The Philadelphia Flyers have a glaring hole in their roster, but it's not necessarily at goaltender.
Yes, the Flyers are depending on a rookie and a journeyman, neither of whom probably belongs in the NHL, at goalie for the next two months before handing the job over to another journeyman who was out of the league less than a year ago.
But a bigger problem might be finding another forward in the next few months, in light of the recent news that Ian Laperriere is likely to miss the entire season and possibly retire.
Jody Shelley is a quality NHL enforcer, and Andreas Nodl is a serviceable injury replacement.
But neither should be in the Flyers' lineup in crucial games.
During the Flyers' playoff run last season, they had 13 quality forwards - one more than a team generally starts - plus Nodl and enforcer Riley Cote. Cote never played, while Nodl got in the lineup only when two players were out with injuries.
The Flyers traded Simon Gagne in the offseason and let Arron Asham leave via free agency. They replaced those two only with free agent Nikolay Zherdev, and signed Shelley to replace Cote, who retired.
Perfect, right? Twelve guys, with Shelley to throw in there for roughly half the regular-season games, and Nodl as a fill-in when guys got hurt.
But then came the news that Laperriere's career could be over due to post-concussion syndrome.
Suddenly, either Shelley or Nodl has to be in the lineup every game. If there are injuries, both likely will play, and they could be forced into more than just fourth-line minutes.
That's unacceptable once the playoffs approach, since Shelley's pugilistic skills become irrelevent in big games when teams don't fight, and Nodl showed in the playoffs last season that he doesn't add much to the lineup besides being an extra body.
The Flyers need to acquire a forward.
They had Bill Guerin in training camp but cut him. GM Paul Holmgren said it was because Guerin wasn't going to help the team, but it probably also had something to do with the fact that he was going to be the 12th forward, and future Hall of Famer such as Guerin probably is not suited to be a healthy scratch on nights when Shelley is inserted into the lineup for toughness.
That 12th-forward role ideally would have fallen to Darroll Powe, a young guy who can provide major contributions defensively and on the penalty kill, but who doesn't need to be in the lineup every night.
Laperriere's injury, though, forced Powe into his spot.
So they need to get someone.
By most accounts, the Flyers don't have any prospects who are close to being ready. The list of free agents still available in the first week of the regular season is uninspiring, too.
So a trade is the likely solution. The problem with that is the Flyers don't have many draft picks. They've traded away their second-round picks for the next two years, plus their fourth- and fifth-rounders next year. Dealing a first-rounder would be bad because they already sent their last three to Anaheim in the Chris Pronger deal, which explains the lack of top prospects.
The Flyers have two things going for them: They have eight NHL-caliber defensemen, and they have the ability to take on a little bit of salary. While they were up against the cap a month ago, they gain some flexibility with Michael Leighton going on the long-term injury list because his $1.5 million salary will be prorated against the cap to not count the 6-8 weeks that he's out. They could make even more space by trading or waiving defenseman Matt Walker, whose cap hit is $1.7 million, according to CapGeek.com. Walker was beaten out by Oskars Bartulis as the seventh defenseman.
So getting rid of Walker makes the most sense - whether it's finding a team that wants him and is willing to give up a quality forward in return, or just waiving him and trading a low draft pick to a team looking to unload a forward making close to $2 million.
This all seems like nitpicking so early in the season.
But the fact is the Flyers have just 11 playoff-caliber forwards and a $1.7 million eighth defenseman. Holmgren has some time, but he's going to have to do something eventually.