We’ve had our differences in the past.
The lack of value you see in draft picks and prospects worries me. Your willingness to give picks away in trade, and hand out no trade clauses like candy was mystifying at one point, but now I have become numb to it. Additionally, the idea of putting all of your eggs in one basket, like you did this season, is far from an approach I prefer take. There’s still no guarantee that you’ll win the Stanley Cup, as we saw, and now we’re left in the same spot where we always seem to be: lacking a goalie and right up against the salary cap.
Still, I admire your gusto for trying to win it all.
Not every general manager has the huevos to go out and make a blockbuster trade for guys like Chris Pronger or to pay a hefty cost for Kris Versteeg at the trade deadline. If there’s one thing I’ve always respected about you, Homer, it’s that, when you recognize a deficiency with the Flyers, you make every attempt to turn that issue it into an asset.
Not too long ago, the Flyers had no legitimate defenders. Now, the team arguably has the deepest defense in the league. Somehow, you’ve also managed to stack away a few semi-promising defensive prospects in the system. Color me impressed.
Although it may not be apparent to the naked eye, you’ve made strides with the goaltending too. You stole Sergei Bobrovsky from Russia. You drafted Joacim Eriksson, who shows some potential. You brought in Martin Biron and Ray Emery. Heck, you even signed a number of former NHL goalies to waste their nights in the AHL — terrible though they may be — in hopes that one might just bounce back.
However, you also tried to beat the system by working low-ball, back-room deals with Marty Turco and Evgeni Nabokov probably before you really should have been discussing contracts with the pending free agents. Therein lies my concern.
Last offseason, with a number of high quality defenders entering the free agent market, you traded for Andrej Meszaros. Sure, he turned out to be a great acquisition in the long run but it was this same move that backed you into a corner with the salary cap and forced your hand in the Simon Gagne trade.
Even if it’s true that Gagne only wanted to go to Tampa, you still would’ve had more leverage and could’ve gotten far more than Matt Walker’s hip surgeries and a fourth-round pick for a guy who singlehandedly carried the Flyers on his back through the postseason a little over a month earlier.
This is not a rare instance where you’ve shown impatience either. Including the Dan Hamhuis debacle, there were four examples of it over a period of one month from last offseason alone. This maddening trait of yours has shown itself in a variety of forms tracing all the way back to the beginning of your tenure as General Manager of the Flyers.
At the time, many people called it a brilliant move to trade Nashville its own first-round draft pick (Jonathon Blum) for the rights to soon-to-be unrestricted free agents Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell. I liked the idea then, assuming the team would get a fair deal on contract negotiations, yet they were still signed at market value. Why trade the pick then?
Despite your best efforts at restocking the goalie cupboard, the Flyers are still looking for a legitimate starter.* So here we are, back at square one all over again.
Given your track record of aggressively addressing any team needs, I’m confident that you will acquire a goaltender this season. It’s too early to tell, however, if you will sign a so-called top-flight goalie like Tomas Vokoun or Ilya Bryzgalov, or if you will go the younger and cheaper route and trade for a promising player like Cory Schneider, Jonathan Bernier, or Anders Lindback(depending on the deal, I prefer the latter option).
Of course, you can shock the world and go for the older and cheaper options, like Emery or even Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
If it means losing a contract like the massive albatrosses Jeff Carter or Mike Richards were given, I’ll understand it within reason. All that I ask for is your patience.
There will not be too many teams in the market for a starting goalie this offseason and there’s no reason to sign/acquire the first man in a mask who makes eye contact with you. In other words, don’t trade Carter for the rights to a pending free agent. If you need to trade everybody’s favorite playoff scapegoat, recover some of those draft picks and prospects that you’ve lost over the years. Then, use the newfound cap space that will be surely burning a hole in your pocket to sign that same goalie.
Also, there’s no point in signing a free agent until you’ve made room for him. There’s no need to back yourself into a corner financially (again) and then be forced to trade a coveted player for garbage just to be cap compliant (again).
It’s just common sense, man. It should go with the hockey sense we know you have in spades.
*It’s at this point in time that it would be really nice to have all of those draft picks and prospects back. After all, wouldn’t it be much easier to part with a defender or two to make room for a goalie if we had Jonathon Blum and John Carlson waiting in the wings?