May 29, 2011, 9:21 PM EST
Whenever someone discusses the Philadelphia Flyers’ upcoming off-season, it seems like three factors are almost always interlocked: their much-critiqued goaltending, a potential Jeff Carter trade and the team’s salary cap headaches.
Even though the salary cap ceiling is expected to climb up to somewhere between $60.5-$63.5 million, the Flyers are already in a tight spot with a bit less than $59 million wrapped up in 18 players. They must deal with the unrestricted free agent status of quality winger Ville Leino and will be forced to make decisions regarding a few restricted free agents (such as Daniel Carcillo and Andreas Nodl) as well.
It’s tough to come up with an elegant set of answers for the Flyers’ questions. The hockey public wouldn’t be very tolerant toward the idea of Philly sticking with their current goalie duo of Sergei Bobrovsky and Michael Leighton, even if that would be a move that follows the team’s stubborn (and often successful) policy regarding netminders. This franchise often walks to the beat of their own drum when it comes to acquiring goalies, but considering the requests of high-ranking executives, it sounds like change will come in some way or form.
The aforementioned free agent questions already hinted that “someone will need to go,” but adding an expensive goalie such as Ilya Bryzgalov or Tomas Vokoun would require the team to move a significant chunk of salary. For that reason, gossipers churned out another round of Jeff Carter trade rumors. While that talk must be considered with a customary grain of salt, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren didn’t exactly shoot down the possibility altogether.
Does that mean we’ve seen the last of Carter in a Flyers uniform?
Not necessarily. Holmgren indicated he’d like to keep the 26-year-old center/winger.
“We’ll see,”‘ he said. “I like our team. Is it realistic to say we’ll be able to keep everybody together? Probably not, but we’ll see. I like our core of players, for sure. I think the longer you can keep a good group together, the better your odds of winning. A lot of these guys have been together for a long time now, and if we can keep them together, I think it’s an advantage.”
Chuck Gormley makes an important point in that story: despite the fact that Carter signed a substantial 11-year, $58 million contract extension, that deal does not include no-movement clause. The 26-year-old sniper isn’t the most versatile player on the Flyers roster, but he is a proven goal scorer in the NHL. He scored 115 goals in his last three regular season campaigns overall, setting a career-high with 46 tallies in 2008-09. He might have some blemishes on his overall game, but it’s hard to find a young player capable of scoring 30-45 goals each season for just a $5.27 million annual cap hit. That line of reasoning means that he could have some serious trade value, but it also indicates that the Flyers might not want to pull the trigger on a deal.
If they did move Carter or another key asset to improve their goaltending, they would risk their staggering offensive depth to roll the dice with a hopeful upgrade in net. It might be more palatable to move young defenseman Matt Carle ($3.44 million cap hit for one more season) instead, although making such a trade wouldn’t bring nearly as much value in return and wouldn’t clear as much space.
The Flyers would clearly like to improve their situation in net, but they must determine that a new goalie will be worth the sacrifices they’ll need to make in other areas. Let’s face it, the goaltending position is an unstable one, especially when a goalie goes from one system to another.
We’ll make sure to keep you updated through an interesting off-season for Philly this summer, whether the Flyers organization follows conventional wisdom by going after a Bryzgalov/Vokoun type goalie or continues to do things “their way.”
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