Eyes on the Enemy: Philadelphia Flyers

"Eyes on the Enemy" will be a continuing bi-annual series on the NY Rangers blog giving fans updates on the Rangers closest rivals. Part 1 of the offseason version of 'EotE' will focus on the Philadelphia Flyers. All contract figures listed below courtesy of capgeek.com

Where exactly do I begin with the Flyers? The team roared out to a 2-6 start before hovering around the .500 mark for the remaining 40 games of the lockout shortened season to finish 23-22-3, six points out of the final playoff spot.

Last summer, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren committed to Ilya Bryzgalov as his goaltender over Sergei Bobrovsky and traded the younger Russian to Columbus for three two draft picks. (A 2013 fourth round pick was later sent to LA for Simon Gagne.)

By the way, what ever happened to Bobrovsky after being traded to one of hockey's black holes?

Oops.

Fast forward to this summer. Ilya Bryzgalov became the most expensive buyout in NHL history and will receive 23 million dollars over the next 14 seasons from the Flyers. Although Bryz held this honor for mere hours before the Lightning bought out Vincent Lecavalier (14 years, $32 million) who naturally signed a 5 year, $22 million contract with the Flyers a week later.

The Lecavalier signing was the second egregiously awful signing Paul Holmgren put together. Before the free agency opened, the Flyers acquired the rights of unsigned Islander captain Mark Streit and chose to give the defenseman, who turns 36 in the middle of this upcoming season, a 4 year, $21 million contract in an effort to shore up a leaky blueline.

The Flyers rounded out their UFA signings giving goaltender Ray Emery a 1 year, $1.65 million contract.

The Flyers drafted 6' 6" defenseman Samuel Morin with the 11th overall pick in the draft. Very similar as to when McIlrath was drafted by the Rangers, he was regarded as a bit of a reach by some prospect evaluators. His scouting report lists him as "very raw," without much of an offensive game. Only differences were that McIlrath wasn't regarded as a great skater when he was drafted compared to Morin in terms of their size, but McIlrath is more of an imposing force compared to the game Morin plays.

On the Farm:
There is very little in the way of higher end prospects in the Flyers pipeline, who were ranked dead last in Hockey's Future 2013 spring edition rankings. There are a few names that will be worth watching in the next year or so. Scott Laughton, the Flyers 2012 first round pick, who has been better than a point per game player for the Oshawa Generals over the past two seasons. He was un-impressive last season in his five game trial at the NHL level before being sent back down to juniors where he has one more season of eligibility.

Goalie and NJ product Anthony Stolarz, signed his entry level contract back in March. He started the '12-'13 season in the NCAA ranks before jumping to the London Knights of the OHL. Stolarz wound up in a starting role and was stellar between the pipes going 26-8-2 combined over the final month of the season and into the playoffs, leading the Knights into the OHL Finals before faltering. Still, Stolarz is widely considered to be the starting goaltender for Team USA at the U-20 World Junior Championships in December.

Followers of the World Juniors will be familiar with defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere who turned in a fantastic performance for Team USA last winter. Gostisbehere was credited with a goal and an assist in the tournament and was paired with Jets 2012 1st round draft pick Jacob Trouba. He will return to Union College for his junior season this fall.

Cap Situation:
In one word, messy. The Flyers have doled out a ton of money to solve their woes along the blueline and in net only to be underwhelming in both areas. The Flyers top 7 defensemen (including a semi-retired Pronger) all have cap hits north of 3 million and will make a combined $35.85 million in salary this upcoming season, which at quick glance is among, if not the highest in the NHL. The Flyers did have some money to toy with this offseason after the Bryzgalov and Briere buyouts which was the reason they were as active as they have been. After this season though will be a different story as the Flyers have $51 million in cap space committed to just 14 players. Giroux's 8.275 cap hit from his recently signed extension kicks in and the Flyers also need to re-sign Matt Read, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier. If things go as south as they did this season, there could be more than a trade or two in Philadelphia at the next deadline.

Odds and Ends:
Coach Peter Laviolette should be the odds on favorite as the first coach in the NHL to be fired at some point during the season. There was some talk last season about Laviolette losing the room over the Bryz situation and that being reflected in the enormous amount of penalties and undisciplined play that plagued the roster.

There are also rumors floating around the organization that Paul Holmgren's job could be in jeopardy as well. Not only did Flyers owner Ed Snider have to address his GM's job after the Flyers' season ended, it was exacerbated by the July 15th hiring of Ron Hextall from the Los Angeles Kings to become the Flyers new Assistant General Manager and Director of Hockey Ops. Some in the Philly media have already pegged Hextall as the next GM in waiting in anticipation of Holmgren being relieved of his duties.

Next season will be an interesting one for our rivals down I-95. The Flyers have invested quite a bit this summer into making next season a much better success than the lockout shortened season was. The Flyers have made themselves into a significantly older team with the Streit and Lecavalier acquisitions, but once again are attempting to position themselves for another deep run for the Cup. Time will tell if the Bryzgalov buyout was the correct move or if other more significant moves, in particular behind the bench or upstairs in the front office need to be made.

Follow me on twitter: @NYRblogneill
Email me: c1rcaiff27@comcast.net

Eyes on the Enemy: Philadelphia Flyers

Notable players lost: Jaromir Jagr (DAL), Matt Carle (TB), James Van Riemsdyk (TOR), Sergei Bobrovsky (CBJ)
Notable players obtained: Luke Schenn(TOR), Ruslan Fedotenko(NYR)

Drafted Scott Laughton- 1st round, 20th overall

The Philadelphia Flyers have not had a kind offseason handed to them as they’ve seen far more talent depart compared to what GM Paul Holmgren received in return. Before the draft, the Flyers traded highly touted backup goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus for 3 draft picks and promoted Michael Leighton from Adirondack of the AHL. Leighton, if you remember nearly guided the Flyers to a Stanley Cup championship just 3 seasons ago. Following the draft, the Flyers traded James Van Riemsdyk to Toronto for defenseman Luke Schenn. I was very critical of the trade at the time and felt that the Flyers should have gotten far more in return for trading away one of their young scorers. Jaromir Jagr and Matt Carle then left for Dallas and Tampa Bay respectively in search of big raises. Not to mention, the Flyers also missed on Ryan Suter through free agency and Nashville matched the Flyers 14 year, $110 million dollar offer sheet for Shea Weber as a replacement for captain Chris Pronger, whose career may be over. Speaking of injuries, the Flyers have lost defensemen Andrej Meszaros to a torn Achilles tendon while training in Slovakia and Andreas Lilja underwent hip surgery. It didn’t help their depth that they waited until the third round to draft a defenseman and do not have any NHL-ready defensive prospects waiting in their farm system. Nick Cousins, the Flyers 3rd round pick in 2011 and considered the Flyers top prospect was recently arrested on sexual assault charges. So as you can see, it has been a brutal offseason for the Flyers. After allowing 26 goals in 6 games to the Penguins in the playoffs and 18 goals in 5 games to New Jersey, Flyer fans should have every right to be upset on how this offseason has gone so far.

Elsewhere, Holmgren has given out big contracts to his own players recently. Braydon Coburn, Nik Grossman, Wayne Simmonds, Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek have all been renewed. Nik Grossman’s contract was the most ridiculed, as the 6 year veteran defenseman was signed to a 4 year, $14 million dollar contract with a no trade clause and will likely be on the Flyers third pairing once the season starts up. The terms Holmgren offered to Grossman are especially odd since the big defenseman only has 3 career NHL goals. The gross overpayment of Grossman and numerous other players who recently had contracts renewed have left the Flyers with no wiggle room against the salary cap ceiling.

The Flyers time to win a Cup is now particularly since they are such a high scoring team led by future captain Claude Giroux, but their window to win one is closing. With some of their younger forwards coming up to the end of their cap-friendly entry level contracts, the Flyers will be dependent on their younger forwards, now more than ever to lead them to the promised land.

Follow me on twitter: @theNYRblogneill

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