With one gross misplay of the NHL free agent market, along with failing basic economics, former Flyers’ goaltender Marty Biron must suck up his pride if he even wants to be a part of the NHL next season.
Coming into free agency, Biron and his agent Gilles Lupien took the hard-line stance of demanding a starting position with a long-term deal for reportedly close to $5 million a season. Marty made $3.8 million last season, and was looking to up his salary.
After receiving no attention from any team at that money at his talent level, Biron dropped Lupien and hired J.P. Barry. But to the bewilderment of GM’s everywhere, kept the same hard-line demands and received the same result.
With the free agent deadline just a day away, General Manager Paul Holmgren and the Flyers aren’t expected to be very active. However, with a couple players set to his the unrestricted free agent market, the team still has some loose-ends to sew up.
Flyers’ beat writer Chuck Gormley got the much sought after reaction from former Flyers’ goaltender Marty Biron about the news that the team has moved on and signed Ray Emery as the starter for 2009-10. Biron is an unrestricted free agent and was in negotiations with the Flyers up until the signing.
“I know they’ve made a decision and that’s fine,” said Biron, who now turns his attention to other goalie-seeking teams around the league. “Personally, I’ve got decisions I need to make and that’s what I’m focusing on.”
But even after the awkward breakup, Biron understands the business side of the game. Biron’s agent was rumored to be asking for upwards of $5 million for four years. Other reports have the Biron camp asking for $4 million.
“I understand the business of the salary cap and hockey and that the Flyers are up against it,” he said. “They’re making a move to keep this team intact and signing Ray, that’s fine. They never said to me that means we’re done (negotiating) but I mean, you can see there is a very very slim chance. That’s part of hockey.”
Biron is coming off a mediocre season in which he tallied decent numbers, but wasn’t the same backstop that led the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Finals a season prior. The Flyers were eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games in the opening round.
“It’s not for me to judge,” Biron said, when asked if he thinks he deserved a second chance with the Flyers. “I know what I am capable of doing and what I’ve accomplished and I’m going to focus on those things to get to where I want and pursue my goals.”
For the past week, the Flyers’ front office has been talking up the idea of bringing troubled goaltender Ray Emery into the organization to be the starting goalie in 2009-10. With Marty Biron set to hit the free agent market, is the Flyers’ interest in Emery legitimate? Or just a tactic to get Biron to lower his asking price?
The Flyers made a splash in the international free agency market, by picking up 6-foot-2, 200 lbs. goaltender, Johan Backlund on a one-year contract.
“Johan is a player who we have watched over the last couple of years and we really like,” said Flyers’ General Manager Paul Holmgren . “He will bring depth to our organization at the goaltender position.”
The 27-year old posted a 2.56 goals against average in 49 games with Timra of the Swedish Elite League. Backlund was a sought after by multiple teams, but signed with the Flyers. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Backlund is low risk, high reward (as are most goalies). He has potential to be a decent NHL backup, but needs to prove himself under fire. He possesses a standup style with good reflexes and uses his size well. He is well-rounded, not excelling anywhere specific but also not lacking.
The Flyers’ system is terribly barren at goaltender. With next to no prospects even close to playing major minutes at the AHL level, let alone NHL, something needed to be done. Backlund will likely become the backup to any starter for the Flyers, considering both Marty Biron and Antero Niittymaki will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2008-09 season. The Flyers will likely let Niittymaki walk due to his bad hip and try to re-sign Biron. However, sources say that Biron’s agent is riding up the price of the backstop, which puts the future of Biron in Philly in question.
For one of the few times this season, the Flyers have selected goaltender Marty Biron to start back-to-back games. After playing a big part of the Flyers’ 3-1 win over the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins, Sunday afternoon, and 6-4 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday, Biron will be back in net, as he tries to lead his team against the Atlantic Division leading New Jersey Devils.
“Marty is going to play,” said Flyers coach John Stevens. “He has played very well and he looked really solid yesterday. Because it was an afternoon game it gives him a day and a half to recover. Marty is playing his best hockey of the year and it’s good to keep him going.”
Biron, who has elevated his game down the stretch and solidified his hold over the Flyers’ number one spot, is 7-12 lifetime versus the Devils and 15-8 at home this season, but typically has not fared well in double header games.
However, the Devils are also on the tail end of a back-to-back series. They lost an Eastern Conference showdown against the the top-seeded Boston Bruins, 4-1, on Sunday. New Jersey has also struggled on the road of late, going just 3-5 in their last eight games away from the Prudential Center.
The Flyers are nine points behind the Devils for the division and conference, with one game in hand. The Devils are currently first in the division and second in the conference with 97 points. The Flyers stand in fourth place in the conference with 88 points.
Tonight’s game will be at 7 p.m. on Versus.
Faith by George Michael topped the Billboard top 100, Rain Man was about to take the American box office by storm and Flyers’ captain Mike Richards was three years old, the last time the Flyers won at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on Nov. 15th, 1988.
“I was just a young player in the Flyers’ organization the last time the Flyers came in here and won,” said Flyers’ coach John Stevens. “It’s been 21 years, which is amazing. We don’t come here very often, but hopefully it gives us some motivation to get the job done.”