The Philadelphia Flyers have already made a pair of blockbuster deals, a pair of big-name signings, and turned over nearly half of their roster from the 2010-2011 season. And its not even the middle of July. Paul Holmgren and Co aren't showing any signs of slowing down, either.
Armed with a number of highly regarded prospects, a surplus of draft picks, and some free cap space, Holmgren and the Flyers have the ability to pursue a number of potentially available players. What moves could be next for the new-look Flyers?
A former #3 overall pick of the Atlanta Thrashers, Bogosian has struggled to find his game at the NHL level. That doesn't mean the soon-to-be 21-year old defenseman is a complete bust—it just means that maybe a change of scenery is necessary.
Even as a perennial underachiever, Bogosian is every coach's dream. In terms of pure talent and potential, he's the complete package. He's big. He's strong. He can skate like the wind. He's got a missile for a shot. He's got the vision. He's got the touch and the zip to make the most difficult outlet passes look elementary.
Jeff Twohey, who coached a young Chris Pronger back when he played for the Peterborough Petes, has said Bogosian reminds him of the future first-ballot Hall of Fame defenseman. And many NHL scouts agree. Bogosian has the talent to be the next Chris Pronger. He is that good.
But for all of that talent, Bogosian has managed a pedestrian 59 points in three NHL seasons. He's looked lost and out of place in the NHL game. He's struggled to get consistent playing time on a mediocre-at-best Atlanta Thrashers team. And he's (reportedly) unhappy with his current situation, especially after the move to Winnipeg.
Anyone who watched the Flyers during the second half of the 2010-2011 season could see that the team missed Pronger desperately, especially on the power play. Veteran workhorses Kimmo Timonen and Sean O'Donnell looked exhausted. Matt Carle looked like a mid-season call up from the AHL without the former Norris Trophy winner at his side. The powerplay was abysmal without Pronger's steady hand quarterbacking the man advantage.
The Flyers know Chris Pronger isn't getting any younger. With his recent string of injuries, the team needs a contingency plan in the event that Pronger isn't able to be the monstrous force of old. Zach Bogosian can be that contingency plan.
For a player hailed by many as the next Chris Pronger, who better to have as a mentor than the man himself? Everyone knows that Bogosian has the talent to be great. Pronger can help him put it all together.
Despite his underwhelming performances over the past three seasons, the Jets will still want a sizable return for RFA Zach Bogosian. A package of Matt Carle, the Flyers first round pick in 2012, the Panthers' second round selection in 2012, and a mid-level prospect should be enough to bring Bogosian to Philadelphia. Its a hefty price to pay to be sure, but Bogosian has a hefty amount of talent. Should he finally make good on all of his promise, the Flyers will have found their blueline anchor for the next decade.
With the Capitals currently over the NHL salary cap, someone has got to go. The most likely player to be moved at this point is ridiculously talented but streaky winger Alexander Semin and his 6.7-million dollar cap hit.
As it stands right now, the Flyers don't have the cap space to accommodate such a salary. However, if youngsters Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier fail to make the roster and Paul Holmgren makes a few more minor tweaks, the Flyers could acquire Semin and stay under the cap. Since Semin has only one year remaining on his contract, the long-term implications for the team would be minimal, aside from the picks/prospects the Flyers would likely send to Washington in exchange.
In addition to a massive cap hit, Alex Semin brings absolutely amazing scoring ability. When he's on his game, he is easily one of the top scorers in the entire league. When he's not, he's invisible. If the Flyers make a play for Semin, it will be because management believes the team isn't capable of scoring enough goals to win hockey games. Semin can certainly help alleviate that problem for just about any team in the NHL. Putting him on a line with Claude Giroux and James van Reimsdyk could be magical, to say the least.
With 2011-2012 being a contract year for the young Russian star, the Flyers might be able to catch lightning in a bottle. Semin undoubtedly wants another massive payday. Teams aren't going to shell out $6-million-plus for a guy that only shows up half the time. That alone should be motivation enough for Semin to remind the hockey world why many consider him to be among the game's most naturally talented players. If it isn't, the Flyers have a few guys in the locker room who might be able to provide Semin with some encouragement. Their names are Chris Pronger and Peter Laviolette.
If the Flyers can acquire a focused Semin for picks and prospects (WSH needs to cut about $4 million in salary before the start of next season), it could be a great deal for the Flyers. One that makes waiting one more season to watch Brayden Schenn suit up acceptable, and one that could put them a few steps closer to hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup in the near future.
Its no secret that the Flyers have a glaring need for a young, puck-moving defenseman. Its also not a secret that Phoenix needs a workhorse goaltender capable of carrying a team into the playoffs. Fortunately for the Coyotes, the Flyers have Sergei Bobrovsky, who has been made expendable by the arrival of Ilya Bryzgalov.
And fortunately for the Flyers, Phoenix has an obnoxiously large surplus of highly regarded young defenseman. The 19-year-old Oliver Ekman-Larsson is the best of that bunch. He is a silky-smooth, natural playmaker capable of taking the puck end-to-end, making a crisp, tape-to-tape pass to just about anywhere on the ice, and blessed with a hard, accurate shot from the point. He's also a very solid positional defender who understands how to use his size (6'2") to take away shooting and passing lanes effectively.
Ekman-Larsson has been compared to a young Scott Niedermayer by many scouts, and for good reason. He's that good. However, due to the sheer number of exceptionally good defensive prospects in the Coyotes system, Ekman-Larsson is likely expendable. A one-for-one deal is unlikely, but a package of Bobrovsky, the Panthers' second round pick in 2012 and a mid-level prospect should be more than enough to get a deal done.
Once in Philadelphia, Ekman-Larsson would be expected to step into the NHL game right away. He had a solid first stint with the Coyotes last season, posting 11 points in 48 games with limited ice-time. Those numbers would likely improve with the Flyers, as he would be surrounded with significantly more offensive talent and be given additional ice time.
Currently, the Maple Leafs have about eight defensemen on their roster capable of playing top-5 roles on most NHL teams. As they say, someone's got to go. One possibility is Luke Schenn, the older brother of prized Flyers prospect Brayden Schenn.
The older Schenn projects as a shutdown defender and blueline leader. He doesn't have the offensive upside of the other defenseman mentioned in this article, but he is a better defender than both of them combined. To put it simply: if you need the other team's star player to not show up on the scoresheet, put Luke Schenn on the ice every time that player jumps on, sit back and breathe easy. He's already that good.
All of this isn't to say that Schenn lacks any offensive ability—he doesn't. He projects as a defender who can make solid outlet passes, put his above-average shot on net with consistency and occasionally make a superb play in the offensive zone. With a little work, some time, and some tutelage, Luke Schenn could become a solid, if not spectacular, two-way defenseman.
But for now, his speciality is the defensive aspect of the game. With Chris Pronger likely sidelined for the first part of the season and with his durability in question after a slew of injuries in 2010-2011, the Flyers might want to acquire an insurance policy should No. 20 not be the same player he was in 2009-2010. Luke Schenn would be an excellent option. He's a physical presence on the blueline, he plays with a nasty streak and he was born to lead.
Of course, acquiring him from Toronto is easier said than done. Leafs GM will want a considerable package for Schenn. It will likely start with a pair of first round picks, at least 1 solid prospect and potentially a few more lower picks. It's certainly a lot to give up for one young restricted free agent defenseman, but the prospect for the Flyers of having the Schenn Brothers in orange and black could be appealing enough to consider such a move.
The saga continues.
Paul Holmgren and the Flyers would love to have No. 91 wearing orange and black in 2011-2012. A top line featuring Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk and Steven Stamkos has the potential to go down as one of the best, if not the best, forward group in Flyers history. Opposing coaches would have nightmares. Goal lights might burn out in Philadelphia.
All dramatics aside, the addition of Stamkos to a young and talented Philadelphia team does make sense. The Flyers have enough young talent that they would be able to put together a competitive package without seriously impairing the long-term health of the franchise. The team itself is profitable and has an owner for whom money is no object. The Flyers could easily sign Stamkos to a monster contract and not have to worry if they'll be able to pay other players.
Stamkos is a top-tier talent in the NHL. He might be one of the three best finishers in the entire league at the ripe old age of 21. He's a solid playmaker and a passable defender. But he's a great shooter. He's capable of scoring 50 goals a season for the next decade or more. He's that good.
Any team in the NHL would likely benefit from adding Steven Stamkos to its roster. He's one of the top players in the league right now, and he's only going to get better. The Flyers would be wise to make a strong offer for him should Tampa make him available. He's not the kind of player that comes around every day. He is the kind of player that can put a team close to a championship over the top.