The most interesting offseason in the National Hockey League has to go to the Philadelphia Flyers. Philadelphia general manager took his chances by trying to blow things up without actually tearing it all down. It all started on June 23 when Holmgren traded Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jakub Voracek and two draft picks. It had been speculated for some time that Carter would be moved for a variety of reasons, but most importantly this move alleviated some salary cap issues that Philadelphia was facing. The real surprise came hours later when Flyers captain Mike Richards was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. The Flyers did acquire Brayden Schenn, one of the top young prospects in the game, as well as Wayne Simmonds.
It was clear based on these moves that Phildelphia’s organization felt their were deeper issues within the team that they worried were keeping the Flyers from their ultimate goal. You don’t trade two young, extremely productive centers (especially when one’s your captain) if you don’t think there are some other things to worry about. The return the Flyers received was actually pretty good, it’s just that there’s virtually no way of getting equal value for the two players that they dealt. Management made a bold decision with these moves, but do they actually give the Flyers a better chance to win the Stanley Cup? That’s open for debate.
The Flyers premium free agent acquisition was signing former star Jaromir Jagr to a one year contract. Jagr hasn’t played in the NHL for three seasons since leaving New York to play in Europe. The desire appears to be there to make a legitimate return to the National Hockey League for hockey, it’s just a matter of whether or not he’s capable of performing at a high level during the daily grind of an NHL season. Jagr’s last year in New York he openly spoke about saving energy during the season in order to be able to perform during the playoffs, all the while watching the Rangers fight to even get there. Jagr’s candidness and personality is great for the game, and will be a joy to get to watch again, but it could be a recipe for disaster in Philadelphia.
Ville Leino who played such a large role last season for the Flyers is now gone, signing an expensive deal with the Buffalo Sabres. Dan Carcillo and Darroll Powe have also left the club.
Philadelphia returns Danny Briere, James van Riemsdyk, and Claude Giroux to the forward group, and they will be relied upon heavily to increase their production with the departures of Carter and Richards in the offseason. It’s obvious Flyers management believes that van Riemsdyk and Giroux are capable of carrying the load in the future, and Briere has been extremely productive in his time in Philadelphia.
Chris Pronger and his injuries will be back on defense, but the biggest move the Flyers made might have been acquiring Ilya Bryagalov. The former Phoenix Coyotes netminder could be the final piece to the puzzle for an organization that hasn’t had a legitimate goaltender in a couple decades. Bryzgalov is capable of carrying a team for long stretches, and the Flyers will look to him to be the difference maker during the post season.
One thing is for certain, the Philadelphia Flyers will be fascinating to watch this year. How the fan base reacts to the new players, especially if they struggle, will be another angle to look at. Flyers fans are some of the most passionate in the game, but this shake up must be difficult for many of them to accept. Did general manager Paul Holmgren make the Flyers a better team in the offseason? That might be a tough one to prove. Whether or not he was right about the underlying issues surrounding Carter and Richards will be something to look for in the coming year. If he’s right and the Flyers win, it could be remembered as one of the greatest moves in history. If he doesn’t, it could be the worse.