As the NHL's 2012 off-season is potentially one Los Angeles' win away from taking flight, we're all beginning to get pumped for the Entry Draft, Free Agency Frenzy Day and the inevitable off-season deals each Club will participate themselves in.
Just today, Bill Meltzer (an incredibly brilliant hockey-mind who writes for the Flyers column on HockeyBuzz.com) posted an article covering backup goaltenders, and poses a question about our own #2 Netminder for next season; Who's it gonna be?
As Bill mentions, the Pittsburgh Penguins have already gone out and traded for Tomas Vokoun to bolster Marc-Andre Fleury's twine on his off-days, thus solidifying this League's potential best goalie tandem. Say whatever you want about MAF's performance against our Flyers in the QuarterFinals, he's still an amazing talent. One who could steal many games and a Series. And if Vokoun manages a bounce-back year next season, he'll take a handful of starts away from Fleury that might otherwise wear the Penguins star goalie down by the time Playoffs get underway.
In all, it was an outstanding move by Pittsburgh......I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.
It was yesterday (Monday, June 4th) that I had a conversation about this very topic; Backup goaltender.
There's no easy way to put this, so here goes; I am absolutely all for the Philadelphia Flyers moving Sergei Bobrovsky for defensive support or moving up in the 2012 Draft. I've been saying this ever since the Flyers acquired Ilya Bryzgalov. That's nothing against The Bob. There's no question Sergei has all the workings of becoming a solid #1 in net someday. But right now, on this Flyers team, given all the circumstances, it'd be best to give him that chance elsewhere and use the money we save from his salary (3yr/$2.7-Million, $1.75 AAV) to strengthen our skating depth.
Meltzer's fine with giving Bobrovsky another season behind Bryzgalov. But 2012-13 is the last year on his contract before he becomes a RFA. By then our only option would be trading his re-signing rights which doesn't hold nearly as much value as trading him now while he's still under contract. And I can't imagine Sergei would be interested in re-signing in Philadelphia given the fact he'd sit behind Bryz without his much-deserved chance to start.
Pushing Bobrovsky alone in a proposal would not get us much return, which is why I could see him packaged up with a lower round pick or two to get a 2nd round Draft pick (which we lost in our 2011-12 mid-season trades) or mid-pairing defensive support.
But that's neither here nor there. I'm getting off topic.
Hypothetically, let's say the Flyers do wind up trading Sergei for [blank][blank]. Here's a linked list of the upcoming UFA goalies this off-season ---> provided by CapGeek.com.
Of those listed, here are a handful of names I wouldn't mind Flyers management taking an interest in, given they don't re-sign with their existing Clubs:
Each of those five are adept to take the reins, and I assume their asking prices would be reasonable. They each have respectable stats and would compliment a Bryzgalov tandem.
But I'm not even pushing that as my first suggestion on what to do about a #2 goalie.
Do you remember him? The 6ft, 7in Helsinki goaltender who dwarfs the twine behind him, and has a wingspan that would make a handshake between Shaquille O'Neal and a condor look like two midgets playing Rock, Paper, Scissors.
Niko's been playing up in Finland for the Pelicans of the SM-liiga, a Finnish hockey league. He's currently under contract with the Philadelphia Flyers, and made a short trip out to Vorhees, NJ for last year's prospect camp. I was attending that day and saw Hovinen between the pipes.
A barefoot man standing at 6'7" is rather ridiculous to a 5'8" man like myself. But when that giant steps onto the ice with skates lifting his person even higher? Niko looked as if he could trim the fingernails of God standing on his tippy toes.
But enough about his height. He's tall. You get it.
Niko Hovinen's stats over the years have shown struggles in net. But his last two seasons have improved dramatically, despite occupying the cage for the worst team in his league. Just last year Niko started 41-games, racked a 2.26 GAA and finished with a .920 SV%.
His talent analysis (thanks to HockeysFuture.com) says this --
Standing at over 6'7, Hovinen is a towering presence even in butterfly stance. He is the biggest Finnish goalie of his generation but still its typical member as far as movement goes. Despite his immature but big body, he has what it takes to dominate shooters with a butterfly style. He is calm but timid in his style of play: He doesn't lunge toward the puck forcefully enough and surprisingly gets pushed around. His ability to read the game is still undeveloped, which also hinders his puckhandling. Hovinen has fantastic game-breaking ability and possesses tools for development with few boundaries for his potential.
His prospect profile (thanks to Matias Strozyk from EliteProspects.com) says this --
A tall and strong goalie who covers the net very well. Good posture, technique and movement. Saves initial attempts well, but sometimes struggles to recover after a save and is therefore vulnerable to rebounds. Excellent work ethic.
Like any player, Niko's game has its adversity to conquer. But at age 24, Hovinen has tremendous upside with very little risk. It's about the only thing little about him, HEYOOO!
His NHL salary is $900K, and cap hit is $950K. His recent statistics point towards major improvement and the potential to be an effective netminder in the more talent-structured leagues like the AHL or NHL.
With both Michael Leighton and Johan Backlund entering free agency once the 2011-12 season is through, this could be just the chance Niko's waited for to penetrate the prominent hockey guilds.
Personally I am a Hovinen fan. So if the Philadelphia Flyers do decide to hang on to Sergei Bobrovsky one last season, I firmly believe his starting chance with the Adirondack Phantoms should be enacted. There he could work on using his size further to his advantage while up against more able adversaries.
And prior to the 2012-13 season's trade deadline, if the Flyers find themselves in need to improve via trade and it involves Bobrovsky, we'd have a better grip on how ready Niko Hovinen is and know whether to call him up from Glens Falls or not.
It's a win-win.
Check out The Pack on Facebook!
You can follow Michael DeNicola on Twitter: @MikeyD_OandBP
Send us your feedback to OrangeAndBlackPack@Gmail.com