Finding A Goalie: Should the Flyers Go After Ryan Miller or Save the Money
Just one day after buying out Ilya Bryzgalov, the Philadelphia Flyers are already being linked to a netminder that could replace Bryzgalov.
According to Josh Rimer of Sportsnet, the Flyers are discussing a potential deal involving Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller. It is unclear what stage the talks are currently in but it appears that there is significant interest from both sides.
Miller posted a 17-17-5 record with a 2.81 goals-against-average and a .915 save percentage during the 2012-2013 season. Over his career, the American goalie has a 269-164 record with a 2.59 goals-against-average and a .915 save percentage. The American netminder made $6.25 million this past season and carries a similar price tag to Bryzgalov.
Miller was the 138th overall pick in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft out of Michigan State and has played with the Sabres for all 11 seasons of his professional career. The former Spartan was a member of the silver medal United States team in the 2010 Winter Olympics and was the MVP of the tournament.
In terms of what a package for Miller could cost the Flyers, that is currently unknown. However on Wednesday afternoon, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren did say that forwards Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier are untouchable in any trade talks.
With the Flyers seeming to be very interested in Miller, the question is do the Flyers really want to go the route of adding another expensive goalie with a strong personality?
After nearly winning Lord Stanley's Cup in 2010, it was clear that the Flyers needed a franchise goaltender to take them to the promised land. They re-signed Michael Leighton after their Cup run but the results were not what the organization was expecting.
In the summer of 2011, which was filled with a bevy of free agent signings, the Orange and Black inked former Phoenix Coyotes netminder Ilya Bryzgalov to a massive nine-year, $51 contract. Goaltender has been a position of great instability for quite some time for Philadelphia.
Over the past few seasons, the Flyers have gone the cheap, one-year route with guys like Ray Emery and Brian Boucher, but have also splurged on guys like Bryzgalov. Neither scenario really has worked out, although the Emery situation may have ended differently if he was healthy during his time in Philadelphia.
My personal belief is that the Flyers should not break the bank for another high-profile goaltender, especially via the trade route.
The main reason being that the Flyers' major strength is their forwards. As we saw last season, you can never have too many forwards and they clearly missed the presence of guys like Jaromir Jagr and James van Riemsdyk. The Flyers would most likely have to part with one or two of their young forwards in order to obtain a netminder in the mold of a Ryan Miller.
Giving up more young talent for a goaltender could make the Flyers stronger between the pipes but could set them back at the forward spot.
Holmgren and company have a history of giving up on young too soon. We've seen plenty examples of that just this past season. The Flyers traded youngsters like van Riemsdyk and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
As Flyers fans know, Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy this year which is awarded to the best goaltender in the NHL. I don't think it makes sense to move a player like Matt Read, Jakub Voracek, or Couturier early in their careers. We saw this past season how offensively gifted Voracek was when paired with strong linemates.
On the other hand, I would elect to go the free agent route which makes more economic sense.
Now the options aren't phenomenal but there is some solid talent to be had. Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask will be available this offseason as well as former Bruins netminder Tim Thomas.
Thomas did not play this season due to personal issues but was traded to the New York Islanders. Thomas may be able to be landed on a high salary one-year deal and extended in the future if all goes well.
The Flyers could also go the cheap one-year route and grab a veteran netminder like Jose Theodore or Emery. Emery wouldn't be a bad option since he seemed to enjoy his time here a few years back. He knows the philosophy of the team and is an athletic goalie.
Emery enjoyed a spectacular year with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2013 season. In addition to winning a Stanley Cup, the Canadian goaltender had a 17-1-0 record with a 1.94 goals-against-average and a .922 save percentage.
Both goalies make less than $2 million so it would not be a heavy burden on the salary cap.
All in all, the Flyers have been burned by both the lucrative and the cost-effective routes when it comes to free agent goaltenders. There aren't many goaltenders worth throwing the big bucks at whether it's via trade or through free agency. A rental might make sense for a Flyers team that is not as close to a Stanley Cup as some might think.