As we all know February is almost here, a month characterized by trade rumors preceding the trade deadline.
And it seems no team is surrounded by rumors more than the Philadelphia Flyers and their General Manager Paul Holmgren, who, rumor has it, is looking to make a significant move by the deadline.
Paul, I just have one question: "Why?" The Flyer's are number one in the NHL, they lead the league in goals scored (174) and goal differential (+44).
They are arguably the deepest team in the league, both at the forward position and on defense. They have in Sergei Bobrovsky, a solid net-minder, and the reliable veteran Brian Boucher as a backup.
The team is the strongest and most well-balanced in the league, with a near-perfect combination of youth and age, size and speed, skill and grit and to top it all off, they have a tenacious group of determined leaders.
So Paul, I ask again, "Why? What is it you think your team needs that they don't already have?"
In this slide show I will make a case against the Flyers making a move at the trade deadline, highlighting some implications that may occur, not only this season and post-season, but may jeopardize the future of the Flyers team.
For me this is both the most obvious and most concerning point.
The Flyers are in great position in terms of having a championship calibre team, being within the cap and in a position that gives them some roster flexibility.
Currently they have just over 300k in cap space (accounting for LTIR and bonuses) and they are fortunate to have nearly all of their core players, including a solid top six on defense, secured for next season and with some needless contracts expiring this season (Carcillo, Zherdev).
They will be in a great position to deal with the huge problem looming over the Flyers management: resigning Ville Leino, the forward who has become an indispensable asset for this hockey club.
Now I've been following the rumors surrounding this team for several weeks and a name that always seems to come up as a trade target is Jarome Iginla, who I will use an example to make my point.
Iginla makes a lot of money ($7 million per year) and it's not as if he's in a contract year, so he wouldn't be a rental player strictly for the post-season.
My point is simple: the Flyers can't handle this contract for an extended period of time without giving up a core player or a considerable chunk of the depth that makes this team so extraordinary.
For that matter, they can't take on any costly contract for risk of losing Leino, who I think is now safe to call part of the core of the Flyers. Now imagine the Flyers managed to acquire Iginla. Think of not only what they'd give up for him but what they'd pay for him in the long run ie. losing Leino and other players.
Iginla is an expensive player who does bring a lot to the table (size, skill, leadership) but his contract doesn't expire until 2013, he's an aging player whose productivity is on a steady decline and doesn't bring anything the Flyers don't already have.
Acquiring any player with a contract that exceeds $3 million means waving goodbye to Leino or another key player in the Flyers lineup and would place serious strain on their salary cap in the coming years.
Again I ask the question: "What does Paul Holmgren think is wrong with this team?"
I've read numerous articles declaring the Flyers to be the best team in the league, the deepest, the toughest and the favorite to win the Stanley Cup and almost everyone seems to agree.
As I said earlier, currently the team is first in the standings, goals scored and goal differential. It has young players, it has middle-aged players and it has veterans. It has strong leadership in Richards, Carter, Pronger and Timonen, a lengthy list of scoring threats that encompasses all four lines and a defensive group that no team in the league can match in terms of depth, skill and experience.
So I ask once again: "Can someone tell me what this team is missing?" (seriously people must know something I don't)
Now what will they have to give up to acquire this much needed impact player?
It's obvious it won't be anyone from the core, but some names thrown around have been Hartnell, Zherdev and Coburn. Well I don't know why anyone would want to get rid of Hartnell, who gives a strong, physical presence to any line, makes life hell for goalies and is in the middle of one of his best seasons.
Zherdev wouldn't be a bad trade considering he's in a contract year and I know there's a lot of debate regarding his performance, but he's a proven goal scorer who's having reasonable success on the Flyers and is a deep scoring threat and Coburn is a key to their defensive depth. A one for one trade might be plausible with any of these players, but the rumors speak of big changes.
What I fear coming from a big trade is a fatal blow to the evident chemistry in the lineup that has helped carry this team to the number one spot.
A new face (and the missing faces caused by a trade) may hinder the offense instead of improve it and could leave the Flyers with a player or two that don't fit. It would be better to keep the same team together going into the post-season, a team that is familiar with each other and has collectively developed a successful playing style, instead of mixing things up with new guys in the dressing room. It seems counter-productive to me.
From what I've heard, Holmgren is primarily looking to acquire a veteran top six forward with great scoring capacity.
Again I ask who/what will the Flyers give up in exchange? Draft picks are an obvious option. Two other names that are being thrown around in trade talks are James van Riemsdyk and Andreas Nodl.
First let me point out that these two players are young, have potential, they contribute and only make a combined $2.5 million while having a combined 41 points.
They are solid depth players. Nodl is in a contract year but isn't likely to be demanding an overwhelming amount of money and van Riemsdyk has another year.
Now I don't want to call these guys the future of the Flyers franchise because they're not. They could be, however, a part of the future and an important component of their depth. Remember they're still young and have time to grow. We have seen the result of teams giving up on players before their prime in exchange for so-called experienced veterans *cough* Islanders *cough*.
Considering where the Flyers are, it wouldn't be prudent to give up players like van Riemsdyk and Nodl at this point in their careers.
Not only would that be surrendering two of their deep scoring threats, but two young, still developing players that have a lot of room for growth and improvement. And like I mentioned, they only make a combined $2.5 million this season. I don't think Holmgren will be able to find his huge difference maker for that amount.
Judging from his bold free agent and trade moves of the past few seasons, Paul Holmgren wants to win a Stanley Cup, badly.
Last season gave him a taste of the glory that is a Stanley Cup championship and he's hungry for Lord Stanley's hardware this season, so much so, that he seems to be determined to max out his team's cap to make sure no dollar is spared in winning.
But as I've pointed out in the previous slides, there are several negatives that will come from a big trade, mainly over-extending his cap to a point he'll be forced to dismantle a significant portion of his roster over time. In this sense, a big trade would not be prudently hedging his bets (essentially ensuring a win-win situation).
Let's say the Flyers roster remains unchanged. If they win the cup, well they win the cup, mission accomplished. If they don't, they'll have virtually the same roster that is clearly successful and plays tremendously well with each other and a free agent market to hunt down talent and missing pieces.
As of right now, the Flyers can win the cup with no roster changes. They're that good.
So my point is: if you have a team that clearly looks and plays like a championship winning hockey club, why is there such a need to make changes, particlarly changes that may have such huge consequences in the long run? I don't think any affordable player in the league could have such a huge impact to justify the potential repercussions that would follow.
Of course this is all based on whether or not you think it's better to spare no effort and spend every penny in search of a cup or ensure sustained growth and success of the team.
Personally, I think the latter is more important for a team like Philadelphia who will be a serious contender for a least two more years. Maxing themselves out now will only make future success an impossibility. It also largely depends on whether or not you think the Flyers are as good as I claim.
Some say Richards needs someone to play with, others say they need more scoring threats (I think that's a bit greedy). This team is almost too good, in terms of both performance and dollars and cents, to make changes.
I can only assume Paul Holmgren has a master plan and knows what he's doing. After all, he put this team together from scratch. I put my money on the Flyers to win it all this year, and I think they would be fine with the roster they have right now.