With Paul Holmgren as the architect, the Flyers reached the Stanley Cup Finals this past season. So there’s no arguing with the general manager’s abilities.
Thursday was a strange, dizzying day in Flyerdom.
The Flyers upgraded their defense considerably and got more physical with the signing of Jody Shelley, but they failed to land a goalie _ basically conceding that Michael Leighton would be their No. 1 _ and, from here, they took a small step backward on offense.
Are they better than the team that lost to Chicago in six Finals games?
By adding promising Andrej Meszaros and veteran Sean O’Donnell to an already top-flight defense, the Flyers have one of the deepest, biggest and best blue lines in the NHL.
You can argue that the Flyers needed more help on offense _ specifically, at right wing _ than on defense.
You can argue that the Flyers would have been fine with O’Donnell _ who, at 38, was still effective last season, averaging nearly 19 minutes a game and registering a plus-14 rating for Los Angeles _ and Oskars Bartulis as the third defensive pairing. They could have used the money they will pay Meszaros (a four-year deal for $4 million per season) on a right wing like Colby Armstrong. Armstrong, a hard-nosed sort who scored 15 goals for Atlanta last season, signed a three-year free-agent deal with Toronto for $3 million per season.
Right wing was an albatross for the Flyers last season as they never did replace the combined 52 goals scored the previous season by Mike Knuble and Joffrey Lupul.
And with the addition of Shelley (two goals last season), it appears the Flyers will not re-sign feisty right winger Arron Asham (10 goals), whose game rose in the playoffs.
Perhaps Holmgren, who in a few years has molded the Flyers from worst-in-the-NHL to Stanley Cup finalist, has another move up his sleeve for a right winger. If not, defense will be the team’s calling card in 2010-11.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but one wonders if the correct needs were addressed.
The Flyers have just $577,738 of cap space and still must sign restricted free agents Dan Carcillo and Darroll Powe. The cap space will jump to about $1.1 million with the expected departure of Riley Cote.
The Flyers have the lowest amount of available cap space in the league, according to capgeek.com. But Chicago is in much worse shape; the Blackhawks have about $3.6 of cap space but only have 14 players under contract. The Flyers have signed 21 players.
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