Not every trade a team makes is a home run. Sometimes, in fact, a transaction could turn out to be the exact opposite. It is safe to say that the Philadelphia Flyers partook in a deal they wish they could undo when they sent young netminder, Sergei Bobrovsky to the Columbus Blue Jackets on June 22, 2012.
Believe it or not but Bobrovsky was never drafted into the National Hockey League. For General Manager Paul Holmgren has claimed that Philadelphia considered selecting him in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. However, the team decided against it due to the difficulty of signing Russian players. For this reason, Bobrovsky played four years in Russia for Metallurg Novokuznetsk.
On May 6, 2010, Bobrovsky signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Flyers. Although the expectation was for him to begin his North American hockey career in the American Hockey League, the 22-year-old impressed Philadelphia right off the bat and filled in for Michael Leighton when he was sidelined because of injury. Even when Leighton was healthy enough to return, Bobrovsky’s play made it impossible to demote him back to the NHL. In his rookie season, he played 54 games, going 28-13-8 with a save percentage of .915 and 2.59 goals against average.
Unfortunately, the young netminder did not experience the same success in the 2011 postseason. He just did not look like the same goalie and often found himself being replaced by backup Brian Boucher. Failure in the playoffs led the Flyers to seek an upgrade at the goaltender position. Of course, this resulted in the signing of Ilya Bryzgalov to a substantial nine-year contract (we all know how that played out).
Bobrovsky spent one season backing up Bryzgalov, playing 29 games for the orange and black. Then, Philadelphia sent their young and promising netminder to Columbus in exchange for their second and fourth-round picks in 2012, along with the Coyotes fourth-round pick in 2013. With those newly acquired draft picks, the Flyers added Anthony Stolarz, Taylor Leier, and Justin Auger to their organization.
Once Bobrovsky joined the Blue Jackets, his career took off, and he became one of the best goaltenders in the National Hockey League. In his first season with Columbus, he brought home his first of two Vezina Trophies, recording a save percentage of .932 and 2.00 goals against average. His second Vezina Trophy would be obtained in 2016-17. Although Columbus has not always been the most successful franchise, they have been able to count on consistent greatness from their netminder.
Unfortunately, the return Philadelphia received in this trade does not even come close to Bobrovsky. Stolarz and Leier have yet to make an impact with the Flyers, and it is unclear whether they ever will. With the abundance of goalies the Flyers currently have, both healthy and injured, it is more than likely that Stolarz will never receive his shot to be a number-one goalie, whether it be deserved or not. If he can one day stick on the Philadelphia roster, Leier will most likely never be more than a bottom-six forward. As for Auger, he is now a member of the Los Angeles Kings where he has played two games this season.
Not every team is going to look back at every trade feeling like a winner. Each franchise can identify at least one deal they wish they never made. The Bobrovsky trade is undoubtedly one of those deals for the Flyers. For a franchise who always seems to be in search of a “franchise” netminder, they, unfortunately, let one slide through their fingers.