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With Bryzgalov Out of the Picture, What’s Next for Flyers in Net?

Jun 26, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT

The Flyers need a goaltender. I know that comes as shocking news at any given point in time – today especially – but it’s true.

Ilya Bryzgalov is gone, much to the delight of many in Philadelphia. That leaves only Steve Mason on the current roster however, and little else within the organization – unless the front office decided to rush 19-year-old Anthony Stolarz to the NHL, which would seem outside the realm of possibility.

It’s apparent the Flyers will either dip into free agency or make a trade to fill the void. The million-dollar question is who, or what kind of player, will they target? Paul Holmgren didn’t have the pieces to land Jonathan Bernier from the Kings – a young netminder who could have nailed down the position for years to come – so what’s Plan B?

Here are some of the proposed options. What route do you think the front office to take?

Roberto Luongo

source:  Holmgren was quick to dismiss Luongo as a potential replacement at the press conference to announce Bryz’s departure, but the Flyers’ GM only ruled out a trade. If Vancouver amnesties Luongo, Homer conceded that might change things. The perception around the league is a buyout is likely.

Still, Luongo to Philly will be far from a done deal even when that happens. Bill Meltzer of HockeyBuzz thinks the 34 year old would be one of the more coveted options on the market, commanding as much as three-to-four years around $4 million per – more than Niklas Backstrom just re-signed for in Minnesota. That could price the Flyers out of the market seeing as they are still up against the salary cap.

Tim Thomas

source:  As easily as Homer shutdown Luongo noise, he seemed to welcome the idea of 39-year-old Tim Thomas. It’s no secret Flyers chairman Ed Snider is a fan of the two-time Vezina Trophy winner, citing Thomas’ performance in Boston’s 2011 Stanley Cup run as a reason for signing Bryzgalov back in 2011.

“It had to be done,” Snider told the Daily News, just after arriving here for tonight’s NHL Awards show at The Palms Casino and Resort. “I was part of making it happen. It was hard to sit there and watch the Stanley Cup final, knowing what [Tim] Thomas was doing for Boston.”

Now an unrestricted free agent, there have been rumors Thomas could be suiting up in Orange & Black for years. The trouble is Thomas just spent last season out of hockey, so while his run with the Bruins culminated in a fourth-consecutive All-Star selection, it’s anybody’s guess what the Flyers would be getting. It might be worth seeing what’s left in the tank – using Mason as a fallback – if it’s only going to be a one-year arrangement.

Evgeni Nabokov/Jose Theodore

As long as we’re looking at aging veterans who the Flyers could attempt to squeeze another year or two out of, Nabokov and Theodore should be on the list. Both can be had in free agency for mid-to-lower-level salaries, which would provide the front office some flexibility, while neither would necessarily push Mason into the shadows.

Tim Panaccio mentions Theodore as one of his “obvious” free agent candidates. He turns 37 in September and is coming off of a down year where he battled injury on a miserable Florida squad, but played well as recently as one season earlier and would come cheap. TSN’s Darren Dreger believes Nabokov will be of some interest as well as the Islanders weigh their options after the soon-to-be 38 year old helped them reach the playoffs for the first time since ’07. The Flyers already failed to agree to terms with Nabokov once in 2010 though, so we’ll see.

Ray Emery

source:  Dreger also mentions Emery as a free agent possibility, as will virtually any report about the Flyers and goaltenders. Emery, 31 in September, is coming off of arguably his best season in the NHL, posting a 17-1-0 record with a .922 SV% and 1.94 GAA. He also has a familiarity with the organization having already played for Philly in 2009-10.

The man known as Razor is apparently as recovered as one can be from avascular necrosis, the disease that nearly ended his career while he was a Flyer. Apparently that’s not what the club should be concerned about. What they should be concerned about is to what extent the numbers Emery produced in 2013 were a product of playing for the Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks, a team that racked up only seven losses all regular season. Still a solid option to split ice time with Mason presuming there isn’t a bidding war for his services.

Brian Boucher/Michael Leighton

As long as we’re talking retreads…


Bahaha just kidding.

Mike Smith

It sounds like the top free agent goalie on the market this summer could be staying put. The Coyotes are described as “comfortable” in ongoing negotiations with Smith, so there’s a good chance the 31 year old won’t be available come July 5.

Not sure how much interest the Flyers would have anyway. Holmgren has to be hesitant to sign another netminder from Phoenix, especially for big dollars and years again. Smith also came back down to earth a bit this year after a stellar campaign in 2011-12. It’s just hard to envision the Flyers going down the path of another big commitment to a 30-plus goaltender this summer – or maybe I just don’t want to.

Ryan Miller

source:  Of all the names on this list, Miller’s might be the most exciting – although perhaps one of the most unlikely as well. The 2010 Vezina Trophy winner continues to pile up decent albeit not spectacular numbers on a consistent basis with a fairly ordinary club in Buffalo, and could benefit greatly from a change of scenery.

A change of scenery the Sabres may be willing to grant. Some housecleaning could be in the works up north, and the time is now to get something back for Miller, who turns 33 in July and has one year remaining on his contract. The $6.25 million cap hit might be a bit hard for the Flyers to swallow, and it’s already assumed they would ask for Sean Couturier, so don’t count on this coming to fruition. That said, Miller would look great in Orange & Black, even if his addition to the roster does move Mason into a pure backup role.

Jonas Hiller

source:  This is an idea currently being floated by Panotch, and it is intriguing. One of his earlier reports indicated the Flyers were again talking to the Anaheim Ducks about a swap involving winger Bobby Ryan. The rumor initially suggested Ryan would come to Philly in exchange for Braydon Coburn and the 11th overall pick in Sunday’s draft. Could Hiller jump into the equation?

From the Ducks’ standpoint, almost certainly yes. Viktor Fasth stepped up for Anaheim in a big way last season, perhaps making Hiller expendable. It’s all about whether or not the Flyers are willing to give up their top pick in what is said to be a deep draft.

I hope not, but the 31-year-old Hiller wouldn’t be a terrible short-term solution. He has one year remaining on his current deal at $4.5 million, and is coming off of another decent season – 15-6-4, 2.36, .913. Such a move would seem to relegate Mason to backup as well.

  1. ASTCTer - Jun 26, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    I like Hiller and in a beautiful, idyllic utopia, he and Ryan would come on over for Coburn and something else. But that probably wont happen (sounds like a HF Board trade proposal).

    Anyway, if we cant get a Hiller, why not throw a year deal at Tim Thomas, or Emery, or Nabby (in order of preference)? You can figure out what you have in Mason while utilizing a competent 1b. If Mason gets 40 starts and looks real good, hold onto him and bolster the Defense (which wins championships, contrary to popular belief) since he comes relatively cheap. If he blows, or is just mediocre, keep him on as a backup and see what Goalies are out there next year. And yes, I am too lazy to see who will be available as a FA next year.

    And no Smith please. He is a product of a terrific defensive system. See: Bryzgalov, Ilya

  2. Mike - Jun 26, 2013 at 5:01 PM

    When I was a kid, I watched Brian’s Song on TV. Brian Piccolo died at the end.
    Then I watched it on VHS; Brian Piccolo died at the end.
    Then I watched it on DVD; Brian Piccolo died at the end.

    I just got Brian’s Song on Blu-Ray. I can’t watch it to see how it ends!

  3. lavagasm - Jun 26, 2013 at 6:46 PM

    There’s quite a few other options as well.

    Honestly, I think the best goaltending option out there, including what you have listed, is Khudobin from the Bruins. He’s put up great numbers whenever he’s played in the NHL. His numbers last year were pretty impressive as Rask’s backup. W-L-O: 9-4-1, GAA: 2.32 , SV%: .920.

    There’s also Smith’s backup Labarbera, who put up solid numbers in limited play on a pathetic Coyote’s squad. W-L-O: 4-6-2, GAA: 2.60, SV% .923.

    Rask and Bob are both RFAs this year, if you’re really trying to get a number 1 for the future.

    There’s also RFA Bachman who put up alright numbers on the lackluster stars last season. A 8-5-1 record with a .910 save percentage and a 2.77 GAA.

    I mean sure, they aren’t all #1 Goaltenders, but I see no reason wasting precious salary on goaltending when nothing out there is a sure fire thing.

    • BenE. - Jun 27, 2013 at 12:24 PM

      Rask reportedly wants $7 million a year. Eeesh. Khudobin would be solid though.

      Either way, I hope Mason is given a legitimate opportunity to be the starting goaltender for this team. By opportunity, I mean three seasons. If he’s not that good this year, then MAKE HIM GOOD. Actually develop a player for once.

      • Scott - Jun 27, 2013 at 2:30 PM

        BenE – so you think the flyers would actually do this or is that strictly what you want?

        I think if they kept the salary of its goalie lower than market, it could happen. “He performed over his paygrade” vs. what were always seeing, a microscope for every goal let in.

        With such low expectations for this team going into next year, i agree 100%, whoever they go with, give it time. The defense wont have vastly improved so dont expect your starting goalie to be playing like an elite night-in-night out.

        And do not touch Tim Thomas. That is unless you want controversy. So most likely the flyers will get him.

      • lavagasm - Jun 27, 2013 at 2:54 PM

        Mason is statistically the worst goaltender that held a starting a position over the past 4 seasons. I don’t want him to be anything more than a 1B on this team.

      • BenE. - Jun 27, 2013 at 3:48 PM

        Scott, I suppose it’s what I want. As for what I expect, I expect the Flyers to do something rash and stupid, haha.

        Mason, like Bobrovsky, has shown flashes of success and the possession of all the tools needed for a goaltender to be successful in the long term. The Flyers would be wise to not make the same mistake twice in two seasons at the most important position and stick with Mason. If he struggles, make him better. He is not 35 years old. He has a lot of time ahead of him. It is unrealistic to think you’re going to draft the next Martin Brodeur or Jonathan Quick. Franchise goalies like that are truly once a decade. The rest, you need to develop. Even Henrik Lundqvist took a few seasons to become the goaltender he is now.

        Lavagasm, that may or may not be true, but see the paragraph above.

  4. Mostel - Jun 26, 2013 at 8:06 PM

    NO EMERY! He’s a head case bum with injury issues.


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