Two former faces of the Flyers have today find themselves teammates again. After Simon Gagne was firmly asked to waive his no-trade clause last off-season, he was dealt to Tampa Bay, where he spent 2010-2011. This off-season, with a year left before his own no-trade clause kicked in, Mike Richards was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings. Now, Flyers nostalgists have another reason adopt LA as their Western Conference team this season. Already dubbed Flyers West, the Kings added another former Broad Streeter today, signing Gagne to a 2-year, $7 million deal.
I'm still a fan of both players and felt kinda bad for each in how their tenures in Philly ended, so I wouldn't mind seeing them succeed together in another uniform. Just as long as they don't win a Cup before the Flyers…
CAPS SIGN VOKOUN FOR A SONG
Elsewhere, Tomas Vokoun, considered by many to be the second best free agent goalie on this summer's market (others say he was the best), signed for a deal scant in dollars and years. The 35-year-old netminder was inked by the Washington Capitals for just 1 year at $1.5 million.
What the what?
Back here in Philly, there'll no doubt be questions as to whether the Flyers might have been better off keeping their core team intact, going with Vokoun in a short-term, cost-effective deal, and letting Sergei Bobrovsky work his way up to being a starter down the road. At the very least, it re-opens the question as to whether the Flyers overpaid for Ilya Bryzgalov, even if he was their choice among this year's crop.
It sounds possible enough on the surface, but perhaps above all else, the Flyers really wanted the sea change we've witnessed this summer, including a long-term answer in net. If so, they have likely achieved those goals. The sum total of their moves seem to indicate a desire to turn over the roster and strengthen a few key areas that they considered weaknesses, all while adding some youth. Their activity in free agency also showed some market awareness, particularly their nabbing Jaromir Jagr as a cheaper, lower-risk replacement for Ville Leino, who wanted a deal they had no business touching.
But did they know Vokoun would be had for so little? I'm not sure anyone saw that one coming, not at that rate. I certainly don't remember anyone suggesting that Vokoun could be had for a lower cap hit than either Bobrovsky or Michael Leighton.
Nice nab by the Caps here, who also pulled in a first and second when they dealt goalie Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche. Considering the Avalanche were the second worst team in the league last season, that first-round pick could likely be a high one. While the Flyers attacked the market before it opened, targeting and acquiring the goalie of their choice, the Caps waited it out—a riskier proposition but one they were comfortable with, having Michal Neuvirth already in the fold. Despite Bryzgalov setting the market at a high number with a lot of years, there wasn't much demand for the next guy on the list.
Personally, there's been so much change that I think it's clear the Flyers' brass wanted more than just tweaks this season. In retrospect, that may have involved overpaying for their top target in a goalie market that wasn't very competitive, nor crowded with top talent. At the time, however, many thought the deal was reasonable enough and not a crippling cap hit for a top goalie in free agency. The long duration was needed to keep the total manageable on an annual basis. After the goalie market shook out? Not quite as reasonable.
These moves don't occur in a vacuum though. A team needs to start somewhere, prioritizing its top needs and targeting solutions. Waiting out the market can have its benefits, but it obviously brings the risk of missing out on your targets. Despite there being less of a market for goalies this summer, the raising of the salary cap floor could have meant that a team would throw their delta money at a guy like Vokoun. The Caps felt comfortable enough with what they had to wait and see, and they got a nice deal with a talented goalie as a result. For the Flyers, the mandate to improve in net came straight from the top. There would be no waiting.
I'm not going to spend too much time second-guessing it at this point (and not just because my vacation started today). With Vokoun just down 95 in another Eastern Conference powerhouse, we'll have every opportunity to evaluate Bryzgalov vs. Vokoun in a relatively head-to-head fashion, with obvious caveats.
Right now I'm just eager to see the new team on the ice and find out if the front office had the right overall idea, and got the right players to execute it. More than a week after the chips started flying, I still haven't fully wrapped my head around this off-season.
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