"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?
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.
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.
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