Going into the NHL draft at the end of June, the Flyers had already come to terms with new starting goalie Ray Emery on a one-year deal. The team was still looking for a top-tier defenseman, a back-up goalie, and other role players at the forward position.
Just prior to draft Friday I wrote my last blog talking about Jay Bouwmeester and how I thought he would be the best option for the Flyers to attempt to acquire as the top-tier d-man. I figured forward Joffrey Lupul would be the cap casuality as would d-man Randy Jones or Matt Carle. Well, we found out as the draft began that I was correct on only two of the pre-draft predictions. Those two were Joffrey Lupul and the fact that the Flyers would trade out of the first round. Paul Holmgren shocked almost everyone in Flyerdom with a blockbuster trade that sent Joffrey Lupul, top prospect Luca Sbisa, 2009 1st round pick, 2010 first round pick, and a conditional 3rd round pick to the Anaheim Ducks for superstar defenseman Chris Pronger and minor league Ryan Dingle.
Many fans of the Orange and Black feel the Flyers gave up too much for the 34-year-old Pronger. I tend to agree with Paul Holmgren in that you have to give up something to get something. Chris Pronger is the ultimate warrior. Almost everyone that disliked this trade will change their minds the first time Malkin, Crosby or Ovechkin cut through the crease and meet Mr. Pronger. Pronger also steps up his game in the playoffs. In 2005-06 with the Oilers, Pronger led an underdog Edmonton team to the Cup Finals only to lose to the Canes in seven games. The following year he went to Anaheim where he helped lead the Ducks to a Stanley Cup championship. Even this past season in Anaheim, the Ducks barely squeaked into the playoffs as the 8th seed, but upset the President's Trophy winner San Jose Sharks in the first round. Then they took the defending champion Red Wings to the seventh game. Through all of that Pronger was one of the major players for the Ducks. He will be loved in Philadelphia, even if it is only for one season.
With Pronger now a Flyer, the defense is now set, unless Homer decides to dump salary by getting rid of Matt Carle or Randy Jones. I do not really think that is necessary right now, but if something comes along, who knows what could happen. As it stands now, the defense looks like this: Timmonen, Pronger, Coburn, Parent, Carle and Jones. If those six players are used correctly, I do not see many weaknesses.
When July 1 rolled around last week, it started the free agent period in the NHL. The Flyers wasted little time setting up the goaltending tandem for next season with the signing of former Flyer Brian Boucher. Boucher is a different goalie than Flyers fans remember. He's older, wiser, and was the backup for the best team in the NHL, the Sharks, last season. He played a significant role in that as well putting up solid numbers in San Jose. I am very confident with Boosh backing up Ray Emery.
Many fans wanted Mike Knuble to be resigned. Unfortunatley because of the salary cap, the Flyers were not able to do it. Knuble will take his 30 goals down south to Washington and play on the powerplay for the next two seasons with Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Nick Backstrom. He should continue to score for the Caps. The Flyers responded by bringing in another locker room leader by the name of Ian Laperriere. When I first heard the signing I was a bit annoyed with bringing in another fighter. Then doing some reading, I learned just how valuable of a player Laperriere is. He does not just fight. He is a leader, and like Pronger, a warrior on the ice for your team. I remember being at the game last season when he chased Scott Hartnell of the Flyers around the ice until he fought him. It was because Hartnell was running a couple Avalanche players. Laperriere came to their defense. Flyer fans will love him as well.
So within the last month, the Flyers got two new goaltenders, a top-tier defenseman, and one role player. They did lose about 50 goals of production from Lupul and Knuble, but that is ok because of two reasons. Adding Pronger's offensive upside, a healthy Danny Briere, and an emerging star in Giroux, that should make up most of the lost goals. The other reason is the amount of goals the Flyers should give up this season. A revamped defensive group and new goalies will, in my opinion, lower the goals against of this team by a large amount. The numbers will end up evening out. This Flyers club, on paper and healthy, is better than last season's team.
The upcoming week will be a big one for Flyers top prospect James VanReimsdyk. The Flyers begin rookie camp this week. In my opinion, this is the first step JVR has to take to show the Flyers brass he is ready to make the jump to the NHL. If he shows he can step in, it would save the Flyers more cap room since they will not have to go out and sign another winger. He will not make the roster this week, but with a poor showing, he can certainly kill his chances.
Rookie camp runs this Monday through next Monday at the SkateZone in South Jersey. Thursday the group will head to Stone Harbor for the annual Trial on the Isle where the players will participate in a mini triatholon and charity softball game.
I will be heading over to the SkateZone Friday morning to watch some of the on-ice practice. I will be sure to write up another blog shortly after talking about some of the Flyers top prospects. I will be sure to look out for JVR, top defensmen Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall, and also local kid Rocco Carzo. Carzo was an eighth grader practicing with my varsity hockey team at Cardinal O'Hara during my senior year. He starred for O'Hara in high school before going out and playing in the USHL.