As if the Flyers and Russian goaltenders haven’t been in the news enough, the latest out of Philadelphia combines the two topics into one big, tantalizing story. The Flyers are reportedly shopping Sergei Bobrovsky despite the rookie’s impressive 28-15-8 record. Yes, you heard that correctly. Despite having a .915 save percentage, 2.59 goals against average, and being a Calder Trophy candidate for the first half of the season, the 22-year-old is on the trade market.
In November, he was supposed to finally be the answer to the Flyers’ two decade long goaltender search. Even with veterans Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton on the roster, Bobrovsky took his opportunity and made the Flyers keep him on the roster with his stellar play between the pipes. Now it looks like he’s the goaltender left standing when the music has stopped.
Philadelphia Inquirer beat reporter Frank Seravalli has the scoop:
According to sources, the Flyers began to shop Bobrovsky – the man they called “the goaltender of the future” as recently as May – to all suitors once they struck a 9-year deal with Ilya Bryzgalov on June 23.
“The Flyers, though, couldn’t get the exact asking price they hoped for when shopping Bobrovsky’s services on the open market. Varlamov, a fellow Russian only 5 months older than Bobrovsky, netted Washington a first- and second-round pick in a July 1 trade.
It’s plain to see that Bobrovsky – without the first-round pedigree and nearly 3 full years’ worth of experience in North America – would not garner as much as Varlamov on the market. The Flyers would have pulled the trigger at that price.”
There are three reasons why Bobrovsky is on the trading block:
1. Ilya Bryzgalov: When the team trades away two of their cornerstone centers to make room for a 9-year, $51 million contract, you know he’s the man for the future. When the organization called Bobrovsky “the goaltender of the future,” they weren’t talking about the 2020-21 season. They can either let him rot as the back-up, let him dominate the AHL in Adirondack (he’d have to clear waivers), or trade him while his value is still relatively high. Even though he’s only 22-years-old, he’s already proven that he can play in the NHL. With some seasoning and experience, he could be a very good goaltender for another team. At least that’s what the Flyers will be telling potential suitors.
2. Money: Sooner or later it always comes back to money. Bobrovsky scored a 3-year entry-level deal when he was playing with Novokuznetsk Metallurg in the KHL. His impressive play earned him a deal worth $1.75 million annually—a number that now poses problems for the Flyers and their salary cap. Only Antero Niittymaki of the San Jose Sharks is a higher paid back-up ($2 million cap hit). It’s interesting: his deal is great for the Flyers if he’s their starter, yet it’s tremendous overpayment if he’s the back-up. Teams that are annually up against the cap don’t have the luxury of overpaying back-up goaltenders.
3. Waivers: Perhaps more problematic than his salary is that he’d have to clear waivers if the Flyers wanted to send him down to Adirondack next season. Even though he never played a game in the AHL last season, the Flyers had the option of sending him down to Adirondack if they so desired without having to worry about another team snatching him up.
The Flyers have five goaltenders under contract for next season and only four spots on the NHL/AHL teams. Whoever plays behind Bryzgalov at the NHL level can pretty much expect to sit on the bench for at least 60 games next season—which means it’s not the ideal situation for a developing goaltender. Bryzgalov has the starting job locked up, Jason Bacashihua just signed a one-year deal, Michael Leighton is under contract for another season, and Johan Backlund still has a year left before he becomes a free agent. The Flyers’ organization has high hopes for Backlund and he’s almost $1 million cheaper in regards to the salary cap.
Let’s throw this out to the readers. What would you do if you were Flyers GM Paul Holmgren? Would you hold onto the young goaltender as an expensive insurance policy against Bryzgalov? Would you bury him in the AHL? Or would you trade him for assets that you could fit under the cap?
Let’s hear what you have…