Friday, June 3, 2011
Posted: 4:19 p.m.
By Tim PanaccioCSNPhilly.com
By most accounts, 21-year-old goalie Joacim Eriksson was the Flyers top prospect in their farm system.
Well, thats no longer the case.
General manager Paul Holmgren confirmed the stunning news on Friday that the organization willingly allowed Erikssons signing rights to expire this week.
Hockeybuzz.com first reported it earlier on Friday.
The Flyers can re-draft Eriksson again later this month in Minnesota. Their first pick in the NHL draft wont come until the third round.
Given Eriksson was the Flyers seventh round choice in 2008 (196th overall), chances are, he wont go much higher if he re-enters this summer.
He didnt play much this year and didnt develop, Holmgren said. Thats just that way it goes sometimes when you draft European players. Its disappointing, but that is the chance you take when you draft them.
You only get two years and they need to develop the way it should be. Thats part of the process sometimes. Is it great? No. Its the nature of the business right now.
Last month, the Flyers signed Finnish beanpole goalie Niko Hovinen hes 6-foot-7 who had been originally drafted by Minnesota in 2006 and was left unsigned.
Holmgren said Hovinens signing directly impacted the decision to allow Eriksson to go unsigned, adding that the Flyers think Hovinen has a developmental edge on Eriksson at this point.
Eriksson played just 17 games for Skelleftea, but was not competing at the highest level in Sweden and was not expected to be NHL-ready for another two years. He was promoted to Elitserien this year, but was not the starter.
That the Flyers gave Hovinen a contract tells you that they think hell be in North America sooner. Still, Eriksson was arguably the Flyers top prospect in what some believe is a shallow wading pool of organizational depth.
What this move also seems to reinforce is that Sergei Bobrovsky is very much the Flyers future No. 1 ahead of every other goalie in the system. At one point last summer, there was strong debate within the organization as to whether Eriksson could upstage Bobrovsky.
As everyone knows, Bob made the Flyers roster out of training camp.
Holmgren said it made no sense to sign Eriksson if they had no place to play him right now. He was not expected to replace either Johan Backlund or Brian Stewart with the AHL Phantoms this season, either.
Your choice is you sign the guy, give him money and hope he develops, Holmgren said. Or you just wait. See what happens if they become free agents. Minnesota drafts Hovinen it doesnt happen, he goes back in the draft and nobody drafted him.
Then this year he became a hot commodity. He started to come on. Thats just the way it is. When you draft kids at 17, sometimes it works out and sometime it doesnt.
At the moment, the Flyers have just five picks in this months draft.
They are expected to either deal for an established goalie at the draft or, a less likely option, sign a goalie out of free agency.
Most observers think the Flyers will make a trade at the draft for proven starter, who can buy some time for Bobrovsky to develop down the road.
Also going unsigned was defenseman Simon Bertilsson, a 2009 third-round pick. His case was a bit different, as Bertilsson has been plagued by both shoulder and knee injuries since being drafted and that appears to have impeded his development.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at firstname.lastname@example.org
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