With a disappointing season over with, the Flyers now have the difficult task of assessing what areas of the squad they need to change. With several options available, the team’s General Manager Paul Holmgren will undoubtedly attempt to make a splash like last year, but with a lot of long and pricey contracts in the stable, will they be left to chew on the hay they have harvested?
Since the recent Collective Bargaining agreement the league and its players association signed, the team has the ability to cast out two contracts they deem to be detrimental to team development. After the team has acquired once-promising goaltender Steve Mason, Ilya Bryzgalov is a likely candidate for this very “amnesty” program.
With Bryzgalov apparently on the way out, it’s time to take a look at the team’s roster and the possible moves the team can make.
To be sure, none of this is definitive. It could turn out that Bryzgalov stays.
Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Zac Rinaldo, Braydon Schenn, Jay Rosehill, Maxime Talbot, Matt Read, Sean Couturier, Kimmo Timonen, Luke Schenn, Niklas Grossmann and Steve Mason seem to be locks to be on the squad next year as long as they’re healthy.
Giroux, Voracek, and Simmonds are key pieces to the franchise’s future. Braydon Schenn, Luke Schenn, Read, and Couturier are their younger pieces that need to continue to get better. Rinaldo and Talbot have serious injuries they need to recover from, but they were valuable contributors to the team this season.
Holmgren just signed Rosehill to a 2 year contract starting next season, so he will be the team’s tough guy for the time being.
Grossmann and Timonen are the team’s best defensemen and will play out their contracts, with Timonen going into the last year, and Grossmann having three left.
The two that fit into this category but might not make the big league club are Oliver Lauridsen and Erik Gustafsson. They are good options to call up when needed, however.
Scott Hartnell, Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, Bruno Gervais, and Danny Briere.
Hartnell was signed to a long term deal recently, so there is little chance he will be going anywhere. The reason I placed him in this category is because the team has to be regretting that decision after the power forward really underperformed this season.
Coburn and Meszaros had very disappointing seasons, but since they are both signed after this season (Meszaros will enter the last year of his contract next season), they don’t seem to be going anywhere. However, the team should be looking to move one of them, because they have contributed nothing to the squad this season.
Briere is the toughest to diagnose. The diminutive center has three years left on his contract that must have his approval to send him anywhere. With some teams in the league looking to meet the salary cap’s “floor”, he might be able to be shipped with his contract the way it is. It’s probably unlikely the team will be able to pull that off, though. He has also been rumored to get “amnestied” too. I doubt that though.
Simon Gagne, Ruslan Fedotenko, Kent Huskins, and Adam Hall.
Huskins played solid defense when the team picked him up as they were decimated with injuries. He might be a solid 3rd defensive pairing player with a small contract. However, with Bruno Gervais being signed to another year, it’s hard to see him fitting in next year.
Fedotenko was heralded as the team’s best penalty killer. He’s given the moniker as a player with an “active stick”, meaning that he breaks up many passes and sends pucks into the opposing zone with ease.
Gagne played well but didn’t get much time to prove himself. He will be looking to get a new contract.
My feeling is that the team should look into keeping half of these players, all unrestricted free agents this offseason; most specifically, Gagne and Fedotenko. The two were the only bright spots for the team this year.
Mike Knuble, Jody Shelley, Kurtis Foster, and Ilya Bryzgalov.
Knuble filled in admirably when the team needed a power forward. But the Flyers will look to go younger and Knuble in hockey years is ancient might as well be an extinct plesiosaur.
Shelley probably has played his last game as a professional hockey player.
Foster was a healthy scratch many games this season after playing like a timid amateur. He will not be missed as he’s sent packing for semiprofessional leagues this offseason.
Bryzgalov looks to be a good candidate for an amnesty marker. He will be paid his money but not count against the cap, and the team will have room to sign more players after he is gone and replaced by fellow goaltender Steve Mason.
The team will try to get younger, and add solid pieces on defense. Letting go of either Bryzgalov, Briere, or both will give the team some room to make some inroads in that regard. However, the team has committed many years and money to players that ultimately might not work in coach Peter Laviolette’s system. What they need is a game changer on defense and the USS Shea Weber has docked upon opposing shores. This is a huge offseason and Holmgren better be prepared, or public opinion of him in Philadelphia will approach the negative feelings towards Sidney Crosby.
(On second thought, the team could go 0-82 next season and that still wouldn’t happen. )