Although some mock drafts have the Flyers selecting a goalie with their first-round pick next week, general manager Paul Holmgren said yesterday that the club probably would not choose a goaltender with its top choice.
The Flyers will have the 21st overall pick in the draft, which will be held in Montreal. The first round will on June 26; the rest of the selections will be made the next day.
The Flyers need goaltending in their system, but this year's draft is not loaded with top-notch goalie prospects.
"I would say it would be a stretch for us to take a goalie at 21," Holmgren said during a news conference at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. "We'd probably be going by a better prospect at a different position" if they picked a goalie with their top selection.
Since they joined the NHL in 1967, the Flyers have selected a goalie in the first round just twice: In 1999 they chose Maxime Ouellet, and in 1995 they opted for Brian Boucher. Both were selected with the 22d overall pick.
Among the goalies who are highly ranked by Central Scouting are Robin Lehner (6-foot-3, 220 pounds), Matthew Hackett (6-2, 170), the nephew of former Flyer Jeff Hackett, and Olivier Roy (6-0, 165).
Some of the impressive non-goalies who could be available at No. 21 include center Peter Holland of the Ontario Hockey League's Guelph Storm and defensemen Tim Erixon (Sweden) and Dmitry Kulikov (Russia).
"Our stance is to go for the best available player," Holmgren said. "I think we'll get a good prospect."
After the first round, the Flyers will pick 81st (third round), 87th (third), 142d (fifth), 153d (sixth), 172d (sixth), and 196th (seventh).
Holmgren is exploring moving up or down in the draft. "It comes down to the price and if something is a fit," he said, adding that he wasn't sure there was much difference between the 10th overall pick "and where we pick."
The general manager is also trying to acquire a second-round pick, as the Flyers yielded theirs in a deal for Vinny Prospal in 2008. Holmgren also hinted that the Flyers could trade their first-round pick for a couple of second-rounders.
Freeing salary-cap space by dealing a player (Joffrey Lupul?) for a draft pick may help the Flyers in their pursuit of Florida defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. Bouwmeester can become a free agent July 1, but it is likely that his rights will be dealt before that date.
Mike Komisarek is another potential free agent who is on the Flyers' radar, but Holmgren said he believed Montreal was trying to re-sign the defenseman.
Holmgren said the Flyers' defense wasn't far from clicking and was similar to that of the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
"The team that wins is the team that comes together as a unit and just competes and sacrifices for each other," he said.
"I don't view Pittsburgh's defense - other than [Brooks] Orpik, who is a heavy hitter - as being much different than ours. They're mobile. They move the puck."
That said, Holmgren is trying to upgrade the defense.
"Who wouldn't want to have a big hammer back there?" he said. "It makes life uncomfortable for the other team, but it's easier said than done sometimes."
Breakaways. Center Danny Briere, who has a no-trade clause, declined to comment on a report in the Montreal Gazette that had the Flyers shopping him to the Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings. . . . Holmgren has had lengthy discussions with former Flyers goalie Robert Esche, who could return to the club as a backup after playing in Russia. "I talked to him for a couple of hours last week and he's a different guy. He's a little more mature and his family is a bigger issue in his life now," Holmgren said. "He struggled with a lot of things toward the end of his time here the last time." Holmgren said he believed the goalie could get out of his Russian contract. . . . The Flyers are still negotiating with free agents Mike Knuble, Andrew Alberts, and Antero Niittymaki.
Goalie Marty Biron, who figures to sign as a starter elsewhere, has changed agents, Holmgren said. . . . James van Riemsdyk, the team's No. 1 pick in 2007, is a long shot to make the team out of training camp, said Holmgren, who is high on defensive prospect Kevin Marshall. . . . The Flyers will announce a deal with defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon, a third-round pick last year, July 1. . . . Holmgren expects the salary cap to remain in the same vicinity as this season's figure of $56.7 million. Next season's figure could be announced next week.