Better With Popcorn

Guest Post: Making Room For Bryz

John Russo graduated from Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ in 2011 as a journalism major with a heavy interest in sports. He was on the sports staff for the school’s student publication, The Whit, and has interned for the Gloucester County Times in Woodbury, NJ. He is the founder and editor of the Philadelphia Phillies blog "Team to Beat," which was established in February 2009.

Twitter: @Roose_TTB
Site: Team to Beat

The Philadelphia Flyers went out and made a move many fans were calling for this offseason, they got a goalie.

After watching rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, veteran Brian Boucher and 2010 Playoff hero Michael Leighton play goalie roulette in the first and second rounds of the playoffs, the Flyers traded for the rights to sign Phoenix Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.

Bryzgalov is going to demand a nice paycheck after proving the past two years he’s one of the game’s best goaltenders. In the 2009-10 season, he went 42-20 with a 2.29 GAA. He put up similar numbers this past season, going 36-20 with a 2.48 GAA. But Bryzgalov bottomed out in each of the first rounds the last two post seasons, getting bounced in a seven-game series in 2010 and then getting swept last season.

So with his steep asking price, the Flyers are going to have to part with some key players to free up cap space in order to afford Bryzgalov. Some of the names being tossed around include sniper Jeff Carter, defenseman Matt Carle and key contributors Ville Leino and Kris Versteeg.

The Flyers can knock some small money off their books by finding a way to part ways with pot-stirrers Daniel Carcillo and Jody Shelley, back-up goalie Boucher, role guys Darrol Powe and Andreas Nodl and possibly injured forward Ian Laperriere.

But individually, any one of those players won’t be enough. Some important names may have to be traded in order for Bryzgalov to end the 14-year revolving door of Flyers goaltending.

The first player mentioned is Carter. This has been the most talked about move this offseason and has split an entire fan base because of the impact Carter’s presence or absence can have for the Flyers. A number of fans want to see Carter traded because they argue he doesn’t show up in the playoffs. The other side say he’s a one-of-a-kind scoring machine and a player all 30 teams need on their team to be a competitor.

Though the playoff numbers don’t lie (21 points in 47 career games), what Carter gives the Flyers is something special. He can make a 40-goal season seem almost effortless. He’s a shooter and in order to create chances, the Flyers need a guy like that who isn’t afraid to take the shot.

Carter is also 26 years old and his best seasons are probably ahead of him. If he’s sent off, it could wind up killing the Flyers and be thrown up in the discussion of some of the worst trades in Philadelphia history (Patrick Sharp still hurts).

If the Flyers don’t opt to trade Carter (who frees up over $5 million a season), they could go with two lesser players to allow the Flyers to hold onto the super star caliber player that number 17 brings to the roster.

Carle is one of the Flyers young defensemen and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season. After a strong 2009-10 campaign teaming with future Hall of Famer Chris Pronger, Carle had a bit of a set back at the blue line during the playoffs without Pronger by his side. He posted a -8 in 11 games, which attributed to the goaltending struggles.

However, Carle finished with a +30 rating and 40 (a career high 39 assists) points in the regular season, his highest total since 2007-08. Carle is a valuable player for the Flyers for the future. At 26, he can become an important part of their defense, especially with the aging Pronger and Kimmo Timonen in the declines of their fabulous careers.

Carle alone won’t be enough for the Flyers to work with in signing Bryzgalov and finding replacements. Along with Carle, the Flyers can move either Leino or Versteeg. Like Bryzgalov, Leino is an unrestricted free agent at July 1. If the Flyers want to re-sign Leino by then, Versteeg will be out of the picture.

Leino’s playoff production this season completely disappeared, especially for a player seeking a new contract. After totaling seven goals and 14 assists in 2010, he only reached the score-sheet five times in 11 games.

Versteeg, a restricted free agent after next season, was acquired to add depth to the Flyers potent scoring and push them over the top as a serious Stanley Cup contender. But, he failed to meet expectations and was a huge letdown for the Flyers. The team’s chemistry went down the tubes and he never really developed a rapport with Mike Richards nor gave the captain’s line another reliable weapon. Versteeg managed only 11 points in the final 27 games of the season he was in orange and totaled only six points in the playoffs.

Both Leino and Versteeg can demand a total of $3 million a season. For guys who are second and third liners, the Flyers can afford to start next season without them. Carle is more important to the team long term and could wind up being the best of the three to hold onto.

The only real negative to cutting ties with two forwards is that it takes away from the offense, especially in Leino’s case. Leino developed a great chemistry with Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere the past two seasons and his departure will leave a hole on that line.

The move to make with the least recoil seems to be parting with the two forwards. Thought both Leino and Versteeg are tremendously talented, Bryzgalov’s impact can far out-weigh theirs.

With under two weeks to make a move, the Flyers are seemingly near the signing of Bryzgalov. Once he’s locked up, a decision can be made on what to do. Hopefully, it will be the right one.