Archive for June, 2010

Leighton Re-Signed; Free Agency Opens Tomorrow

Posted in Uncategorized on June 30, 2010 by flyersfan44

The Flyers have re-signed goalie Michael Leighton to a two year contract extension for $3.1 million. They’re still looking to sign or trade for a number one goalie. With limited cap space, the question is: will they put the available funds toward a top defenseman and go cheaper on the goalie or the other way around? My bet is that they go after a solid defenseman and cheaper on the goalie. Dan Ellis, whose rights were just traded to Montreal from Nashville, is a possibility but I have a feeling that wearing the orange and black next year will be Antero Niittymaki. Either way, the old “Who’s the #1 goalie?” question will remain for next season. In Flyers’ goalieland, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

A few free agents and where it’s quite possible they’ll end up:
Dan Hamhuis – Vancouver
Anton Volchenkov – Flyers, Pittsburgh, or Montreal
Ilya Kovalchuk – everyone saying L.A. but watch Washington
Paul Kariya – Anaheim

Hamhuis Traded

Posted in Uncategorized on June 27, 2010 by flyersfan44

So, I go to the local Wawa to get coffee and the paper, pick up the Daily News and see on the back page that Roy Halladay pitched a great game against Toronto and the Phillies scored some runs – nice. Then I looked down to the bottom of the page and saw “Flyers trade Hamhuis to Pens”. Stunned then angry I said aloud “You gotta be f—ing kidding me”, which had the other patrons turning around and looking. What can I say, it’s the Main Line. I’m definitely not in Northeast Philly anymore.

Holmgren was unable to sign Hamhuis and anticipating losing him on the free agency market in July, he took the best offer he had, which was a third round pick in 2011. Great, he could wind up in Pittsburgh, strengthening our division rivals. Word is that the impasse was about role on the team and not money. Hamhuis wanted to have assurance that he would get a certain number of minutes and be regarded as the third defenseman. Holmgren couldn’t – and shouldn’t – have promised that. Hamhuis shouldn’t have tried to negotiate playing time or role in contract talks. So, look at it like the Flyers traded Ryan Parent for a third round pick. Problem is, we’re back where we were in terms of need on the blueline.

Flyers Trade Rumors: A Goalie Coming?

Posted in Uncategorized on June 22, 2010 by flyersfan44

With the Entry Draft coming up on June 25-26, trade rumors are gearing up. The Flyers appear to have solidified their defense with the acquisition on Nashville’s Dan Hamhuis, however, it will cost significantly more than the $2 million he made last season to sign him. With about $8 million in salary cap space, the Flyers will also want to re-sign goalie Michael Leighton and pay for a #1 goalie.

Trading for a top goalie is a real possibility and if that happens it will cost a top forward, such as Simon Gagne or, more likely, Jeff Carter. Carter may go as he will be a UFA after next season and would cost alot to re-sign. An intriguing possibility is Los Angeles. The Kings have a solid #1 in Jonathan Quick and a very highly regarded youngster in Jonathan Bernier. The Kings have offered John Stevens an assistant coaching position, Stevens coached Carter here with the Phantoms and Flyers and likes Carter. L.A. may be reluctant to part with Bernier, however. A couple other possibilities:
Boston is actively shopping Tim Thomas and have spoken to the Flyers. They want to unload his $5 million salary (he has three years left on his contract).
San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov will not be resigned by the Sharks. He’s a good goalie with good numbers, but at 35, he’s an aging goalie and not a long-term solution. We’ve been down that road before. Remember John Vanbiesbrouck?
St. Louis will need scoring help, which may lead them to deal for Carter. Chris Mason will be afree agent on July 1 and they would part with him. He would be a little less expensive than Thomas and is a capable #1.
Minnesota also needs scoring and some talk has them possibly dealing Josh Harding and their first round pick for Carter.

If the Flyers end up going cheaper for a goalie, you may see Antero Niittymaki back here – this has been rumored as well. Stay tuned because something should happen by the end of the week.

Flyers Acquire Dan Hamhuis

Posted in Uncategorized on June 22, 2010 by flyersfan44

The Flyers addressed one of their two critical needs for next year by trading defenseman Ryan Parent to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Dan Hamhuis. Parent, although still young, has not developed as quickly as the Flyers had hoped, and the playoffs this season exposed his weaknesses. He played only a few minutes per game. Hamhuis is a solid top-four defenseman who will give the Flyers some good depth and a third capable pairing. That is, if they can sign him. Hamhuis becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He has been sought after by a number of teams since last season. However, he has talked like he’s excited about Philadelphia and could rejoin some ex-Nashville teammates in Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen.

Changes for Next Year?

Posted in Uncategorized on June 14, 2010 by flyersfan44

OK, we’ve gotten over our depression after the loss in the Cup Final, now we’re looking ahead to the Entry Draft of June 25-26, free agency on July 1, and the possible changes the Flyers could make to improve next year.

First question: How much do they need to do? On one hand, they got to the Stanley Cup Final and played Chicago pretty close. If they had won one of the first two games in Chicago, and both were winnable, maybe things turn out differently. Do you stand pat with this team mostly intact and try to make it again next year? On the other hand, you could argue that the Flyers came really close to missing the playoffs entirely, lucked out by drawing New Jersey in the first round, and were fortunate that Washington and Pittsburgh were knocked off so they didn’t have to face them. Can the Flyers take this same squad into next season confident that they can beat the Caps and Pens?

I would lean on the latter argument and say they need some critical upgrades. OK, where? Let’s start, as we usually do, with goaltending. Ray Emery won’t be re-signed because of his injured hips. Brian Boucher has one year left on his contract and Michael Leighton is an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) as of July 1. When both Boucher and Leighton were playing well in the playoffs, I was thinking maybe we don’t need to get a goalie over the summer. Then the Final happened. Leighton did not play well enough to bring home the Cup. Granted, the Flyers at times did not play well in front of him. But the game winning goal in Game 2 and the Cup winner were both stand out as goals that should’ve been stopped. We need a goalie capable of making those critical saves and maybe stealing a game or two when you need it. What are some possibilities?

As far as UFAs go, among the available goalies will be Evgeni Nabokov of the Sharks, Marty Turco of Dallas, Dan Ellis of Nashville, Vesa Toskala of Calgary, Johan Hedberg of Atlanta, and Chris Mason of St. Louis. The Flyers have expressed interest in Turco, Toskala, Hedberg, and Ellis in the past. From where I stand, forget Turco (34 years old and too costly), Nabokov (too costly and where were the Sharks in June?), Hedberg (37 years old and not a significant upgrade), and Toskala (not a significant upgrade). I would consider Dan Ellis (30 years old and may have some promise) and Chris Mason (34 years old but would be an upgrade and probably affordable).

The other thing to consider is a trade for a Number One goalie. Speculation has centered around the following names: Tomas Voukoun of Florida, Cory Schneider of Vancouver, Carey Price of Montreal, and Jonathan Bernier and Jonathan Quick of the Kings. Voukoun would be good, but he has one year on his current deal at $5.7 million a year – maybe too costly with the cap. Please forget Price – I know he’s young but he hasn’t shown me anything to suggest he could take a team all the way. Schneider is a real possibility since he’s young and stuck behind Roberto Luongo. Quick is the King’s number one goalie and I doubt they’d part with him, but they may be willing to deal Bernier who is young but he has real promise. The 11th overall pick in 2006, this may be the best option if we’re willing to give up what it would take.

I really believe the Flyers will break with tradition and make a trade for a younger, promising goalie like Bernier or Voukoun. They asked about Voukoun at the trade deadline when he was being shopped. They can sacrifice some offense with the emergence of Claude Giroux and Ville Leino and you may see Jeff Carter headed to Florida, L.A., or Vancouver.

The other big need is defense. The Flyers had essentially four defensemen in the playoffs. They can’t expect to win the Cup if that is the case. Pronger and Timonen can’t continue to play the kind of minutes they logged in the playoffs. They may be able to get away with Oskars Bartulis or Lukas Kracijek as a sixth defenseman if they re-sign him, but they need a solid fifth. Dan Hamhuis of Nashville, who is being shopped before he becomes a free agent, is a real possibility. Anton Volchenkov of the Senators is another UFA who may be looked at. The Penguins are very interested in him so there’s another reason to consider signing him. Toronto’s Thomas Kaberle is also available in a trade and the Flyers have expressed interest in him before. This along with goaltending is a critical need that must be filled.

We’ll come back later and see what tweaks are needed at forward.

Thanks, Flyers, for a Great Run

Posted in Uncategorized on June 12, 2010 by flyersfan44

Once in a great while the Orange and Black Attack is prophetic. Check an earlier post at the beginning of the playoffs and there’s mention that the Flyers, if they make a good run in the playoffs, could redeem themselves after a mediocre and sometimes turbulent season. Well, I’d say they did just that. After just barely squeaking into the playoffs on the last shot of a shootout in the last game of the season, the Flyers went all the way to Game 6 of the Cup Final, playing some great, resilient, gutsy, and highly entertaining hockey along the way. We were treated to the defeat of the best goalie in the league, Martin Brodeur, in the first round, a stunning and historic comeback from a three games to none deficit in the second round against Boston, a record three shutouts in one series against Montreal, and a six game final in which just about every game was close. We saw gutsy performances from players like Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne, who each returned early from broken feet, and Ian Lapierriere who returned to play late in the playoffs after taking a puck to the head in the first round. We saw two journeyman goalies playthrough injuries at a high level, trading the starting job through the playoffs and yet maintaining playoff-level performances. We saw players who were questioned during the regular season – notably Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere, and Simon Gagne – have fantastic playoffs with Briere tying a Flyers’ record for most points in one playoff year and Hartnell leading all players with five goals in the Final. We saw a 26 year-old rookie, Ville Leino, suddenly become a magician with the puck and make the kind of jaw-dropping plays that people said he was able to make in Finland once he got the chance here. He broke a Flyers’ record for most points in a playoff year by a rookie. We enjoyed watching a former Norris Trophy winner, veteran Chris Pronger, play 30 minutes a game as a 35 year-old and be a dominating presence on the blueline.

After tying the Final series at two games each, it looked as though the Flyers just ran out of gas. They were a step slower than the younger Blackhawks in games 5 and 6. They seemed as though they gave all they could. It’s definitely disappointing that they got this close and didn’t win it all (again) but there’s promise for the future with the performances we saw in the playoffs. We saw how good this team can be.

Next, we’ll take a look at the off-season changes that the Flyers could make as they try to improve for the 2010-11 season.

Blackhawks Win Stanley Cup

Posted in Uncategorized on June 10, 2010 by flyersfan44

Jonathan Toews hoists the Cup

The Flyers at game's end

Confusion as officials look for the puck

Kane's Stanley Cup winner slips past Leighton in overtime

Patrick Kane scored four minutes into overtime in Game 6 to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 4-3 victory and a four games to two win in the Stanley Cup Final for their first Stanley Cup in 49 years. Kane’s shot slipped past Flyers’ goalie Michael Leighton and landed in the padding at the back of the net, causing some confusion as to whether a goal had been scored. Kane celebrated immediately although the goal light did not go on and soon the entire Hawks’ team was off the bench, leaving the Flyers and over 20,000 faithful at the Wachovia Center (including me) stunned.

Scott Hartnell had tied the game with about four minutes left, creating a frenzy of celebration and potentially a seventh game. However, the Flyers could not convert several good opportunities to score later in the third period and early in overtime, notably a Jeff Carter shot from point balnk range with Chicago goalie Antii Niemi down. Carter could not lift the puck high enough to get it over him.

The Flyers looked about a step slower than Chicago most of the night and were outplayed for most of the game. The Hawks’ maintained about a 2-1 margin advantage in shots. Again, give the Flyers credit for resiliency as they stayed close on the scoreboard throughout the game. But the Hawks deserved to win – they were the better team in most games.