Reading The Flyers Tea Leaves

Most of us that either blog or report on the Philadelphia Flyers would love to see into the future.  It would make breaking a news story a heck of a lot easier.  Truth is that Paul Holmgren would love to as well right about now; most definitely a couple of years ago.  Would have made Ed Snider’s wallet not feel as light as it will for the next 14 years.  Fact of the matter is we don’t know what the next few days/weeks will bring.  More importantly no one outside of the front office has any clue at all the direction they are going to take.  With every offseason comes a whirlwind of speculation.  Especially for the Flyers.  Looking at the crumbs of information they leave behind, at the very least, can help all involved narrow down some of the possibilities.  Not all of them will come to fruition.  Some won’t even come close.  Some possibilities though will not only come out of nowhere; they will have immediate impact on the team.  Here is what I can see in the Flyers future.

What we all know is that they need another goalie and more help on defense.  How they get that help could come through the draft this Sunday.  There is always speculation that Paul Holmgren could trade this pick for veteran help.  With the draft supposedly one of the best in many years; I don’t think it will go down that way.  All indications are they fully intend to use their pick in the first round.   A trade to move higher up is a strong possibility, but once again I feel that won’t happen.  My gut tells me they draft a defensemen with their pick.  The three defensemen prospects that may still be there when the Flyers pick 11th are: Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov, and Ryan Pulock.  Each has merit as to why the Flyers would take them.  The one that I think has the highest ceiling though is Ryan Pulock.  Problem is he is also the one that I feel has the longest seasoning needed to be NHL ready.  Ristolainen would be the best option for now, but he is also one of the top three defensive prospects in the whole draft so he might not even be there when the pick 11 comes up.  Nikita Zadorov is similar to Ristolainen in size and overall style, but he has shown there is a little more offense in his game.  The Flyers could also go with the “Best Player Available” approach which could be a forward at that point, or crazier yet a goalie.  My tea leaves say that defense is where they will go.

MY PICK: Ryan Pulock

On to trades/free agency.  Sometime tomorrow or Friday the Flyers will officially announce the signing of Mark Streit.  Some view this as another poor signing for the franchise others, myself included, think it was one of what could be more steps in the right direction.  No matter what you think of Streit; he would have been one of the best free agent defensemen on the market.  Is he the only answer to what was a problem area for the Orange and Black last year? No; but even with just his addition alone it would be hard to argue that they aren’t better with him on the team.  The free agency pool is really thin this year so here is where I feel the Flyers look to make a deal.  Even with buying out Briere and Brygalov; Philly needs to shave off a little more salary.  Likely candidates that could be moved are Matt Read,  Andrej Meszaros, and Braydon Coburn.  All have value in some way or another to fetch some quality in return.  Meszaros might be the hardest to move because of his injury history and all but getting his 4 million dollar cap hit off the books would be worth more than anything they got in return.  Coburn on the other hand might peak some teams interest.  Look; some think moving him is a bad idea but I just don’t see a fit for him on the roster.  He is a good player, but a top four d-man he is not, and that is exactly what the Flyers need.  Trading him would not only lighten up the already heavy loaded contracts on defense, but maybe land a depth winger which is also a need.  Matt Read is the gem in this equation.  He was already in play for the Jonathan Bernier attempt, so moving him is firmly in the front office plans. Why???  Because he would get the best offers in return.  There is a lot of avenues you could go down in moving him.  I think there will be more than a few teams calling this weekend to gauge his value.

MY PICK:  All three will be elsewhere at the start of the season.

As for what Philadelphia will do about the goaltending situation; I think it is pretty clear.  They will most likely go the cheaper more experienced free agent route.  Names like Nabokov, Emery, Ellis, Theodore come to mind.  One name on the market though that does intrigue me is Anton Khudobin.  He has comparable numbers and the same small sample size that Jonathan Bernier has and, if reports are true, Philly was willing to dangle Matt Read for him; so why not then try to get Khudobin.  The thing with him, as it is with Bernier, is it is so hard to tell if he is really that good or is it the defense in front of him that elevates the look of his game.  Truth is though he probably wouldn’t be any worse than most of the other names out there.  If the Flyers were to throw 1.5 mil his way and a chance to start; I think he could be had.  Plus, that would give the team a legitimate competition for the starting gig in net.

MY PICK:  Anton Khudobin

All the events leading up to the draft this weekend and into free agency is going to be so hard to predict.  No one knows what is in store for this offseason.  There might be a lot of talent that gets bought out in the next few days which will adjust the current plans for a lot of teams.  As general manager Paul Holmgen eluded to earlier in the week; this is going to be a wild ride.  That much I am certain of.


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