Tuesday, June 15, 2010
The Flyers have a long history of sub-par goaltending. They really haven’t had a true number one since Bernie Parent and that was in the 1970s! You could argue that Ron Hextall was legit (he did win a Conn Smythe after all), but that is still a long time ago if we're accepting that.
The Flyers found themselves battling questions about their goaltending all season until Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher provided stellar play down the stretch and into the playoffs. Leighton even posted three shut outs in the Conference Final (uh…not as impressive as it sounds because it was against Montreal).
But are the Flyers really satisfied with Michael Leighton as their number one goalie heading into next season? Sure he helped them make the Stanley Cup Final, but he’s a career journey man who has a career GAA of 2.94 and save percentage of .902 in a little over 100 games. Is it realistic to expect him to reproduce the near .915% he did for the Flyers in the regular season and playoffs?
Going back with Michael Leighton will be a big mistake for the Flyers. They are a deep team that has the potential to make it back to the Stanley Cup and they can’t afford to risk this on a shaky goalie. If Patrick Kane’s Cup winning goal wasn’t enough to prove to you that Leighton is shaky then I’m not sure what will.
Plus, the Flyers are so rich at forward that they can risk giving up someone important without losing a beat.
I’m talking about Jeff Carter.
Wait! Hear me out.
Earlier in the season I said it would be stupid for the Flyers to trade Carter at the deadline for a goalie. But at that time the Flyers had Michael Leighton playing well (which I don’t think he can replicate) and Danny Briere and Claude Giroux had yet to play out of their minds.
Giroux's emergence and Briere's revival make Carter expendable. It’s almost unfathomable to think that a 25-year-old capable of scoring 40+ goals a year is expendable, but that’s the reality, mainly because of the Flyers’ cap situation.
If the Flyers want to improve their goaltending they will need money. The Flyers will have about $8-10 million in cap space next season depending on how much the salary cap increases. But they have seven roster spots to fill, one of which is a number one goalie (Michael Leighton is a UFA). Two of those roster spots are for Carcillo and Coburn, who are RFAs, and will receives salary increases (Coburn especially). You can see their dilemma.
To free up cap space they can try and trade Danny Briere, but he still had five years left at $6.5 million, which I think is too onerous for anyone to take even after the playoffs he had. Plus, he has a NTC. Scott Hartnell is another option, but he too has a NTC and I’m not sure he will be willing to waive it to leave a team capable of making the Stanley Cup again. He also brings a physical play to the Flyers that is integral. Simon Gagne is more likely, but he also has a NTC (surprise!) and would not net the type of return that Jeff Carter would because he’s older and has a history of injuries.
Plus, Jeff Carter is probably most effective as a centre based on his poor play on the wing in the Final. Although, his poor play could also be the result of playing on a partially healed broken foot. If he needs to play centre to be most effective there doesn’t seem to be room for him on the Flyers since they have Richards, Briere, and Giroux from lines 1 to 3. I know he’s better than Briere, but Briere isn’t going anywhere.
The Flyers can either directly trade Jeff Carter for a goalie or they can sign a free agent and deal Carter to make cap room while filling other needs.
One interesting trade candidate is Carey Price. There is no way that the Canadiens can choose Price over Halak (since there is no way both want to be back in the same situation next year). Montreal fans have already turned on Price and that was before Halak played out of his mind in the playoffs. Price is still very young and I’m certain can bounce back with a change of scenery; although, Philadelphia might not be the best place considering their history of goalies and the demanding nature of their fans.
Obviously, Jeff Carter is worth more than Carey Price in a trade, so the Flyers are in a position to receive a return of more than just Price. They certainly have a need for defensive depth since Peter Laviolette had absolutely no faith in his third pairing during the regular season and the playoffs. Does Carter for Price, a defenceman, and a prospect/pick sound about right?
Perhaps the Flyers could call on the Panthers for Tomas Vokoun or the Bruins for Tim Thomas. Although, both Thomas and Vokoun have large cap hits and are over 30 .
If the Flyers choose to go the UFA route they could sign Dan Ellis, Evgeni Nabokov, or Marty Turco. Nabokov doesn’t have the playoff pedigree and shouldn't be trusted. Turco hasn't actually posted a season with a save percentage above .915 since the lockout. Ellis will probably be the cheapest of the three, but is somewhat of a gamble considering he doesn’t have a long and impressive track record.
If the Flyers choose to sign a goalie they will need to make a trade unless they can somehow manage to fill all their needs with their limited cap space. This isn’t likely considering number one goalies aren’t cheap.
A big contract has to go.
It has been rumoured that the Columbus Blue Jackets are open to dealing the fourth overall pick. Trading Carter to the Blue Jackets for this pick plus players could make sense for both teams. The Flyers get a blue-chip prospect who can become an impact player in the near future, and, more importantly, won’t affect the salary cap. This gives them the room to upgrade their goaltending and hopefully make a return to the Final. Columbus gets a young impact player who can help them get back into the playoffs and hopefully sell hockey to Columbus.
In a perfect world the Flyers will be able to deal Simon Gagne and keep Jeff Carter or even find a more creative solution to their cap problems that allows them to keep both. I just don’t think this is possible if the Flyers want an upgrade in goal.
Acquiring Carey Price has the potential to solidify the Flyers netminding for the next decade, but could also torpedo the Flyers if Price is unable to regain the form that caused fans to call him Jesus in Montreal. But hockey is not for the faint of heart. This is a risk, but I think will pay off for the Flyers. Somebody pass this along to Paul Holmgren.