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Do Flyers' off-season moves make them Stanley Cup contenders?

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The Philadelphia Flyers are in a rare spot as NHL free agency began last week. Despite their Stanley Cup drought now standing at 38 years, the team uncharacteristically failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Overall, it a season the proud organization would like to forget.

 

For the Flyers, it started with the buyouts of Danny Briere and Ilya Bryzgalov in the wake of acquiring defenseman Mark Streit from the Islanders. Although both buyouts were expected and Briere will eventually end up as one of the all-time most beloved Flyers, the same cannot be said for Bryzgalov. Although everybody was expecting his buyout, this whole process reiterated the fact that the Bryzgalov signing was a tremendous blunder to begin with. For the organization to shell out that much money on such a space case was mind boggling, and you can’t help but feel they should’ve done more homework on Bryz before opening up their checkbooks the way they did.Photo: BuzzonBroad.com

 

What followed were a series of moves made by the orange and black over the last few days as NHL free agency beckoned. Here they are:

 

 

Vincent Lecavalier-

 

Lecavalier apparently took less money to go to the Flyers because he thinks he can help the team win and he fits well in Peter Laviolette’s system. Lecavalier is a four-time All-Star and a Stanley Cup champion and on paper this looks good. With the newly extended Claude Giroux manning the front line center sport for years to come, Lecavalier will be relegated to the second line. He might have some decent years left in him and he’s a mad dog on faceoffs, but his inconsistency the last few seasons in a concern. Will Lecavalier show up night after night? Which one will the Flyers get? Time will tell.

  

 

Mark Streit-

 

Although this deal was made several weeks back, it became official last week. As stated in my previous piece, the Flyers overpaid for Streit, who will turn 36 during the season. Streit is going to collect $21 million over four years, which is a lot for a player on the downside of his career. He’s not a number one defenseman, and the Flyers’ blue line was disastrous last season. Until this team brings in another Chris Pronger-like presence, this will always be an issue for the team. The addition of draft pick Samuel Morin could be a good start, but he’s still a teenager and won't be ready for several years down the road.

  

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Ray Emery-

 

This is Emery’s second go-round with the orange and black.  Despite having burned his share of bridges in the NHL and beyond, the Flyers never had a problem with Emery during his injury-shortened 2009-2010 season and had no issue bringing him back. Emery went 17-1 for the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks but wasn’t in net during the playoffs. To have that record in the Western Conference is pretty impressive, but the Flyers’ defenders are clearly not the Blackhawks’ defenders. Emery will share duties with Steve Mason, but you will probably have a better idea who will be the netminder by midseason.

  

Bottom line:

 

Overall, none of these moves are horrible moves by the Flyers. On paper, they are a better team than last year. They somewhat improve their defense by adding Streit, a veteran presence like Lecavalier on their second line can help more than hurt, and any drama that Emery could bring most likely pales in comparison to the circus Bryzgalov brought to town.

 

In saying that, it seems that these are the kind of moves a team makes to get over the hump if they’re competing for a Stanley Cup. But the question here is a simple one: ARE the Flyers competing for a Stanley Cup? Or do they have a bigger mountain to hurdle here? Like actually making the playoffs? Maybe it’s just me, but that’s an issue when you don’t even make the playoffs let alone the conference finals. Out of the four major Philly sports teams, the Flyers are the only one that never seems to be in a rebuilding mode. Even after their worst season in team history back in ‘07, they still managed to make the conference finals a year later, so what do I know? The obvious answer to all this is that Paul Holmgren and the Flyers’ brass think this team can compete.

 

Time will tell if they do.


 

 

 

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Photo: Buzzonbroad.com