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.

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dougie Hamilton scored 1:09 into overtime, Chad Johnson stopped 27 shots and the Calgary Flames beat the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on Thursday night.

Mark Giordano scored for the Flames in a chippy game filled with big hits and multiple fights.

Hamilton capped a fast-paced overtime by deking Arizona's Mike Smith with a forehand before flipping in a backhander. Calgary has won five straight and eight of 11 (8-2-1).

Max Domi scored before leaving with an upper-body injury and Smith stopped 33 shots for the Coyotes, who have lost six straight and 11 of 14 (3-7-4).

Arizona captain Shane Doan became Arizona's all-time assist leader and is the fifth player in NHL history to own his team's records for games played, goals, assists, points, game-winning goals and power-play goals (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins roll over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby got his 18th goal and added an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Florida Panthers 5-1 on Thursday night.

Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Carl Hagelin also scored for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray made 28 saves.

The Penguins have won four straight and five of their past six.

Jaromir Jagr scored his 755th career goal, and Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers. Luongo allowed three goals on Pittsburgh's first five shots.

Panthers coach Tom Rowe, who replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 28, made his home debut. The Panthers have lost five of six under Rowe, but managed a point in three of those losses (see full recap).

Price loses cool as Habs beat Devils
MONTREAL -- Carey Price lost his temper after being bumped twice in his crease and made 19 saves to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice and Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen and Max Pacioretty also had goals for the Canadiens in their return from a five-game trip.

Adam Henrique scored a goal and set up one by Taylor Hall for New Jersey, which ended a two-game winning streak.

Montreal had a season-high 49 shots on Cory Schneider.

A wild first period included three goals, four goal reviews and Price's meltdown (see full recap).