I don't think I am being disrespectful or overly assuming when I say that the odds are that, following a Game 2 loss, the Flyers season will be ending in the very near future. Based on that, I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at a specific move that I feel they can make that will do wonders for their future.
Ready? Here goes:
GIVE AN OFFER SHEET TO MARC-ANDRE FLEURY.
So I'm sitting at lunch today with a friend who's a Flyers fan, and in analyzing the Game 2 loss and the questionable-at-best officiating and the Flyers losing Coburn and the 28 minutes of Hatcher and so on, the topic of what the Flyers could do in the offseason came up, and it was then that the idea struck me.
Granted, I am and never will be a Flyers fan. Honestly, if given the option to root for the Flyers or the Soviet Red Army in the heat of the cold war, I'm probably rocking the red, but this is a move that I think is both logical and beneficial (to a few teams) for the Flyers to make.
Why? Here's some rationale.
Garth Snow, Sean Burke, John Vanbiesbrouck, Brian Boucher, Roman Cechmanek, Jeff Hackett, Robert Esche, Antero Niitymaki, Martin Biron.
Since Ron Hextall, the Flyers have enlisted the services of 9 different starting goaltenders for periods of time. A long-standing contending team, or in most cases a borderline playoff team, simply cannot conduct business this way and truly expect to win anything.
In the vast majority of cases, teams that are perennial contenders often have a solidified goaltending position that does not change every year or 2 years. San Jose, Anaheim, Dallas, New Jersey, New York (Rangers), Calgary. these teams have goaltenders that are "the guy" and will be "the guy" for the foreseeable future. Even teams that probably won't really contend for anything in the near future like the Islanders and Canucks have their goalie in place for quite a while, 15 years in one case. (Sorry, had to take that jab.)
Now, I'm sure you're asking yourself. "Self, isn't Martin Biron a viable option here?"
My answer? Not really. And here's why.
The Flyers traded for and extended the contract of Martin Biron for one specific reason. They wanted to convince Daniel Briere, a premier free agent sniper, to join his best buddy and come to a team that had just finished with the worst record in the NHL and appeared to be irrelevant to the conversation of free-agent destinations. They knew that to convince anyone and everyone that the team was going to make this downturn a short swing, they needed the big name goal-scorer, and Briere fit the bill.
Biron is 30 years old going on 31. He has shown flashes of brilliance, but even an old 50's Ford pick-up will start every once in a while, for a few minutes, and then die. Now I'm not going to say that Biron isn't a decent goalie. But, how many teams with decent goalies win the Stanley Cup and how often does that really happen? It's probably not a coincidence that Martin Brodeur has 3 rings.
Now if the Flyers do make this offer, and he accepts, there are 2 possible results.
Result 1: The Penguins choose not to match, the Flyers get a #1 overall picked franchise goaltender, and turn over 4 first-round picks to the Penguins.
If the Penguins choose not to match, the Flyers pay a price of 4 first-round draft picks to the Penguins as compensation and bring on a franchise goalie for the next decade.
In reality, the Flyers are built to win in the next 3-4 years, while Kimmo Timonen, Daniel Briere, and maybe even Simon Gagne remain effective. Any #1 pick that they use on a goaltender at this point will not provide the immediate impact that is desired. From that standpoint, let's give the Flyers a 50/50 shot at picking a goalie that will actually do something eventually.
Having Claude Giroux and James VanRiemsdyk in the system, with Mike Richards locked up until armageddon, the anticipated continual development of Scottie Upshall, and the eventual signing of RFA's Jeff Carter and/or R.J. Umberger, it's safe to assume there won't be too much of a need for forwards. Also, any defenseman they draft would take too long to develop to play a role within the window. The emergence of Braydon Coburn and the potential of Ryan Parent will be enough to get the defense younger and stay afloat.
Also, assuming that this season is not a mirage, the Flyers should be rather competitive for the next 4 years. Based on that, they will be picking in the bottom third of the first round in those 4 years. Ask yourselves this question, Flyers fans. What's more valuable? 4 first round picks from 18 to 24 or Marc-Andre Fleury?
Result 2 (more likely): The Penguins, because they don't want to lose their #1 overall picked franchise goaltender, bite the bullet and match a huge offer from the Flyers, therefore restricting their future ability to sign Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal when their contracts come due and still stay under the cap.
Let's face facts. The salary cap is about the only force in the universe that is going to be able to derail the Penguins from becoming a dynasty. When you are able to deploy 2 of the top 5 players in the world on your power play, both of which are part of a quartet that THEY drafted either #1 or #2 overall in 4 recent drafts, most of which wouldn't be served at a bar, the prognostications are just downright scary. The only weapon the rest of the NHL has is to make the Penguins pay for their stars or lose them.
The Penguins, in all likelihood, will not let Fleury walk. They can't. They have too much of a good thing going here to risk upsetting it over a few million dollars. A matched offer would mean they would be paying true market, or above market, dollars for Fleury, and would then run into a major problem trying to keep Malkin and Staal in the fold when their contracts need to be renewed.
It's in the best interest of every other team in the NHL to do whatever they can to try and break apart the core of a budding dynasty. That cannot be denied.
Either way, a Flyers offer to Fleury would weaken the Penguins either in talent or financial flexibility. Ideally, for everyone involved (including the Rangers, whom some fans believe will try to make as much cap money as possible available when Malkin and Staal become RFA's and make a serious offer to one or the other) the Penguins will match, keep their goalie, and become very cap-strapped.
There is no downside to making this move from the Flyers' perspective other than the picks lost, but a pick is just that, a pick. They could legitimately allow R.J. Umberger to walk, and get picks back in his compensation from whoever signs him. They could do the same with Jeff Carter, but I'm sure the Flyers, if given the option, would keep Carter over Umberger.
They haven't had a franchise goalie since Hextall, and they have the chance now. They have the chance to deal a blow to the team that's likely about to oust them from the playoffs and the team whom, if they don't make this move, will likely dominate this division and this conference for the next few years, those few years where the window will be open for these Flyers.
Let's see how this salary cap that the small-market teams like Pittsburgh fought so hard to put in place starts to work against them. We'll see how they like that.