With Bryzgalov Out of the Picture, What’s Next for Flyers in Net?

With Bryzgalov Out of the Picture, What’s Next for Flyers in Net?

The Flyers need a goaltender. I know that comes as shocking news at any given point in time – today especially – but it’s true.

Ilya Bryzgalov is gone, much to the delight of many in Philadelphia. That leaves only Steve Mason on the current roster however, and little else within the organization – unless the front office decided to rush 19-year-old Anthony Stolarz to the NHL, which would seem outside the realm of possibility.

It’s apparent the Flyers will either dip into free agency or make a trade to fill the void. The million-dollar question is who, or what kind of player, will they target? Paul Holmgren didn’t have the pieces to land Jonathan Bernier from the Kings – a young netminder who could have nailed down the position for years to come – so what’s Plan B?

Here are some of the proposed options. What route do you think the front office to take?

Roberto Luongo

Holmgren was quick to dismiss Luongo as a potential replacement at the press conference to announce Bryz’s departure, but the Flyers’ GM only ruled out a trade. If Vancouver amnesties Luongo, Homer conceded that might change things. The perception around the league is a buyout is likely.

Still, Luongo to Philly will be far from a done deal even when that happens. Bill Meltzer of HockeyBuzz thinks the 34 year old would be one of the more coveted options on the market, commanding as much as three-to-four years around $4 million per – more than Niklas Backstrom just re-signed for in Minnesota. That could price the Flyers out of the market seeing as they are still up against the salary cap.

Tim Thomas

As easily as Homer shutdown Luongo noise, he seemed to welcome the idea of 39-year-old Tim Thomas. It’s no secret Flyers chairman Ed Snider is a fan of the two-time Vezina Trophy winner, citing Thomas' performance in Boston’s 2011 Stanley Cup run as a reason for signing Bryzgalov back in 2011.

"It had to be done," Snider told the Daily News, just after arriving here for tonight's NHL Awards show at The Palms Casino and Resort. "I was part of making it happen. It was hard to sit there and watch the Stanley Cup final, knowing what [Tim] Thomas was doing for Boston."

Now an unrestricted free agent, there have been rumors Thomas could be suiting up in Orange & Black for years. The trouble is Thomas just spent last season out of hockey, so while his run with the Bruins culminated in a fourth-consecutive All-Star selection, it’s anybody’s guess what the Flyers would be getting. It might be worth seeing what’s left in the tank – using Mason as a fallback – if it’s only going to be a one-year arrangement.

Evgeni Nabokov/Jose Theodore

As long as we’re looking at aging veterans who the Flyers could attempt to squeeze another year or two out of, Nabokov and Theodore should be on the list. Both can be had in free agency for mid-to-lower-level salaries, which would provide the front office some flexibility, while neither would necessarily push Mason into the shadows.

Tim Panaccio mentions Theodore as one of his “obvious” free agent candidates. He turns 37 in September and is coming off of a down year where he battled injury on a miserable Florida squad, but played well as recently as one season earlier and would come cheap. TSN’s Darren Dreger believes Nabokov will be of some interest as well as the Islanders weigh their options after the soon-to-be 38 year old helped them reach the playoffs for the first time since ’07. The Flyers already failed to agree to terms with Nabokov once in 2010 though, so we’ll see.

Ray Emery

Dreger also mentions Emery as a free agent possibility, as will virtually any report about the Flyers and goaltenders. Emery, 31 in September, is coming off of arguably his best season in the NHL, posting a 17-1-0 record with a .922 SV% and 1.94 GAA. He also has a familiarity with the organization having already played for Philly in 2009-10.

The man known as Razor is apparently as recovered as one can be from avascular necrosis, the disease that nearly ended his career while he was a Flyer. Apparently that’s not what the club should be concerned about. What they should be concerned about is to what extent the numbers Emery produced in 2013 were a product of playing for the Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks, a team that racked up only seven losses all regular season. Still a solid option to split ice time with Mason presuming there isn’t a bidding war for his services.

Brian Boucher/Michael Leighton

As long as we’re talking retreads…

Bahaha just kidding.

Mike Smith

It sounds like the top free agent goalie on the market this summer could be staying put. The Coyotes are described as “comfortable” in ongoing negotiations with Smith, so there’s a good chance the 31 year old won’t be available come July 5.

Not sure how much interest the Flyers would have anyway. Holmgren has to be hesitant to sign another netminder from Phoenix, especially for big dollars and years again. Smith also came back down to earth a bit this year after a stellar campaign in 2011-12. It’s just hard to envision the Flyers going down the path of another big commitment to a 30-plus goaltender this summer – or maybe I just don’t want to.

Ryan Miller

Of all the names on this list, Miller’s might be the most exciting – although perhaps one of the most unlikely as well. The 2010 Vezina Trophy winner continues to pile up decent albeit not spectacular numbers on a consistent basis with a fairly ordinary club in Buffalo, and could benefit greatly from a change of scenery.

A change of scenery the Sabres may be willing to grant. Some housecleaning could be in the works up north, and the time is now to get something back for Miller, who turns 33 in July and has one year remaining on his contract. The $6.25 million cap hit might be a bit hard for the Flyers to swallow, and it’s already assumed they would ask for Sean Couturier, so don’t count on this coming to fruition. That said, Miller would look great in Orange & Black, even if his addition to the roster does move Mason into a pure backup role.

Jonas Hiller

This is an idea currently being floated by Panotch, and it is intriguing. One of his earlier reports indicated the Flyers were again talking to the Anaheim Ducks about a swap involving winger Bobby Ryan. The rumor initially suggested Ryan would come to Philly in exchange for Braydon Coburn and the 11th overall pick in Sunday’s draft. Could Hiller jump into the equation?

From the Ducks’ standpoint, almost certainly yes. Viktor Fasth stepped up for Anaheim in a big way last season, perhaps making Hiller expendable. It’s all about whether or not the Flyers are willing to give up their top pick in what is said to be a deep draft.

I hope not, but the 31-year-old Hiller wouldn’t be a terrible short-term solution. He has one year remaining on his current deal at $4.5 million, and is coming off of another decent season – 15-6-4, 2.36, .913. Such a move would seem to relegate Mason to backup as well.

Sixers frustrate Raptors, finding 'defensive identity'

Sixers frustrate Raptors, finding 'defensive identity'

The Toronto Raptors were the latest victims of the red-hot Sixers on Wednesday.

The Sixers held the highest scoring team in the Eastern Conference to more than 20 points below their average in a 94-89 win at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).

The visiting Raptors were visibly and vocally frustrated after the game.

"They're a good team, they've been playing well, no disrespect to them, but we missed a lot of wide-open shots," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "Those are shots we normally make but we knew we had our hands full coming in here. We knew it was gonna be a grind-it-out game."

Blaming it on bad luck and missing "wide open shots" seems to be oversimplifying it just a tad. Toronto was held to 39.5 percent from the field and went just 6 of 24 from three.

A big factor in slowing down the Raptors is containing the dangerous backcourt duo of DeMar DeRozan and Villanova product Kyle Lowry. DeRozan finished with 25 points, below his average of 28.2, which was in the top five in the league coming in.

Lowry was even more frustrated by the Sixers' swarming defense. He finished with 24 points but on just 5 of 13 from the field. He also committed five turnovers, picked up a technical foul and fouled out in the final seconds. When asked what the Sixers did to slow him down, Lowry wasn't buying into the hype.

"I think we got everything we wanted," Lowry said. "We got every shot we wanted. We just didn't convert it.

"They won the game. Give them credit. They played with passion and energy. That's one thing they got us on tonight."

You don't win seven out of nine games and take down the second-best team in the conference with sheer will. The Sixers have become a strong team on the defensive end of the floor.

They're currently 10th in the NBA in defensive rating. A big part of that has been the emergence of Joel Embiid as an elite rim protector. For as great as "The Process" has been offensively, his largest impact is really on the defensive end.

He wasn't the only rookie engaged on defense Wednesday night. Dario Saric came through with consecutive blocks of Norman Powell and Jared Sullinger in the early fourth quarter, denying the Raptors a chance to cut into the Sixers' lead (see video).

"Dario never blocks shots and he had two in a row," Embiid said. "Especially at the rim like that, blocking Sullinger, that’s the type of play we need. The crowd obviously got into. I’m just glad he’s here with us like he promised he was going to be after two years."

Taking the torch from Saric, Embiid's block on a Lowry drive with 22.9 seconds left sealed arguably the Sixers' biggest win of the season, moments after Covington rejected a Lowry three (see video).

"One thing I care about is defense," Embiid said. "Everybody around me has to follow my lead because I am the last line of defense. One thing I care about in my career is winning Defensive Player of the Year. These guys know they can go for steals, and make stops, since I am the last guy there to block the shot.

"I don’t think it’s a fluke. We’re competing, playing great defense, winning games, and we found what we’re looking for. Everybody was trying to find themselves, and we all still have a lot to learn. We have some great players that are coming together."

Prior to the game, Casey had some lofty praise for the rookie big man. He compared Embiid to a former Rookie of the Year and 2016 inductee into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Shaquille O'Neal.

He walked away from this game even more impressed.

"He's a very talented player," Casey said of Embiid after the game. "He made a difference at the rim. Challenging shots. Offensively, he's different because if you go out on him too quick, he's gonna drive by your big. His ability to attack the rim and shoot the three, his post play. And again, he's becoming a better passer so he's gonna be a handful. We know that."

Like any season, there are going to be ups and downs. For the Sixers it's been mostly downs for three straight years. This recent run has breathed new life into this franchise and this fan base.

Embiid's ascension into a legitimate superstar has been a huge help. Dario Saric coming from overseas to provide his grit, skill and basketball IQ has been key. T.J. McConnell's promotion to the starting lineup and the additions of veterans like Ersan Ilyasova and Gerald Henderson have steadied the ship.

But as Brett Brown has said many times, the Sixers bread is buttered on the defensive end of the floor.

"I get very excited and proud of our group when they hear me talk so much about defensive identity," Brown said. "You know, who are we? How are you going to build a program? How are you going to grow the program? Words are cheap. I think results are real. And lately, they're buying in and executing our defensive game plan and they're playing with a tremendous spirit and togetherness, they really get into playing defense. That is beyond exciting for me."

Watch: Nik Stauskas sings 10-9-8-76ers song after win over Raptors

Watch: Nik Stauskas sings 10-9-8-76ers song after win over Raptors

The Sixers have been enjoying their anthem quite a bit lately.

After taking down the Raptors on Wednesday night, 94-89, the Sixers have now won seven of their last nine games. That's pretty crazy considering they won just 10 times out of the entire 82-game season in 2015-16.

So the Sixers and their fans are soaking up this victorious stretch — as they should.

Nik Stauskas was especially doing that while heading to the locker room with a win over the Eastern Conference's second-best team. It looks like "Sauce" loves the 10-9-8-76ers jam, played after each victory.

Per CSN's John Clark ...

If you're not familiar with the song, check it out here. It's really catchy and you'll have it stuck in your head following one listen.