2010 Philadelphia Flyers Free Agent Frenzy Preview
Coming into this past weekend's NHL Entry Draft, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was hoping to come home from Los Angeles with his starting goalkeeper for the next couple years. However, that didn't happen.
To give Holmgren credit, he was granted permission to negotiate with goalies Evgeni Nabokov of the San Jose Sharks and Marty Turco of the Dallas Stars. Nothing came to fruition in terms of signing either net minder.
In Nabokov's case, his agent Don Meehan said it wasn't in his client's best interest to sign before Thursday, and let their intentions known to Holmgren that they're going to test the free agent market. The Flyers have since pulled out of the running for Nabokov.
The news that the Flyers received permission from the Stars to speak to Turco didn't break until yesterday in which ESPN's Pierre LeBrun and E.J. Hradek reported that Turco turned down a contract from the Flyers.
According to the Philadelphia Daily News, the Flyers never made an offer to Turco. The paper also claims that Holmgren didn't seek or receive permission from Dallas to talk to the soon-to-be-free-agent goalie.
When the NHL Free Agent Frenzy opens this Thursday, Holmgren will have some work to do when it comes to deciding who will be the Flyers starting goalie come Oct. 7th in Pittsburgh.
The general consensus entering the offseason was that Holmgren was going to trade for a young goalie who could step in for the next 10 years, however once the Montreal Canadiens traded Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues, his options really vanished.
It's believed that the Flyers wanted Carey Price, but he came off the market when Halak was dealt.
Leading up to the draft, countless rumors had the Flyers talking trade with the Los Angeles Kings about Jonathan Quick or Jonathan Bernier, but Los Angeles reportedly wanted Jeff Carter, a price Holmgren wasn't willing to pay.
The tides have turned on the goaltending search for Holmgren as he wants to add an experience goalie into the mix while the kids develop in the minors. Don't let the past fool you, the Flyers have two legit goaltending prospects that are a couple years away: Joacim Eriksson and Sergei Bobrovsky.
Eriksson is only 20-years-old, and was the Flyers 196th pick in the 2008. He currently is playing overseas in his native Sweden with Leksand in the Allsvenskan League. In his first season with Leksand, he posted an impressive 2.40 goals against average and .926 save percentage.
“…I’m a huge fan of Joacim right now because of his style and big-save ability. He catches with the right hand and has a pure hybrid butterfly style that will allow him to adapt smoothly to North American style of hockey. He has quick lateral movement and plays big in the crease with a slightly wider stance than you would see with most European or Swedish goalie prospects. He is mentally sound and displays increased focus with increased pressure, which is a sure sign of a goalie with true NHL potential.
Even though Eriksson is currently playing in the minor league Allsvenskan, he is tearing up the league and will be highly sought after by a number of SEL teams. From what I hear, Brynas is really interested in his services for next season due to the fact that Jacob Markstrom’s (Florida Panthers property) contract expires at the end of this season. If Markstrom decides to head overseas, Eriksson’s potential and value will soar for the Flyers if he is indeed signed by Brynas.
Eriksson continues to rise in my Top-100 Fantasy Keeper Prospects Rankings and he’s definitely one of the best and most interesting goalie prospects in the Flyers’ system.”
The Flyers are doing things right with how they will handle Eriksson because they don't want to mess anything up considering he's turning into one of the best goalie prospects in the world. They'll be patient, and will bring him over when they feel he's ready.
On the other hand, Bobrovsky is far closer to playing for the Flyers than Eriksson, but still a couple years away. Holmgren signed the 21-year-old Russian goaltender this past spring to a three year deal with a $1.75 million cap hit.
Unlike Eriksson, Bobrovsky wasn't drafted by the Flyers and has been playing in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) for the past two years. His team, Metallurg Novokuznetsk, finished last season dead last in the KHL with a 7-20 record, but it wasn't because of Bobrovsky.
The 6'2", 190-pound netminder recorded some mind blowing numbers considering the team he played for. In 35 games, he sported a 2.72 GAA and a .919 SV %. The year before, he was even better, posting a 2.49 GAA and a .927 SV %.
Here's the Hockey Futures talent analysis of Sergei Bobrovsky:
"Bobrovsky is a hybrid goalie who prefers more of a butterfly down lower style than stand-up. The young netminder has above average reaction time and a slightly above average glove side. He has good lateral quickness in the crease, Bobrovsky has impressive quickness and he needs it since he does not take up as much of a net as even his U20 Team Russia teammate Gaiduchenko. The young goalie also tends to skate out far to challenge opponents, though he didnâ’t do this as much outside of Russian hockey when competing internationally. An average puckhandler, Bobrovsky rarely plays the puck outside the crease and tends to make safer and more conservative decisions with it. Another area that the young netminder does need to work on is his rebounding, as he tends to give up a lot of them and some dangerously close in front of him. It is impressive that he is capable of blocking some very difficult first shots, but he does himself and his team a disservice by leaving the rebound and allowing the opposing team second and third chances at the puck. Still, his competitiveness and ability to stop the first shot have been key to his success thus far in his career and he can learn proper rebound control if given more coaching opportunities. Maturity wise, the young 88 born netminder is probably one of the most mature young netminders currently playing in Russia. He took on a lot of responsibility last year and even though handled it very well, especially when backstopping Russia to the bronze medal at the U20 World Junior Championships. His ability to remain composed in difficult situations and remain competitive has been key to his success."
Bobrovsky has been compared to Washington Capitals starter Semyon Varlamov, who has rivaled Bobrovsky in Russia in years' past. In 2007-08, Bobrovsky outplayed Varlamov in the Super Series for Russia's U20 team.
For this coming season, Bobrovsky will compete for the starting job at Adirondack with Johan Backlund, who saw some time with the Flyers this past season. One thing is for sure, Bobrovsky is a candidate for the No. 1 spot for the Flyers in 2011 depending on how he fares in the AHL.
And that brings us back to who's going to start for the Flyers in 2010.
Outside of Nabokov and Turco, Holmgren doesn't have many quality options in the free agent market and you can cross one more name of your wishlist as the Nashville Predators traded the rights to Dan Ellis to Montreal.
Holmgren could target unrestricted free agents Chris Mason, Jose Theodore, Martin Biron, Antero Niittymaki or elect to re-sign Michael Leighton, who was great leading up to the Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Another possibility is to trade for Tim Thomas, who the Boston Bruins would like to unload after the emergence of Tuuka Rask. Thomas has a no-trade clause, but reports indicate that he's willing to waive it.
Thomas, 36, is going into his second year of a four-year extension he signed with Boston prior to last season. A deal he got after winning the Vezina in 2008-09. He carries a $5 million cap hit for the remainder of his deal.
Many think that he lost his starting job in Boston, but that's not the case. Thomas was very good in 43 games last year. His final numbers were: 17-18-8, 2.56 GAA and a .915 SV %. He finished with five shutouts, the same amount he did the year prior.
In order to acquire Thomas, Holmgren would have to send some salary the other way. That means parting ways with Simon Gagne or Carter, who makes the same amount of money as Thomas.
But Holmgren will not trade Carter.
"Sure, lots of teams have asked about Jeff Carter. It is a short conversation." said Holmgren.
What the Flyers ultimately decide to do in net could depend on what they do on the defensive front. It's clear that Holmgren wants to add another blue-chip defenseman, or at least someone who would be a significant upgrade over Lukas Krajicek.
He tried to sign Dan Hamhuis after acquiring his rights from Nashville in exchange for Ryan Parent, but that experiment failed as he repackaged his rights for a third round pick in 2011 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio believes that the Flyers could be in on unrestricted free agent defenseman Anton Volchenkov, who's hard-hitting-nasty-stay-at-home style of hockey would instantly give the Flyers the best defensive unit in the Eastern Conference.
Whether they choose to go with an elite talent like Volchenkov or take another crack at Hamhuis, the Flyers have to add another defenseman into the mix because they cannot rely on vets Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen for 20-plus minutes a night during the regular season.
The list of UFA defenseman is rather strong for what the Flyers are looking for; a defenseman who can play 15 minutes a night without consistently making mistakes.
Zybnek Michalek or Andy Sutton are two guys that are intriguing because they fit what the Flyers need. Michalek plays a similar style to Volchenkov, and will come at a cheaper price while Sutton is experienced, smart and affordable.
With less than 48 hours until the busiest day of the hockey season, the Flyers have some big questions marks that have to be answered. Like who's going to be the No. 1 goalie?
The answer: no one knows...yet.
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