Flyers face big goaltending decision

by Eric Schwartz Flyers face big goaltending decision thumbnail

As the Flyers begin their offseason hoping to change the roster only enough to get two more wins than this season, the biggest question mark comes between the pipes.

The goaltender position was a revolving door this season. The Flyers went out and signed Ray Emery last offseason and immediately made him their No. 1 goalie. There were hops that he would find his 2006-2007 form and become the goalie Flyers fans have longed for the last decade. Instead injuries derailed his season and created instability on the backline.

In his place became the combination of Brian Boucher (33 games), Michael Leighton (27 games), Jeremy Duchesne (1 game) and Johan Backlund (1 game). Boucher and Leighton each had their moments in the regular season, but it is hard to say either is of No. 1 caliber.

Boucher produced a 2.76 GAA and Leighton had a 2.48, both more than respectable. Whether either could produce those numbers over a full season is yet to be seen.

Fans grew to love Boucher and Leighton in the playoffs as they helped lead the Flyers on an unbelievable journey to the Stanley Cup Finals. However, both struggled in the finals as the Blackhawks fired puck after puck in the net, particularly in Games 5 and 6. We don’t need to talk about the soft goals goals in Game 6.

Leighton did finish with a 2.46 GAA and three shutouts in the playoffs — tops among all goalies. The Flyers were also 16-5-2 when Leighton started in the regular season.

If the Flyers decide that Leighton is not their man (they already know Boucher will not be the starter) there is a host of free agent netminders to consider. Bellow is the the best of the bunch.

Notable free agents
Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose
Marty Turko, Dallas
Jose Theodore, Washington
Vesa Toskala, Calgary
Chris Mason, St. Louis
Dan Elis, Nashville
Martin Biron, New York Islanders

Nabokov is the first name on every fans wish list but is also the most unrealistic. He earned $6 million last season and the Flyers do not have the cap room to add that type of salary to the books. The team would have to move at least one prominent player to make room for Nabokov. If the front office could make a deal work without hurting the team’s offense too much I would be all for it. Top goalies are rarely available and when they are teams should pounce on them. Again I don’t think this move happens, but Nabokov is head and shoulders above the field.

After that things get a bit tricky. Turko and Theodore and respectable options, but each will also be looking for around $5 million. I don’t know if I trust either that much.

From there the choices get real sketchy though. If the team can not get top talent it may decide to save money and stick with Leighton and hope he pans out.

Re-signing Emery is also an option, though I haven’t heard a peep that would lend me to believe that would happen. He is still recovering from hip surgery and it is not known when or if he will be able to return.

The Flyers also have a pair of developing goalies in the minors in 2008 draftees Jacob DeSerres and Joacim Eriksson, but neither is considered to be ready for the big time in the upcoming season.

The final option would be working a trade for Florida’s Tomas Vokoun, who the team  had interest in at the trade deadline. Vokoun would be sure thing in net, but again working a trade will not be easy.

One thing that is certain is that money will need to be spent this season. Who it is spent on may very well decide if the Flyers are the ones celebrating with the Cup this time next year.

“I think Michael Leighton cost the Flyers $142,000 this year,” Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren recently said. “I think it’s fair to say that whoever our goalies are next year are going to cost a lot more than that.”

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Comments

9 Responses to “Flyers face big goaltending decision”

  1. John LOMBARDO on June 15th, 2010 1:16 pm

    As a diehard FLYERS fan I feel the only way I feel the team would only have a chance is by trading Jeff Carter or maybe Scott Hartnell if the cap goes up as much as is anticipated. That being said, I don’t like idea of giving up either. The only goalie that would be worth that type of sacrifice is Nabokov. I am suspicious of the other UFA goalies this year. This is mostly due to locker room intangiles. I don’t think the average fan puts enough emphasis on this when considering prospective players for thier favorite team.

  2. Nick Burke on June 15th, 2010 3:26 pm

    You guys must not watch alot of hockey games if you think Nabokov is the answer. He’s going to be 35 in July, he lets in soft goals that kill teams in the playoffs, he has 40 wins 38 losses in 8 palyoff seasons. He’s a great regular season goalie, not a great playoff goalie. I think signing leight’s to a two yr deal at 1.5 per and bring in a guy like Marty Turco or Dan Ellis at a 2yr deals at 3.0 per would be better. I perfer Ellis and think he has a ton of upside and he’s 5yr younger.

  3. ColoradoFly on June 15th, 2010 3:30 pm

    I think the flyers will look into the LA Kings… They have two good keepers and should be willing to move one of them. Bernier or Quick would be a welcome addition to the O & B. Besides, I think Holmgren and Hextall have a fair relationship…and maybe Hexy might still have a soft spot for Philly Goaltenders.

  4. Silver and Green on June 15th, 2010 3:32 pm

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Ellis brought in because he has some upside. If I had my choice it would be trade for Vokoun first and go after Ellis second. I do like Nabokov though. He may not have a great playoff record but I would trust him a lot more than Leighton at this point.

  5. Matt on June 15th, 2010 3:53 pm

    Trading for Vokoun is the only answer. If the Flyers could trick Florida by trading Hartnell and possibly a second rounder for Vokoun would really do Philly some good. Or Philly could trade for Price in Montreal, but Vokoun is better. Plus I heard Montreal wants Giroux for Price. Giroux is the best young player the Flyers have.

  6. Firebird on June 15th, 2010 4:04 pm

    None of those goalies mentioned have ever led their teams to anything. I stick with Leighton and Boucher and look for a top 4 defenseman and put him on the third defensive pairing.

  7. Kirk on June 15th, 2010 4:46 pm

    Nabakov is the best of these goalies listed above, but he really has never led the Sharks anywhere in the postseason. Sticking with Leighton would be dumb – he’s a career back up mostly in the AHL for a reason. I think we need to trade away someone to make some more cap room and go for someone like Jonathan Quick of the LA Kings. Gagne is getting older and not as prominent as he used to be and Coburn seems to have hit a wall of growth. If we could try and trade these 2 for Quick I think that would be good.

  8. Ryan on June 15th, 2010 7:44 pm

    i would try and get Bernier away from LA. Leights magic has run out he wasnt pretty in the Cup Finals. Im not haning him out to dry but some of those saves have to be made to win a cup.

    Habs are nuts trying to get Giroux for Price.

    Turco and Theodore are just another old guy filling in.(See Beezer Hackett and Burke)

    Nabby would be nice but will cost to much money. i think the flyers play a better defense game then the Sharks which is why he would work well here.

    dont forget about Russian prospect Sergei Bobrovsky. He put up some really good numbers in the KHL on the worst team in the league.

  9. adam shapiro on June 20th, 2010 2:36 am

    All I know is that the Flyers finally have to get a goalie that at the very least will not lose the game for them. If they had have decebt goaltending, they would be hoisting the cup. The Flyers have not had a goaltender that they could trust to keep them in the game since they traded Ron Hextall in the Lindros trade. Goaltending cost them the cup.

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