Before I start, I don't claim to be an expert. I have my own opinions, and don't claim to know everything about hockey. If you find any inaccuracies or have any comments, please respectably leave them below or in my Inbox.
Since I last saw my Flyers in May, a lot have transactions obviously have occurred. I was pissed off at the end of the season, and called it the biggest disappointment in franchise history. In January, I saw the team atop the league, easily headed to the playoffs going for the Stanley Cup again. In the subsequent months, their winning ways disappeared, and only because of the new rule that discounts shootout wins, the Flyers won the division over Pittsburgh. Sergei Bobrovsky eased my fears of goaltending failure. I knew he was still young but thought he would fare well. His talent caught up to him mid-season, and I wanted Boucher to start the playoffs. I knew for the best though, Laviolette would do the exact opposite. Make no mistake, the Flyers were supposed to win that series, but not in 7 games. That can wear on players. It was obvious that their playoff run would be short at this rate, and with a 7-3 loss at home to Boston in Game 1, I was reluctantly ready to accept that. They just looked poor, flat, and not ready to compete for a Cup.
The Carter & Richards Trades:
When they were finally eliminated, I was at ease because I knew something was going to have to be done. I realized Jeff Carter was not going to be our Mr. Playoff after injuries in subsequent years and a plethora of missed opportunities each and every spring, and I felt that he was not worth keeping.
Mike Richards did not seem to be like the guy that could lead us to a Stanley Cup. He leads by example, and when he isn't out there producing, he can't give much of an example. If there was ever a time where the Flyers had a chat with the referees, it was never Richards, the man with the "C" on his jersey, it was Chris Pronger, the obvious leader of the locker room.
The trade for Kris Versteeg seemed like one that would help us for the longer term. Then I saw him suit up in the orange and black, and was not impressed. He tried to be too fancy and didn't really fit the Flyers' system. Granted he had little time to do it, but he's a professional athlete, he gets paid over $3 million to do it.
It was clear to me these guys were not gonna get us there. After seeing Holmgren dismiss rumor after rumor, and Pronger saying the locker room is fine, I sorta bought into it and figured Ed Snider and Paul Holmgren would disappoint me and get an unproven goalie. I never thought Holmgren had the balls to trade his prize players.
But he did it. I am still stunned by both the trades, and even a little bit by Versteeg's deal (I'll get to that). The Carter deal was dismissed as rumors several times before so I did not see it coming. Mike Richards was signed until 2020. Two long term signed guys, the face of the franchise, gone. I thought this was great at first, but maybe trading Richards was a bit too hasty. Holmgren could have just traded Carter and still signed Bryzgalov. It was clear that this team had a mandate to only progress forward. Now some of you think that's contradictory. They want to move forward, so they trade two all-star forwards? It seems to me that Luukko, Snider, and Holmgren knew that the current team could not work together to a Stanley Cup, and possibly there were some locker room issues with Richards as the leader. I'm not suggesting there was a schism or any feuds, but it definitely was not hunky-dory at the end of the season.
Jagr: All the acquisitions of last week are too young to lead this team to 40+ wins next year, even with a strong goalie in Bryzgalov. That's why today you saw the signing of 39 year old Jaromir Jagr today. Yes, he was overpaid. However, as long as he stays healthy, he can be an effective scorer still. Yes, his skill has waned over the years, but his scoring still hovers close to a point per game (last year 49 GP 50 Pts). Simmonds, who still isn't even signed, Voracek, and Schenn, were not going to replace Carter & Richards' scoring this year alone.
Versteeg as I said earlier was not getting it done, and this trade was a good cap-clearer for another player...
I am disappointed Leino could not have been resigned in the middle of the season at a cheaper price. However, paying a guy over 4 million a year until he's 33 when he only has 73 points in 149 games. He only had 19 goals last year, and that doesn't fit the price range for the Flyers. Buffalo can allocate their money however they want.
Andreas Lilja is the only signing that fears me. He is 35 years old, has played 539 games and is only +24 rating. Coburn and Meszaros are +30 and +36 in their respectively shorter careers. That leads me to my other point, he has played more than 70 games in only 3 seasons in his career. Since he's 35, if he gets hurt long term, his salary space will clear up, but I don't see this signing going over well.
Maxime Talbot's signing was a nice addition, and was heart-wrenching for Pens fans to watch him go. He is an established player, which the Flyers need. A five year deal is pretty odd though.
Wrapup & Final Opinion:
The Flyers (Without Lilja), according to CapGeek have about $4 million in cap space to work with. Some suggest Schenn may not be in the starting roster next fall. They better ponder over that before they pass up some of the remaining UFAs. Lapperriere will get LTIR status and they will have an extra 1 million or so in cap. Jody Shelley could also meet the waiver wire freeing up more.
The team is now based around Giroux and JVR and Coburn. They need to get locked up.
This team does not appear to be done at all this offseason. Don't let anything shock you at this point. If two guys signed for a combined 20 years can be shipped off, anything is possible.
I will miss Richards and Carters efforts... in the regular season. I will somewhat miss Carcillo, but not all the suspensions and penalties. Leino will be missed but he simply could not be overpaid like that.
I like where this team is headed long-term... I think. Thanks for reading, if you got this far. Lemme know what you think.
UPDATED 7/3 5:15 PM According to the guys at CapGeek Lilja's contract is 2 year 737,500 cap hit. It's nothing serious against the cap but gives a little over $3.275 million to sign another free agent. Yesterday Gagne was still up for grabs but now that is not an option. User SayIATAnything reminded me that the Flyers still have to sign Simmonds, who only made $821,667 and is required to only receive a 5% raise, so he could possibly receive a smaller raise if the Flyers try to bring in another free agent. Three things not to forget though (I think I said them already) are that Brayden Schenn could start the season in Adirondack which frees up over $3 million in cap space, Jody Shelley could be waived/replaced with Tom Sestito freeing up anywhere from $1.1 million to $550,000, and Ian Laperriere, barring a miracle comeback, will once again qualify for LTIR, freeing another $1.16 million. It will be interesting to see what the Flyers do with their money and their players.