Philadelphia Flyers: Solving the Goaltending Puzzle

Dan Kelley@@dxkelleyCorrespondent IIMay 5, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - APRIL 25:  Martin Biron #43 of the Philadelphia Flyers skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs  at the Wachovia Center on April 25, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Penguins defeated the Flyers 5-3 to win the series 4 games to 2.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It's early May, and unfortunately, Flyers fans are already talking about potential offseason moves.

We would rather be talking about second round matchups. We would rather be talking about surprisingly hot scorers the way we were talking about R.J. Umberger last year.

We would rather be talking about the Stanley Cup. But that's simply not the case this year.

There are a number of reasons why we are talking about the offseason right now, and it would be foolish to put all the blame on one player, position, coach, or general manager.

But we all know where the biggest focus needs to be: goaltending.

Flyers fans have openly accepted that neither Martin Biron nor Antero Niittymaki is going to be the solution to the problem of playoff disappointments. It is unlikely that either one will be re-signed for a combination of reasons that include inconsistency and salary demands.

So, what names are being thrown around as the potential new netminder for the Orange and Black? Ray Emery? Kari Lehtonen? Nikolai Khabibulin?

Don't they say those who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it? None of these guys are the solution.

None of them.

Khabibulin is too old. Yes, he has been impressive for Chicago, but how many more years does he have in him? How many games can he play in a season? How much money will he demand? 

The Flyers need someone who can give them a future, otherwise we will simply be having this same conversation in a year or two.

Ray Emery? I don't even like addressing this one.

With the exception of a great goalie fight with Marty Biron during the '06-'07 season, Emery is worthless. He might be worthy of a position as a backup...on a team like Carolina...where the starting goaltender is willing to play 72 games a season. 

Kari Lehtonen? You mean the Kari Lehtonen who played backup to Niittymaki in the 2006 Winter Olympics for Team Finland? The Kari Lehtonen who lost the Calder Cup to Niittymaki's Phantoms in 2005? The Kari Lehtonen who hasn't won a head-to-head matchup with Niittymaki since the Eisenhower administration?

Is it too bold for me to say that, if we're looking for a mediocre Finnish goaltender, let's just stick with Antero? At least with him, we won't develop false hopes.

Now, I know that any fan can go complaining about the ideas thrown around by other fans, the media, or the front office. So, I feel compelled to offer two of my own solutions.

Solution No. 1 played 31 games last year, going 15-7-5 for a non-playoff team with a 2.71 GAA (better than Biron, Niittymaki, and Lehtonen) and a .924 save percentage (better than Biron, Niittymaki, Lehtonen, and Khabibulin).

He made $575,000 last year, and while he will surely be looking for a pay increase, he's not going to be asking for Khabibulin money.

My first solution is Florida's Craig Anderson.

It's a fairly good bet that Florida won't make a move to re-sign him, as they have a solid starter in Tomas Vokoun for the next two seasons. There's no reason to give a goalie as capable as Anderson his pay increase just to have him on the bench most of the year.

Solution No. 2 is the even sweeter solution. What Flyers fan wouldn't like to steal a rising star out from under the Devils?

Scott Clemmensen played 40 games last season with a ridiculous 2.39 GAA and a .917 save percentage, not to mention the 25-13-1 record.  Martin Brodeur is still the obvious No. 1 goalie in Jersey, but Clemmensen proved that he's a legitimate No. 1 as well. 

As an unrestricted free agent coming off a spectular season, helping the Devils win the division, you had better believe Clemmensen is going to want a starting job somewhere. 

You might argue that the Flyers would be foolish to gamble on signing backups who happened to have good seasons last year.

That may be, but isn't it more foolish to sign a goalie who has failed to live up to his potential the way Lehtonen has? Or who won't be around in a year or two like Khabibulin? Or who bounces back and forth between the AHL and Russia like Emery?

Let the market take those guys anywhere else.

I'll take my chances on one of the two goaltenders who are hungry for a starting job, and are asking for a fair price.


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