by PuckStopsHere on 06/24/11 at 04:53 PM ET
The Philadelphia Flyers have significantly remade their roster. They made a series of moves that move them further away from any shot at the Stanley Cup.
The mistake seems to be an adherence to the “final piece” theory of hockey. A team needs a final piece to win and that piece must be acquired at all cost. Apparently that piece in Philadelphia is goaltending and the goaltender to solve the problems is Ilya Bryzgalov.
Bryzgalov was signed to a huge contract worth $51 million in 9 years. He is signed until 2020 when he turns 40. In order to clear salary cap room arguably their best two best forwards in Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were traded. They were traded for young players. Even if these deals work out, the players they got in return will not be ready to be NHL stars until Bryzgalov is beyond his prime.
Bryzgalov is a pretty good goalie. He finished sixth in the Vezina Trophy race last season. He had a slight improvement statistically from the 2009/10 year (his saves percentage improved from .920 to .921). In 2009/10, he was overrated by voters because he was a key player on the Phoenix Coyotes who succeeded despite being in bankruptcy. That storyline earned him Hart Trophy votes that he didn’t really deserve.
That isn’t to say that Bryzgalov is not a good goalie. I think he is about the sixth best goalie in hockey. His Vezina placement is likely approximately correct. His salary cap hit is about right given his ability, but he won’t be worth it by the end of the deal. The contract is very longterm and likely pays Bryzgalov as a star while he is into a decline phase.
Philadelphia is a team that has needed a top goalie for several years. Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton are journeymen goalies who have done reasonably well at times but it is hard to count on them longterm. Sergei Bobrovsky may be the answer. He was a pretty good rookie this season. He looked like a rookie of the year candidate when he first hit the NHL, but as NHL players got a chance to see him his progress slowed. By playoff time, he wasn’t a safe option anymore. Nevertheless he put up a solid .915 saves percentage as a rookie. For now he is Bryzgalov’s backup, but it is quite possible that he will take over the goaltending duties and make Bryzgalov a high paid back-up if the two are kept together for a few years.
In the last three years, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were the top two scorers on the Philadelphia Flyers two of the last three years. This year was the exception as Claude Giroux and Danny Briere took those positions leaving them for third and fourth. Both have strong defensive value and are thus worth more than their offensive numbers alone. Both are 26 years old and are likely at or near the primes of their careers.
Carter was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jakub Voracek and their 2011 first round draft pick. Voracek was a 2007 first round draft pick. He will be 22 by next season. He scored 50 points two years ago and that is his career best so far. If the draft pick this year and Voracek develop they might be worth Jeff Carter, but it won’t happen this year. It won’t happen for several years. By that time, Bryzgalov should be in his mid-30s and will likely not be the goalie that he is today.
Richards was traded to the Los Angeles Kings for Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and a 2012 second round draft pick. Simmonds will be 23 next season. Two years ago was his career best season to date. He scored 40 points and put up good puck possession numbers (he has a +22 +/- rating). He did not progress last year as he dropped to 30 points, but he is a young forward with strong two-way skills who could continue to develop. Brayden Schenn was a 2009 first round draft pick. He has thus far played nine NHL games. He has been a very good junior player so far but it is unclear how well he will play in the NHL. Obviously a second round draft pick that is a year from selection is not a sure thing and is not ready now.
It is entirely possible that the Philadelphia Flyers acquired the pieces of a good core five years down the road. It is not ready now. By that time Ilya Bryzgalov may be past his prime. He probably won’t be playing as well as he is now. It makes no sense to acquire a “final piece” if his acquisition requires the trading away of two other pieces good enough to be “final pieces” for future players in order to stay under the salary cap. The loss of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards weakens the team today more than the addition of Ilya Bryzgalov helps. The trades might help in the future, if they work out, but by then Bryzgalov will likely have less value than he does today.
The Philadelphia Flyers made a series of moves yesterday that will set the direction of their future. These moves do not make much sense. A goalie was added but at very high cost. The cost makes the Philadelphia Flyers less likely to win the Stanley Cup than they were before the deals. They may have a better goalie but they have fewer top level forwards in their prime. I think the Philadelphia Flyers made a mistake.
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