Flyers Re-Affirm Interest in Signing Goaltender Malek

By Bill Meltzer

Philadelphia Flyers assistant general manager Paul Holmgren affirmed today for Hockey’s Future that the organization still intends to sign goaltender Roman Malek this offseason.

In a March 5 statement, Holmgren informed Hockey’s Future that the organization was interested in signing the Czech goaltender acquired in the 5th Round (158th Overall) of the 2001 Entry Draft. Today, he said that the plan has not changed.

The twenty-five year old Malek is coming off one of the best seasons ever recorded by a goaltender in Europe. He set a new single season shutout record in the Czech Extraliga with 11 and led the circuit in both goals against average and save percentage. In the playoffs, he added five more shutouts in helping to propel Slavia Prague to the Czech championship. For his efforts, Malek was awarded the Czech equivalent of the NHL’s Hart Trophy (regular season most valuable player), Vezina Trophy (best goaltender), Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) and Pearson Award (MVP as chosen by his peers).

After the Czech awards ceremony, Malek told reporters that we would be interested in coming to the NHL if he got “a good offer” from the Flyers. Malek has one year remaining on his contract with Slavia but has the option of negating the final season.

If Malek is signed, he will likely compete with Robert Esche and an as-yet-unacquired veteran to assume the starter’s mantle soon to be vacated by Roman Cechmanek.

Cechmanek, the Flyers’ MVP during the regular season, has been pinned with much of the blame for the Flyers’ second round playoff defeat at the hands of the Ottawa Senators. It has been said by Flyers General Manager Bob Clarke that it would be in the best interests of all parties if Cechmanek is not brought back for the 2003-2004 season.

While the Flyers will not confirm the nature of their offer to Malek, it seems likely that they will structure an agreement similar to the deal signed by Cechmanek when he first joined the organization in 2000-2001. Both Cechmanek and Malek are represented by Edmonton-based agent Petr Svoboda.

In the summer of 2000, Cechmanek received a $300,000 signing bonus and the option of returning home rather than accepting a minor league assignment. Returning home would void the remaining $700,000 on the one year contract. Although Cechmanek did not make Philly’s opening night roster in 2000 (Brian Boucher and Maxime Ouellet did), he accepted a brief October assignment to the AHL Philadelphia Phantoms, which he quickly parlayed into a springboard to the Flyers starter’s job after Boucher struggled and Ouellet was returned to his junior team.