Briere believes new goalie can only make Flyers better

Flyers goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh (right) works with Ivan Fedotov at Friday's informal workout.

      VOORHEES, N.J. – While he’s only been an NHL-level general manager for less than a year, Daniel Briere already knows how to play his cards.

      Close to the vest.

      The Flyers GM wasn’t about to tip his hand at Friday’s press conference to announce the arrival of Russian goalie Ivan Fedotov, a seventh-round draft pick back in 2015.

      According to Briere, there would be no timeline coming as to the behind-the-scenes machinations needed to get Fedotov on a jet to Philadelphia.

      Suffice to say, the 6-foot-7 Fedotov is here now and for Briere, that’s all that matters.

      While all the hubbub might be an initial distraction as the Flyers head into their final eight games with a playoff spot on the line, Briere is confident the positive outweighs the negative.

      If Fedotov can be just a semblance of the goalie who helped CSKA Moscow to its second Gagarin Cup (Kontinental Hockey League championship), the Flyers should be in good shape.

      Why are the Flyers so excited about this 27-year-old, who’s never played a minute in the NHL yet could be undergoing a baptism of fire real soon?

      Well, for one thing, there’s the incredible amount of space only a 6-foot-7 goalie can take up in an NHL goal cage.

      “I think it’s the way he covers the net,” Briere said during a Friday press conference at the Flyers Training Center. “How well he moves for a guy his size. I think that’s probably one of the most impressive things about him.”

      Briere said Fedotov is not only a good shot-blocker, he’s also agile handling the puck.

      “He seems to have it,” said Briere, who beat a lot of netminders with his rifle shots back in the day. “Our goalie coaches are excited to get their hands on him, start working with him. The biggest difference is, the KHL rinks are bigger. Some of the game is played on the outside a little bit more. Not quite as much net front traffic. That’s something that he might need to work on.”

      If the proposed plan to have Fedotov see action down the stretch over the next few weeks, there’s going to be a lot of coaching to do.

      “The last two seasons, the one season we didn’t get to see him (on video) much for obvious reasons (fulfilling military obligation),” Briere said. “This year we watched most of his games, almost all of them.

      “We felt there might have been a little rust at the beginning because he hadn’t played much hockey the first year. But he was excellent in the second half of the season, really took over in the playoffs. He was very impressive in his playoff series. It makes it exciting for us to bring him aboard.”

      Briere said it’s up to coach John Tortorella if/when Fedotov sees action in this last stretch of games.

      “As far as playing, you know how it works here,” Briere said. “Torts is in charge of that. He (Fedotov) will be available, he’ll be on the ice with the team, practicing. Then the coaching staff will decide if he’s playing or not.”

      Fedotov is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season but both player and GM are in agreement that an extension is in the works.

      “The contract extension, it’s something we’re working on,” Briere said. “I don’t expect it to be an issue. Nothing has been done of yet.”

      Briere said that backup goaltender Felix Sandstrom has been returned to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

      As for how the NHL or its individual teams perceive this transaction, Briere said there shouldn’t be any backlash.

      “I don’t see why that would be a problem,” Briere said. “We didn’t do anything wrong. He was under contract before this season, for the last two years. Just reported now, so we added him to our roster.

      “Nothing was done illegally. I don’t see why it would be an issue.”

      Fedotov has been through a lot the last two years, including an arrest from a perceived attempt to get out of Russian military duty. Briere said going through all these trials and tribulations says something about Fedotov’s character.

      “That’s what gives us confidence that he can come and help us,” Briere said. “He’s been through a lot in his career. He’s been through a lot in his personal life. He keeps fighting. He keeps getting better, keeps working his craft.

      So that’s a big part of the reason why we feel comfortable, we’re excited to have him aboard.”

      Goaltender Samuel Ersson, who’s been the Flyers’ regular starter since the exit of Carter Hart due to legal problems, has been brought up to speed on this latest development.

      “Yes, Sam’s been kept in the loop,” Briere said. “We tried to be as open as we can with our players. It was going to affect them. But at the same time we told Sam you earned the right to be the No. 1. We believe in you, we trust in you.”

      After the press conference, Fedotov wasted no time getting on the ice and working with goaltender coach Kim Dillabaugh. That’s certainly a good sign.

      So no distractions, right?

      “Hopefully it’s a bit of a boost as well,” Briere said, “and everyone gets excited — that we can finish well and get into the playoffs. That’s the number one thing these days.”

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About Wayne Fish 2473 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.