The Philadelphia Flyers' 2008-09 season was equally exciting as the previous season, in which the Flyers returned to the playoffs, except this year the Flyers went out in the playoffs two rounds earlier.
Some fans want to blame it on goaltending. Others want to blame it on the coach. Some are convinced our top players were just too gassed and had too many injuries to go the distance.
I don't think any of these are the main reason.
This team is not yet balanced. This team lacks what Derian Hatcher and Jason Smith brought to this team in 2007-08. We need a physical, shot-blocking, defensive defenseman on our blue line.
The Flyers also lack a defensive centerman, someone who can win key faceoffs. Faceoffs were a huge problem, not just in the playoffs, but throughout the entire season for the Flyers. Finally, we need to refresh our options in goal. Its time to let go of Marty Biron and Antero Nittymaki and look for other options in net.
This all must be accomplished by still staying under the cap, which the Flyers are already dangerously close to. Salary will need to be shed to make all of this happen, but it can be done.
Many fans look for a quick fix and just want to trade Danny Briere. Although that would give the Flyers a lot of cap flexibility, trading a contract like Briere's is no easy task. With a cap hit of over $6 million and many years left on Briere's current deal, moving Briere is much easier said then done. Not to mention he has a no-movement clause and is coming of an injury-plagued season. Danny Briere will be a Flyer next season.
As far as moving salary goes, it comes down to three players who could potentially be moved. Ideally, two out of the three would have to be moved for the Flyers to have a fresh look for next season. Those three players are Joffrey Lupul, Matt Carle, and Randy Jones. Mike Knuble is assumed gone, not just for cap reasons but to create roster space for emerging youngsters.
Joffrey Lupul is a player with tons of offensive instincts and great skill. However, he lacks consistency and ice time here on a Philadelphia team loaded with scoring talent. If Lupul was scoring 60-plus points a year, it would be much harder to let him go. We can afford to lose Lupul and his $4 million contract, especially with the emergence of Claude Giroux as a versatile scoring forward.
Carle is a very talented, young puck-moving defenseman who I would love to see the Flyers keep. However, with a salary at over $3 million, the idea of keeping Carle is looking less and less likely. By trading Carle, we open up a roster spot for a big, physical d-man.
I'd like to see the Flyers keep Jones. His contract isn't nearly as bad as most people make it out to be, and he's a solid two-way contributor on the blue line.
So, lets say hypothetically we trade away Carle and Lupul.
We could send Lupul to the Montreal Canadians, a team with some salary space and a team looking for some new options as far as scoring goes up front.
Then, we send Carle to the Buffalo Sabres, a team looking for some youth and puck movement on there blue line.
From Montreal, we could ask for the rights to Mike Komisarek and a second-round pick. Komisarek could be signed to a three-year, $13 million deal ($4.125 million, $4.125 million, and $4.5 million, for a $4.33 million cap hit). The Flyers also get a second-round pick, something they don't have this year or next year.
From Buffalo, we could trade for Paul Gaustad. Gaustad is a physical, defensive centerman who can win key faceoffs. Carle for Gaustad straight up seems lopsided to some, but Buffalo considers Gaustad as part of its team moving forward, and we need to shed salary. Gaustad carries with him a $2.3 million cap hit for a few more seasons.
The Flyers will more then likely have to dip into free agency for a goaltender. The Flyers have already signed goalie Johan Backlund to a one-year deal. Backlund should be the backup for next season and see hopefully around 25 to 30 starts.
As for the starting position, I say the Flyers go after Craig Anderson. Anderson was an absolute rock the past two season for the Florida Panthers and is looking for playing time elsewhere this offseason. At times, he actually outplayed starter Thomas Vokoun in the sunshine state. A two-year contract worth $3.5 million ($1.5 million and $2 million, for a $1.75 million cap hit) would be a nice raise for Anderson on a team where he would be the starter and see around 45 to 50 starts.
Simply for depth reasons, I think the Flyers should also sign Lasse Kukkonen to a one-year deal at $1 million.
This leaves the Flyers with a lineup next year of ...
All of this would leave the Flyers with just under $1 million in cap room. The end result is a team much more balanced and harder to play against. Mind you, this roster will rely on youngsters like Powell, Nodl, and Sbisa to take on full-time rolls, but given their performances this season, they give us plenty of reason to be optimistic their up to the task.
The Flyers this season were a team known for their scoring ability. Next season, hopefully we can be known as a team not just for our offensive capabilities, but as a physical team that can play shutdown defense.