In acquiring the negotiating rights to goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, the Flyers addressed an area of concern that experts had called an organizational black hole since the heyday of Ron Hextall in the late 1980's. I disagree with black hole, however, the Flyers had not made goaltending a top priority since then.
By trading for Bryzgalov's rights, and according to most reports being very close to having struck a deal with the 31 year old Russian, the Flyers now face another issue. Fitting him under the salary cap.
The cap is expected to rise to about $64mm for the 2011-12 season. That is a huge help to the Flyers, as the numbers on Bryzgalov seem to indicate a cap hit between $5mm-$6mm. Still, it's very likely that they Flyers will have to make a few deals to get into compliance before the summer is out.
Most of the problem can be addressed through waivers. Michael Leighton and Matt Walker are almost certain to be waived and, if unclaimed, sent to the AHL. Jody Shelley could easily find himself in the same boat with his $1.1mm cap hit-which is obviously excessive for a 4th line enforcer playing 6 minutes a night. Other cap casualties that may find themselves toiling in the AHL, or not being offered a new contract include Nik Zherdev, Daniel Carcillo, Sean O'Donnell and Nick Boynton.
Ville Leino is a pending UFA who the Flyers have repeatedly stated they want to bring back. However, it seems impossible to reconcile that re-signing with the cap numbers, unless a trade is made. It's assumed that Leino wants between $3mm-$4mm per year.
Now, assuming the Flyers wave the aforementioned names and allow the UFA's to walk, re-sign Darroll Powe and Andreas Nodl to 10% qualifying raises and ink Bryzgalov to a $5.5mm cap hit, they will be approximately $1.6mm under the cap-and need to add at least two forwards to ice a full roster.
If they wish to keep Leino, a trade has to be made. Hell, if they wish to ice a full roster a trade needs to be made.
Now, the Flyers could trade Kris Versteeg($3.083), Scott Hartnell($4.25mm) or Matt Carle($3.44mm). Trading any of these players would help, but there's a few downsides. In the case of Hartnell, there's a no trade clause. In the case of Versteeg, it's doubtful the Flyers would come close to re-couping the 1st and 3rd rounders they dealt to land Versteeg at the trade deadline. In the case of Carle, top defenseman Chris Pronger is coming off back surgery and might not be ready to start the season. That could leave the defense truck stop toilet paper thin.
It's also very possible that Pronger could start the season on the LTIR, which would buy the Flyers some time to sort out the issues without making a deal. Of course, they would have to swing a deal when he returned, which could lead to a mess and chemistry issues with an in season deal.
That brings us to Jeff Carter. I like Jeff Carter. He's 30-35 goals in the bank a year. He's a very capable two way player. He's possibly the Flyers best face-off man. He's the only center with better than average size that has top six offensive capabilities. He's a damned good hockey player and the organization really likes him. He's 4th in the NHL in goals scored in the last 4 years and has a very fair and reasonable $5.3mm cap hit and 11 years on his deal.
That said, Carter could bring back a significant return, that could address a multitude of needs. The Flyers farm system is shallow due to trades that saw early round draft picks and prospects head out the door to acquire players like Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Hartnell, Carle, Versteeg and Andrej Meszaros. If Carter could be dealt for a couple of high picks, plus a lesser roster player and a prospect, the system depth would not be as shallow and there would be good replacements in case of injury.
Moving Carter's $5.3mm cap hit would also likely allow the Flyers to keep Versteeg, Hartnell, Leino and Carle. They'd still have Mike Richards, Danny Briere and last season's team MVP Claude Giroux at center, and keeping the wingers intact means that the scoring depth wouldn't be altered a lot, even losing Carter's exceptional output. Of course, with seven 20 goal scorers and another guy that had 19, scoring depth isn't a huge issue if they traded Versteeg or Hartnell, either.
The question boils down to, do you keep Carter and take a hit as far as depth goes, using youngsters like Matt Read, Eric Wellwood and Nodl in scoring line roles after seeing Leino and Versteeg leave? Or do you bite the bullet, get a significant return for Carter and maintain more depth on the wing?
No easy choices here.