and sign Giroux and Leino to long-term deals.
LET'S GO FLYERS!