From a short-term perspective, it almost seemed like the Philadelphia Flyers pulled the plug on goalie Sergei Bobrovsky during the 2011 playoffs. After emerging as their No. 1 netminder much earlier than most people expected, head coach Peter Laviolette gave the rookie goalie a short leash in the postseason.
Michael Leighton’s training camp surgery probably pushed Bobrovsky into the spotlight sooner than many in the Flyers organization would have liked, but it seems like the front office is excited about his longer-term future. It seems highly likely that they will go after a veteran (or “proven”) goalie through a trade or free agent signing this summer, but they appear to believe that the Russian stopper has a bright light at the end of his developmental tunnel.
Today provided another bit of evidence of that increasing confidence (and also the unpredictable nature of developing goalies). CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio reports that the Flyers allowed goalie Joacim Eriksson’s signing rights expire this week. This might be stunning news to people who follow prospects closely because Eriksson was once considered the top goalie in the team’s farm system.
It seems like three factors contributed to the decision. The first is the notion that Bobrovsky is the leader of the pack when it comes to being the team’s future No. 1 goalie. The second factor is that Eriksson wasn’t receiving many opportunities to develop overseas. The final bit of reasoning is that the Flyers signed former Minnesota Wild prospect Niko Hovinen last month. Panaccio indicates that the team expects the 6-foot-7 Hovinen to make it to North America sooner than Eriksson, so Hovinen essentially replaced Eriksson in the team’s prospect ranks.
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 doesn’t happen, he goes back in the draft and nobody drafted him.
“Then this year he became a hot commodity. He started to come on. That’s just the way it is. When you draft kids at 17, sometimes it works out and sometime it doesn’t.”
At the moment, the Flyers don’t own first or second round picks in the 2011 Entry Draft. Panaccio reports that Eriksson (Philadelphia’s seventh round pick in 2008) is eligible to be drafted again, so there’s always the chance the team will bring him back on board with one of their five choices in this year’s draft.
From the draft to free agency and possible trades along the way, it should be an interesting off-season for the often-aggressive Flyers franchise. We’ll keep you informed about their frequently intriguing decisions.