Finding The Next Backup Goalie Will Be An Interesting Challenge

Created 3 years 116 days ago
by Michael DeNicola

Tags: Flyers Backup Goalie
Views: 1474


by Michael DeNicola

Friday, April 24th, 2015 --

Let’s talk about our backup goalie situation for next year, okay? It’s up in the air, and I have no damn idea how the bones are gonna lie on this one. Emery will be long on his way out the door, Stolarz is not even close to being NHL-ready – not that we’d want him wasting time behind Mason anyway – and Rob Zepp is just not our guy.

I’m incredibly concerned about the backup position. Here’s my logic: I’m preparing for the worst, so let’s assume Mason’s injury becomes a chronic issue. Let’s assume he’ll be good for roughly 50 games in 2015-16. And if we aim to remain competitive, our next backup goalie will almost have to possess starter’s talent. More like a #1A type guy warming the bench, but at the same time… we don’t need another “goalie controversy” atmosphere. So we’re whittling down our options here.

When I look at the UFA market this Summer, I’m not satisfied. Upcoming free agent goalies like Antti Niemi, Kari Ramo, Michal Neuvirth, Jhonas Enroth could surely play tandem. But these guys are coming off contracts with $1, $2, even $3+ million cap hits. They’ll be looking for similar money or more, and teams will pay it. Maybe if our salary cap circumstance was different, I wouldn’t mind extending a shorter term proposal to one of these guys worth a good chunk of money. But we’re dancing with fire on our payroll, and it doesn’t need to get any worse.

The rest of that UFA Goalie list is a toilet. Guys entering the market with <$1 million salaries are Jason Labarbera, Scott Clemmensen, Michael Leighton(!),Curtis McElhinney, Anders Lindback, etc etc. Some of those names wouldn’t be terrible candidates, but keep in mind that I’m assuming they’ll be called on to carry a heavy load. Especially behind this blueline.

Trading for a backup doesn’t sound like a bad idea, but from who? And for what cost? I thought about Antti Raanta out of Chicago. The Blackhawks seem to be pretty high on this Darling guy they got starting in front of Crawford. But does this mean Crawford will be available for trade this Summer? No, I’m not proposing we trade for Crawford and his $6 million salary. Relax. But it does make me question Raanta’s availability.

Looking around the League, who’s got a logjam in net? In any case, that’s a good problem to have if you’re an organization. Buyers will pay a premium, and I’d rather sit out of all auctions, to be honest.

So, where does that leave the Flyers and our vacant #2 spot?

Let’s rehash – I’m looking for a backup goalie who could potentially fill in for 30-some games; he must possess starter qualities, but he’s got to know his place; I would prefer that we preserve our assets and look at trading as a last resort; age isn’t really a primary concern as long as his lateral mobility is a well-oiled attribute; I’d rather that this guy has a chunk of Pro experience (at any stage) under his belt; and most importantly, he has to come as close to League minimum as possible.

To me, this really only means one thing… taking a look overseas, again, for an answer to a roster spot.

In the past couple League Years, we’ve seen the Flyers pluck some dandies from Pro leagues across the pond. Skaters like Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Michael Raffl. Hextall and his crew scouted and signed Rob Zepp, who, again, filled in admirably when called upon, but I just don’t see him manning our twine for 30-something games. Let’s be real, here.

Nevertheless, maybe this is the solution. Maybe there are a number of guys in goal performing real well in Euro leagues that have an interest in being in the NHL spotlight. And lastly, maybe a number of these guys have NHL Out clauses in their European contracts.

I’m no scout. I can only scour the internet and look at low quality highlights from YouTube, and/or individual Save Percentages and Goals Against Averages. None of which tells me nearly enough of what I’d need to know. But that’s neither here nor there. That’s not my job. One thing has been proven, though: the Flyers’ scouts who’ve traveled to Europe have done a good job. Like I said, they’ve spearheaded signings behind players like Raffl and Bellemare, and then there are the prospects we selected in the Draft who seem to have a future at the NHL level – guys like Robert Haag, Oskar Lindblom, potentially Valeri Vasiliev, and, once upon a time, Joacim Eriksson. 

So, any suggestions?

Developing a list of candidates would be time consuming. Not that I mind the time and research; I assure you, I don't mind one bit. But what possible insight could I generate that goes any deeper than YouTube videos and a few stats I copy & paste from a European website? There's just not enough substance there. Not enough to really convince anyone, or even myself. 

But that's not the point of this entry. I wanted to break this blog open by resurfacing a channel our scouts and Operations Dept. have already exploited. Keep squeezing the blood from that stone. 

In days or yore, Sergei Bobrovsky was posting great stats in the KHL when he turned some heads within our organization. We took a flight out to the Motherland and found ourselves an exciting goalkeeper. These are the options we have, and they've only become more advanced with greater awareness. 

To find our #2 for the 2015-16 season, it'd behoove the Flyers to revisit kicking up raw material across the Atlantic Ocean. 

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