There’s something humorous about the fact that the Flyers waited until they had arguably their best goaltending prospect in ages before acquiring a bona fide starter.
As a result, Sergei Bobrovsky, a once little-known goalie who posted solid numbers for Novokuznetsk Metallurg, a bad KHL team, ceased being the goalie of the future and became perceived as an overpaid, expendable backup in the mere bat of an eyelash.
Barely a year after committing three years and nearly $3 million to Bobrovsky, it was reported that the Flyers began shopping him.
It’s a long fall for someone who showed such promise and great athletic skill in his rookie season.
The truth is that skill still exists and will only continue to improve with playing time, even if he did show some kinks in his postseason armor. Last season, Bobrovsky far exceeded everyone’s expectations yet we set the bar even lower for the future.
What’s done is done, though, and there’s no use continuing to dwell on that. Instead, we need to ask if trading Bobrovsky is the organization’s best option.
My initial reaction is to wonder why the Flyers would trade a terrific insurance policy. Look at teams Vancouver, Boston, Nashville, and Buffalo. These organizations are wise enough to hold onto guys like Cory Schneider, Tukka Rask, Anders Lindback, and Jhonas Enroth — just to be safe.
When Ryan Miller and Pekka Rinne went down to injuries, Enroth and Lindback filled in admirably last season. If you were to take these backups out of the equation and replace them with, say, Johan Backlund, it’s entirely possible that neither Buffalo nor Nashville would have made the playoffs.
Keeping Bobrovsky is an approach I would prefer and I see little validity in the common argument that $1.75M is too much to pay a backup, especially when only three people in the entire league will be making more than the starter, Ilya Bryzgalov, next season. Bob’s paycheck will pale in comparison and he has the potential to earn every dollar of it with the quality of his play.
Still, if the return is great enough, nobody should be untouchable. Considering what Washington stole from Colorado in the deal for Semyon Varlamov — to whom Bobrovsky was compared — I can’t blame Paul Holmgren for testing the waters. A package of a first and a second round pick would certainly make the prospect of losing Bob palatable.
It’s highly unlikely that the Flyers will get that, though.
It’s more likely that Bobrovsky would be shopped around to help fill another need (take your pick: potential franchise defender, top-six winger, notable prospect, etc.) but I can’t see them going out of their way to make such a deal at the moment. They might as well hold onto him until the trade deadline, or at least until the regular season approaches, when rosters finish taking shape.
One reason they might push to make a trade now would be if they feel like their hand is being forced. It’s possible Bob quietly asked for a trade or that he might threaten to flee to the KHL, like Varlamov did.
The organization could also Gauthier him. The Flyers typically like to do right by their players, as was the case when they traded Denis Gauthier, who was buried on the Phantoms, and a second round pick to Los Angeles for Ned Lukacevic and Patrik Hersley, two ECHL players, so that Gauthier could go to an organization that would give him more playing time in the NHL. Framing a trade of Bobrovsky like this would also help accomplish some public-relations damage control after the black eye from the sudden bloodletting behind the Mike Richards and Jeff Carter trades.
N.B. I am not suggesting the Flyers trade Bobrovsky for a poor return, just that they can frame a fair trade as if they’re doing something to help his career and give him a better shot somewhere else.
Whatever the reason may be, if the Flyers do trade Bobrovsky, can we really complain? The organization took a shot on a KHLer that cost them nothing but money. If they flip him for a good value, it means they turned nothing into something. I’m OK with that.