The Philadelphia Flyers have been very active so far in the offseason. First, they used their allotted compliance buyouts to shed the contracts of Danny Briere and Ilya Bryzgalov (www.si.com).
Then, they announced the acquisition of former New York Islanders defenseman Mark Streit, and the blockbuster free agent signing of Vincent Lecavalier who was given a 5 year deal worth $22 million (www.si.com).
Do these moves make sense? The Flyers are going to have to slash salary to deal with the salary cap implications of these recent moves coupled with their current roster.
What do these changes to the Flyers mean for the New Jersey Devils and a divisional rivalry which has evolved over the years?
The Compliance Buyouts
The Flyers use of the compliance buyouts does make sense from a hockey business perspective. Danny Briere had a big contract and a “salary cap hit” number which would have made it very difficult for the Flyers front office to have any flexibility in adding players to improve the team. Briere also was at an age and a point in his career where his level of play was going downhill.
The Bryzgalov compliance move was a surprise to some people, not because his level of play was good, it was inconsistent to put it diplomatically. The surprise was that the buyout came so soon into this contract (he played two years out of a 9 year $51 million contract) and that the Flyers are now back to square one in the search for a goaltender. In the end, as per the Philadelphia Inquirer in their recent report, when you total all the money that they will give Bryzgalov under the terms of the compliance buyout, he will get paid close to $39 million for two seasons as the Flyers goaltender.
It is also rare that a front office would make this type of move so early in a long term deal because it is an admission of a huge mistake on their part.
The Flyers now have a hole to fill at goaltender and other holes on the roster and they go out and get a defenseman that they really did not need in Streit, and they give a 5 year contract to a 33 year old center with a lot of mileage on his body in Lecavalier. The team has still not addressed the goaltending situation, so again, I never understand the Flyers and why they make the moves that they do.
I think the Lecavalier deal was made because they needed an upgrade at the center position on their second line, but also they need to sell tickets. The Flyers fan base was very upset by the poor performance of the team in 2013. I went to the Flyers website earlier to do background for this article, and Lecavalier has his picture and name splashed all over the website including a “skyscraper” ad with his picture on the right side of the page. He is the marketing department’s answer to how they will fill seats at the Wells Fargo Center.
Essentially, the Bryzgalov deal was a huge failure, and the Flyers brass look like they are going to solve it by spending money on the other areas of the roster and go cheap on goaltending.
The big issue there is, as hockey fans know, you need goaltending to win in the NHL. So they could spend on top notch forwards and get in world class defensive players, but they will have trouble winning in the playoffs without an established goaltender.
The Effect on the Devils
Here at Pucks & Pitchforks we write and share our views about the New Jersey Devils, so with that in mind: What do these moves mean for the Devils and their approach to games against Philadelphia?
The Flyers upgraded by adding Lecavalier, which is going to be a tough task for the Devils center ice players whether that is Dainius Zubrus or Adam Henrique. They are going to have to play solidly against him in those games.
Mark Streit is a very good player with a nice skill set who will probably help the Flyers on the power play unit with his stickhandling ability and his passing prowess. The Devils are going to have to account for his presence on the ice in those situations as well as even strength play.
The Devils wing forwards are going to have to be aware of his defensive skills and ability to strip away possession in the Flyers defensive end of the ice. Streit is a good complementary player to the defensive corps the Flyers already have on their roster. The Devils will prepare accordingly to gain the advantage in those situations.
In the end analysis, I think that the Flyers and Devils rivalry will be even better with the addition of familiar opposition players like Lecavalier and Streit. I give the Devils the advantage still at many of the positions including on the wings and in the most important measurement: goaltending.
Who would you rather have in goal: Steve Mason or Martin Brodeur? I rest my case.