Over the weekend, Courier-Post beat writer Chuck Gormley got his second major interview of the offseason, this time with Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren. A lot of the article surrounded the possibility of acquiring a goalie, and what that would take. But Holmgren did give clues as to what he wants the 2011-12 Flyers to look like.
First, Holmgren said that he will make qualifying offers to restricted free agents Dan Carcillo, Darroll Powe, and Andreas Nodl. While Powe and Nodl receiving contracts shouldn't be a surprise, seeing Holmgren say he wants Carcillo back is a mild surprise. Thanks to CapGeek, we're able to calculate what those qualifying offers will be. While Powe and Nodl see their qualifying offers come in at less than a $765,000 cap hit, Carcillo would maintain a $1,075,000 cap hit. Obviously, these are just qualifying offers, not long-term contracts. But with much cheaper options for Carcillo's role in the organization - including Zac Rinaldo and Tom Sestito - this is surprising.
Second, Gormley writes that Ville Leino is seeking a $3.5 million contract while the Flyers want it around $2.5 million. After rumors that Leino was offered $3 million, and turned it down, this sounds reasonable. But why would Leino take $2.5 million now, after refusing $3 million earlier?
Where does that leave the Flyers? With those three forwards on their qualifying offers and Leino at a compromise of $3 million, the Flyers need a defenseman and a goalie with negative-$570k in cap space. It is for this reason that Gormley floats the idea of Matt Read - undrafted forward out of Bemidji State signed to a one-way, $900k entry level contract last spring - replacing Leino. He also floats the idea of trading Matt Carle.
But trading Matt Carle to afford Ville Leino doesn't make much sense. Last year, the Flyers went out and acquired Andrej Meszaros to provide depth for a top-heavy, and aging, defense. Part of that was so that the club could succeed in front of sub-par goaltending, but when you lose Chris Pronger for over 30 games, that depth proves invaluable. With Kimmo Timonen and Chris Pronger both turning 37 before the end of next year, do the Flyers really want to gamble on their health?
If the team lets Carcillo and Leino walk, instead opting to use Ben Holmstrom and Read, they have $1 million in cap space for a goalie, even before Ian Laperriere is placed on Long-Term Injured Reserve. Did your team just get worse? Sure. But Ville Leino produced like Marian Gaborik, Derek Mackenzie, and Kyle Turris last year. Completely sheltered in the offensive zone, against poor competition, with great teammates, and scoring roughly 2.2 points per sixty minutes of even-strength play.
What did those three players cost last year? Gaborik cost $7.5 million, Mackenzie $600k, and Turris $2.7 million. Paying people to destroy weak competition with easy start positions seems silly. Sure, Gaborik is flashy and will put up points, while Turris was a former #3 overall draft pick. The difference comes in how much those three cost against what a replacement would do in the same situation.
If you put Matt Read against the same third and fourth line competition, with the same first line teammates, while keeping him in the offensive zone nearly 60% of the time (just like Leino), will he score 2.2 points per sixty minutes next year? Most likely not. Maybe he only scores 2.04 like Wojtek Wolski or 1.35 like JP Dumont. But he'll save the Flyers nearly $2 million, which can be spent on goaltending or on keeping their defense in tact.
Alternatively, if the Flyers opt to trade Matt Carle, they'll have a third-pairing of Sean O`Donnell (or someone similar) and Erik Gustafsson. In this situation, they have only given themselves an extra $200k in cap space to go get a goalie. And they would have three of their top-5 defenseman be over 36 years old at the start of the season. The defense would be older and more shallow, in front of an older, "more proven" goalie.
But in either scenario, the Flyers cannot spend to get a big-name, high-priced goalie. If they let Leino walk, they can spend up to $2.1 million. If f they trade Carle, they can spend up to $2.3 million. And that includes putting Ian Laperriere on LTIR while waiving both Matt Walker and Michael Leighton. All this movement on the team, and still not enough cap room to spend that much? It's just not worth it.
So the question the Flyers - or at least Chuck Gormley - are asking themselves is this: Is the drop-off from Ville Leino to Matt Read smaller than the drop-off from Matt Carle to Erik Gustafsson? I think it absolutely is.