NHL Free Agency: Should Philadephia Flyers Have Waited for Tomas Vokoun?

Victor FiloromoCorrespondent IJuly 5, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 23: Tomas Vokoun #29 of the Florida Panthers makes a save against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on March 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeaeted the Panthers 4-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

If patience is a virtue, then I suppose Philadelphia Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren would like to rethink the way part of this off-season played out.

OK, maybe he wouldn't. It's tough to get inside the man's head. But after we learned last Saturday  the Washington Capitals signed goaltender Tomas Vokoun to a one-year, $1.5 million deal, there was certainly some outcry over the deal from certain people within the Flyers' fan base.

Well, count me as one of them. No, I don't think Ilya Bryzgalov is a bad goaltender. I do think that signing a nine year, $51 million deal before free agency begins is a tad bit excessive, though. I think it's more excessive when had Holmgren waited, he could have had a goaltender for about $4.1 million less of a cap hit.

The frustrating thing here is Vokoun said he took the pay cut to have the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup. It's no guarantee he would have come to Philadelphia, but the Flyers certainly have developed a team that has the chance to win the Stanley Cup.

I don't think Holmgren has buyer's remorse, but he may be at least considering what could have been. It's tough to know whether or not Mike Richards and Jeff Carter still would have been moved if the Flyers had tried to sign Vokoun instead of Bryzgalov. The Flyers were interested in changing the culture in the locker room, so we'll have to go ahead and assume that both of them were going to be dealt no matter what.

Putting that aside, I truly think the Flyers have handled the goaltending situation poorly from the start. This is a team that struggled mightily in the playoffs in net, but played so poorly defensively that it was hard to tell what exactly had gone wrong.

I was in favor of the deals that sent Carter to Columbus and Richards to Los Angeles. Ditto for the move that sent the underwhelming Kris Versteeg to Florida, too. However, the Flyers were so poor defensively in the playoffs that it was truly hard to blame the net minders for everything.

I really do think the Flyers should have tried to upgrade in goal in the short term, but essentially kicking 22-year-old Russian goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to the curb in favor of Bryzgalov seemed like a knee-jerk reaction from Holmgren and maybe more so from team owner Ed Snider.

Snider said he wanted a goaltender and he got one. I guess he was willing to open up the checkbook for Bryzgalov, but the Flyers would have been just fine with Vokoun on a one-year or two-year deal.

If anything, this looks like a missed opportunity for the Flyers. Vokoun had a .922 save percentage last season, while Bryzgalov had a .921 save percentage. Vokoun had six shutouts to Bryzgalov's seven. If anything, they were the most comparable net minders on the market this off-season.

One general manager jumped the gun and another was patient. Washington's George McPhee, affectionately known as GMGM, seems to have won the battle this off-season in the goaltending market. This is not to say the Flyers should not have pursued Bryzgalov. But maybe they should have been more patient.

They certainly should have given Bobrovsky more of a chance. Instead of actually trying to develop a goaltender for the first time in eons, the Flyers went the route of free agency again. When will they actually try to draft a goalie or sign a young goalie and allow him to develop? Apparently, the answer will have to wait another few years.

If the Flyers win a Stanley Cup and Bryzgalov helps them to win it, maybe we will forget all of this. However, patience would have been appreciated in the interim. The Flyers should have tried harder to go after the short-term solution in Vokoun while trying to develop Bobrovsky.

Instead, the knee-jerk reaction seems to have, for the moment, caught the Flyers up in a bit of a salary cap nightmare.

The Flyers can only hope Bryzgalov works out. But that being said, maybe they should have been a little more committed to Bobrovsky instead of trying to solve every single little problem in one off-season.