Will the Flyers run with the Sergei Bobrovsky-Brian Boucher tandem in 2011-12, or find an upgrade over the summer? (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
After the Philadelphia Flyers were eliminated by the Boston Bruins, it didn’t take long for pundits to call on Flyers management to upgrade their goaltending.
Though the Flyers struggled at both ends of the ice against the Bruins, there was no escaping the fact coach Peter Laviolette was forced to play “musical goalies,” juggling Sergei Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton through the Flyers’ short playoff run.
Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com, Sam Donnellon of the Philadelphia Daily News and Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer called on GM Paul Holmgren to bring in a proven starting goalie.
Sam Carchidi of the Inquirer believes Bobrovsky is a “keeper,” but he needs to be “eased into the situation.” Carchidi suggested signing Phoenix's Ilya Bryzgalov if he's available this summer or, alternatively, trading for either Jonathan Bernier of the L.A. Kings or Cory Schneider of the Vancouver Canucks.
Wayne Fish of Phillyburbs.com acknowledged a goalie upgrade would be costly, but even if it means parting with Jeff Carter or Mike Richards, it would be worth it.
However, finding a quality starter is easier said than done. The Kings and Canucks aren't under any pressure to move Bernier or Schneider. Bryzgalov may still re-sign with the Coyotes if they stay in Phoenix, but if he does hit the open market his salary demands will be substantial and may be too expensive for the cap-strapped Flyers, who currently have nearly $59 million invested in 18 players for next season.
Holmgren, in addition to finding room for a new goalie's salary, would also have to find enough space to re-sign or replace free agents such as Ville Leino, Andreas Nodl (RFA), Dan Carcillo (RFA) and Sean O'Donnell.
If the Flyers are planning to land a top-tier goalie, they would have to move out a comparable salary, which means they’d have to part with one of their better players or a combination of players.
Vancouver and Los Angeles aren't the only teams that are being mentioned as trade targets for the Flyers. The Boston Bruins have young Tuukka Rask relegated to a backup role behind Tim Thomas, while the Washington Capitals may be forced to choose between Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov (who is a RFA) to make room for promising Braden Holtby in their goalie tandem.
Perhaps the best option is Evgeni Nabokov. The New York Islanders intend to put his bargain basement contract ($570,000) toward next season and will likely put him on the trade block following these playoffs.
Though Nabokov was never able to carry the San Jose Sharks past the conference final, he has years of experience as a starter, his salary would certainly be a comfortable cap fit and the Flyers wouldn’t have to give up much in return.
Goaltending has been the Flyers’ Achilles heel for more than two decades, but it's up to Holmgren to decide if he's willing to make a bold change or stick with Bobrovsky and either Boucher, a UFA, or Leighton, who has another year remaining on his contract.
Semyon Varlamov recently addressed rumors claiming he was giving serious consideration toward playing in Russia's Kontinental League next season, saying it was his preference to remain in the NHL and re-sign with the Capitals.
However, he declined to comment on whether he would sign with a KHL team if one made a more lucrative offer than the Capitals.
If Varlamov stays in the NHL it might not be with the Capitals, as Washington’s crowded crease may lead to a trade.
WILL LIDSTROM RETURN OR RETIRE?
There has been plenty of speculation about the futures of veteran Wings Mike Modano, Kris Draper, Chris Osgood and Nicklas Lidstrom throughout the Detroit Red Wings-San Jose Sharks series.
Most of the focus has been on Lidstrom, who despite his age (41) continues to play at a high level, earning a Norris nomination for his performance this season.
Lidstrom has kept his plans to himself, except to say he'll make a decision once the playoffs are over. However, Kevin Allen of USA Today believes the Red Wings captain will return for another season, citing his continued love of playing, his close ties to the Red Wings organization and his overall performance.
Lidstrom’s decision will be based upon whether or not he thinks he can physically handle the rigors of another long NHL season and continue to perform at a high level.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.