End Of Lockout Implications For The Philadelphia Flyers
It certainly came down to the wire, but the NHL and the NHLPA were finally able to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement. The league shut its doors for 113 days as the two parties argued over finances. The owners threatened to cancel the season, while the players fought fire with fire, threatening to deunionize, almost turning the lockout into a legal battle. But happier days are ahead, as they were able to hammer out the final details of a rumored 10 year CBA on January 6th.
For the Philadelphia Flyers, the ending of the lockout in January rather than earlier in the calendar year has both positive and negative implications.
Philadelphia did not come out of the injury department completely unscathed, as a couple of players are rehabbing injuries suffered while playing overseas. Although the cause and severity is unknown, Matt Read suffered a back injury according to Sodertalje SK, the Swedish team he played with. Read was expected to return to the team after finishing rehab in mid-January, but the end of the lockout will keep him in Philly. His health will certainly be something to keep an eye on. While playing for Eisbaren Berlin in Germany, Danny Briere sustained a bone bruise to his wrist after being slashed, and it was reported that it would take him two-three weeks to recover. The injury occurred on December 28th, and the recovery timetable coincides with the rumored start of the season. Back in his home country of Russia, starting netminder Ilya Bryzgalov sustained an “upper body injury”, according to his team CSKA Moscow. Their press release translated through Google Translate said this:
Ilya Bryzgalov, who missed the game with the “Dynamo” (Moscow) because of an injury of the upper half of the body, went overseas. The main purpose of his visit – a consultation with the North American experts. We emphasize that the medical staff CSKA enjoyed the absolute confidence of the reason for the forced departure of goalkeeper is that he has turned to overseas doctors with the same injury before and was a successful therapy.
The lack of information given makes it hard to figure out the severity of the injury, but the loss of Bryzgalov would be quite big. The Flyers traded backup Sergei Bobrovsky during the offseason, and re-signed Michael Leighton to a one year, one way deal after he spent last year with the Adirondack Phantoms. Leighton makes for a decent backup, but being forced to play him for an elongated. He has a tendency to give up very soft goals, and has lapses in concentration. Philadelphia will certainly hope that Bryzgalov’s injury is just minor, and they can ride him into the playoffs. Lastly, Flyers star Claude Giroux suffered a neck injury while also spending time with Eisbaren Berlin, but in an interview with TSN January 5th Giroux said he has recovered from his injury. It goes without saying that all of these guys play major roles on the team, and they’ll be needed to play at a high level for however long the season is.
However, luckily for Philadelphia, they’ll be as close to full strength as possible on defense to start the year. Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros tore his right Achilles tendon in early August while working out in preparation for the NHL season. With an injury of that severity, the Flyers would have lost him for at least the first few months of the season, and the season in its entirety seemed in doubt. Yet with the extra time off and the speed in which he has healed, Meszaros has been skating in full pads since November and should be near 100% when the league announces the season opener. The time frame has certainly benefited the Flyers, as they’ll look for him to run the power play from the point this season. Andreas Lilja, currently the 7th Defenseman on the roster, as also fully healed from hip surgery.
While the Flyers may be fully healthy on the blue line now, they could still use an extra addition. After failing to pry Shea Weber from the Nashville Predators, the Flyers have yet to find a number one Defenseman to fill the hole left by Chris Pronger. Although details of the new CBA have yet to be released, there will still be a period of time to sign players, including restricted free agents. Two players that could interest the Flyers are budding star defensemen P.K. Subban and Michael Del Zotto. After impressive seasons, both are inclined for a big pay raise. Subban, an incredibly physical player put up 36 points in 81 games, and spent 119 minutes in the “sin bin”. Although Philadelphia showed interest in Subban before the lockout began, the Montreal Canadiens would likely match any offer sheet the Flyers would offer the 23 year old. A more likely name would be Del Zotto of the division rival New York Rangers. Del Zotto scored 10 goals and added 31 assists, and delivered 156 hits in 77 games. As much as New York would love to keep him, their financial situation may prevent them from doing so. The Rangers already have $51.8 million committed to 16 players in 2013-14, before re-signing Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh, and of course Del Zotto. With $3.5 million in cap space (according to CapGeek.com) before adding Pronger’s LTIR relief, Philadelphia could submit an offer that would force New York to let him go. It’d have to be a somewhat inflated offer, but the potential Del Zotto has shown would make it well worth it.
As always, the 2013 season is expected to be another exciting year in Philadelphia, despite the abbreviated season. With the possibility of another addition at Defenseman, the Flyers could find themselves making another deep run in the playoffs.
Jake Pavorsky is a contributor for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JakePavorsky.