Goalies likely atop Flyers' wish list going into NHL draft

Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, an All-Star in 2009, lost his starting job and is now likely to be available.
Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, an All-Star in 2009, lost his starting job and is now likely to be available.
Posted: June 25, 2010

LOS ANGELES - For most NHL teams, the entry draft is a way to rebuild and grow a franchise from scratch.

For the Flyers, it has historically been a weekend to trade - not to build.

Without a pick in the first two rounds, the Flyers head into tonight's first round at the Staples Center with a trade about the only thing fans are eagerly awaiting.

The Flyers' first pick doesn't come up until tomorrow late in the third round, at No. 89 overall.

A trade would be more expected than unusual for the Flyers, who have made at least one deal during the course of every draft since 2000.

Last year, the Flyers traded their first-round pick in this year's draft along with Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa and their first-round pick last year to Anaheim for former MVP defenseman Chris Pronger.

The year before that, the Flyers sent the rights to forward R.J. Umberger and a fourth-round pick to Columbus for first- and third-round picks.

This year, the Flyers' focus is on a goaltender.

Before heading into the league's Board of Governors meeting yesterday, general manager Paul Holmgren met with Michael Leighton's agent, Mike Liut, for almost an hour to talk about a possible extension.

Holmgren has said multiple times this offseason that it is "unfair" to view Leighton solely in the dim light of Patrick Kane's strange, Stanley Cup-clinching goal at the Wachovia Center on June 9.

"I think he did a lot of good things for our team, so we're still looking at a lot of different things right now in terms of where we're going to go," Holmgren said in a conference call with reporters earlier in the week. Leighton could be an option after the draft shakes out this weekend.

This weekend, in the immediate future, Holmgren has plenty of avenues to peruse and phone calls to make. He said this week he has "pretty much talked to every team" to gauge interest on various subjects. He said few of those conversations centered on trading up to grab a first-round pick, so that does not seem like the Flyers' top priority.

Instead, Holmgren could be having an in-depth conversation with Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli about former Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas. Rookie Tuukka Rask beat out Thomas, 36, for the Bruins' starting job just a few months after Thomas was lauded as the league's best goaltender.

Thomas, who is aging but doesn't have a lot of wear, as his first season as an NHL starter didn't come until 2006-07, has a higher cap number than most available goaltenders. He has 3 years left at $5 million per season.

With the least amount of cap space in the league, the Bruins are desperate to have Thomas' number off the books - so it won't take much to obtain him.

Keeping his age in mind, Thomas is not the type of goalie the Flyers could build around for a long time. One player who could start both this season and in the future is Los Angeles' Jonathan Bernier, who is only 21.

Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said yesterday there was no way he would trade his starting goaltender, Jonathan Quick, who made the U.S. Olympic team this year at age 22.

Bernier, who is also a restricted free agent, posted a gaudy .936 save percentage and 2.03 goals against average over 57 starts with the Kings' farm team, the AHL's Manchester Monarchs, this past season. He was 3-0-0 with a 1.30 goals-against average in three starts with the Kings this season.

Bernier could command one of the Flyers' top forwards, maybe even Jeff Carter, in return. The Flyers are not keen on trading Carter, who has netted 79 goals over the past two seasons. Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere and Simon Gagne all have no-trade clauses.

The Kings also could be interested in former No. 2 overall pick James van Riemsdyk, 21, who posted 35 points in his rookie season. One thing the Flyers have going for them in the Kings is a partner willing to listen: Lombardi and his assistant GM, Ron Hextall, both spent time under Holmgren in the Flyers' front office before migrating to the Left Coast.

Aside from Leighton, the Flyers also could pursue San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov, St. Louis' Chris Mason, Dallas' Marty Turco or even Nashville's Dan Ellis - all of whom become free agents July 1.

Holmgren declined to comment to the media yesterday. After attending the Board of Governors meeting, which met for the first time since December to unanimously approve a 5-minute major penalty and automatic game misconduct for dangerous blindside hits, Holmgren retreated to his hotel on the beach in Santa Monica.

He said this week he wouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger on a trade he saw fit, saying "you never know what will happen" at the draft.

But last night, all was quiet. No teams had been able to broker a trade on the day before the draft.

Toronto general manager Brian Burke, who is actively shopping defenseman Tomas Kaberle, had the best explanation for the lack of activity.

"The first offers we got were all garbage," Burke said after the 5-hour meeting. "That's the nature of our fraternity. We throw anchors at each other. It's awful. But as you get closer, once the curtain gets lifted up on this thing, once things get going, you start to see their best cards, their best offers.

"But we may not see everyone's best cards until [today]. We may not see them until after July 1, until teams can see where they can plug holes with free agents."

If not until July 1, it will be an awfully quiet weekend in paradise for the Flyers. *

For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers.

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