The NHL Trade Deadline is 14 days away and like always, the Philadelphia Flyers should be busy leading up to Feb. 27.
Following a weekend that saw Philadelphia lose their seventh straight game to the Atlantic Division rival New York Rangers and lose a tough game in Detroit, Philadelphia is 3-4-3 in their last ten games and has lost five of their last six.
But how much would a trade help this team and if so, what will they do?
The goaltending has been poor, and there is no other way around it, Ilya Bryzgalov needs to be better. He’s been unlucky with some bounces and deflections, but the truth of it is that he is getting paid to make those tough saves and he is not. Does this mean the Flyers should go out and get a goaltender like Josh Harding or Evgeni Nabokov? No. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Bobrovsky has played adequately in net, but if the Flyers are going to win in the playoffs, Bryzgalov is going to be the man who does it. The Flyers made their commitment and there is no backing-out – at least not this early.
How about the back-checking of the forwards and team defensive play? It hasn’t been the greatest. Yes, the defense is too loose, but they haven’t been getting a ton of help from the forwards. It’s a bit expected from a team that rolls three scoring lines and avoids a traditional shutdown third line with defense first forwards. Scoring isn’t a problem, it never is. Keeping the other team from scoring is the problem. This team would have benefited greatly from a John Madden-type player, but that’s neither here nor there.
Like always, there has been a fair share of rumors surrounding the club, for me and like many, targeting a defenseman around the deadline would be the logical thing to do.
Hal Gill? Bryan Allen? Ryan Suter? Shea Weber?
It’s no secret that the Flyers defensive corps has struggled with the loss of Chris Pronger. Rookie defensemen Eric Gustafsson and Marc-Andre Bourdon have showed glimpses of promise, but lately, don’t look fit to be in the top-six of a playoff-caliber team.
It seems the popular choice is a rental defenseman, a shutdown type defenseman who can clear the crease and protect the front of the net. Not a bad idea, but for me, that isn’t the only answer. The times of monsters on your own end are coming to a close. Defensemen who can skate, are agile have grit and are defensively sound is the new-style of NHL defensemen.
Why? Because the rules dictate it. It’s a skating game.
The last thing the Flyers need is a slow, physical defensemen who takes too many interference penalties in front of his own net and gets schooled in the neutral zone – we’ve seen this before. Besides, how do you “clear the porch” in this interference-laden NHL, honestly? Some will argue, but for me, that’s just not the answer.
The Flyers penalty kill has been brutal recently. They take the most penalties in the league and only kill 81.4 percent of them and yes, I’ll admit, a big body would definitely help on the PK, but so would a defenseman with some more upside. Equally bad recently has been their power play.
The Flyers are in the top-ten in PP scoring 19.5% of the time, but they badly need a right-handed shot and power play presence on the blueline – something that the “porch-clearers” likely can’t do. A right-handed shot on the point would give the team more options. Right now, with two left-handed players on the point, it means one defenseman is constantly playing the puck off the boards on his backhand, which negatively affects PP production. Also, without a right-handed shot, point-to-point one-timers can’t happen between the pointmen because one of them usually needs to have his back to the other to play the puck. So, Flyers have been forced to play forwards on the point like Jake Voracek and Matt Read with less than stellar results.
A puck-moving defenseman with mobility and a physical presence is what the Flyers need. Looking ahead at the Flyers group of defensemen isn’t a pretty picture. Chris Pronger’s health is a serious problem, will he ever play again? Many question it. With his post-concussion syndrome and age, the future doesn’t look bright for the Flyers captain. Soon-to-be 37 year old, Kimmo Timonen, has one year left on his contract after this season, one of their more consistent defensemen, Matt Carle, is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season and Bourdon is an RFA. That leaves Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, Andreas Lilja, Gustafsson and Timonen, another year older signed past this season; not a great situation for the Flyers and a rental defenseman will not help that situation one bit.
So where we stand, the Flyers have a need for serious defensive help, there goalies have played under-par, special teams play needs serious work and looking forward, some youth on the backend would be a help.
Hal Gill ($2.25 million) – would be a big help on the penalty kill and is a proven winner, but at what cost? If the Flyers could send a second or third round pick to Montreal, I would pull the trigger. But it’s the deadline – every team is looking for the same type of defenseman. It’s likely the Canadiens could get a first round pick for Gill, something the Flyers should not do.
Bryan Allen ($2.9 million) – another shutdown type defenseman with more mobility than Gill, would be a solid fit for the Flyers. But again, at what price? I can’t justify giving up first round picks for rental players.
Ryan Suter and Shea Weber – they’ve been talked about enough and are paired in Nashville. Suter, an UFA to be could be moved before the deadline, but it’s highly unlikely. The reported package it would take to land Suter would likely cost the Flyers James van Riemsdyk, Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier a prospect and a first round pick – for a UFA, I hope no one reading this thinks that would be a good idea. Weber, who is an RFA after this season, isn’t necessarily being shopped, but if he is, would command a similar price by the Predators – something the Flyers shouldn’t do. They have a solid young core, but moving those pieces without a deal in place is too much of a risk.
How about a defenseman like Marek Zidlicky? A former teammate of Timonen in Nashville, the right-handed shot can struggle in his own end at times, but his upside on the power play and right-handed shot would fill a much needed void. Tampa Bay defenseman Pavel Kubina, who is occasionally a trip in his own end, could be a help on the power play. Zidlicky ($4-million) and Kubina ($3.85-million) both have modified NTC’s but could be gotten for the right price.
Or how about an unknown in Nashville, Kevin Klein? The 27-year old right-handed versatile defenseman would be a great fit in Philadelphia. Fantasy Scouting Services says: ‘Blocks shots with aplomb and can play a shutdown role, if needed. Is mobile and can move the puck up ice. Is also a solid contributor on special teams. Owns a good-sized frame.’ Could the Flyers move a first, second round pick or roster player for a defenseman like Klein, who is making $1.35 and is signed for the next two seasons? Absolutely, it helps them now and in the immediate future.
How about Carl Gunnarsson or Cody Franson in Toronto? Gunnarsson ( 25, Has an excellent frame and a long reach. Moves the puck quickly and efficiently out of danger. Can play a shutdown role if required. Can also play on the power play if needed) is signed for the next two years at $1.35 and Toronto has an excess of defensemen. Franson, a 24-year old right-handed shot (Displays excellent offensive instincts. Has a laser shot from the point and is adept at running the power play, moving the puck well. Has excellent size for the defense position.) is making 800k and an RFA at seasons end.
There were recently two scouts and Columbus GM Scott Howson in Philadelphia, a move for 26 year old defenseman Marc Methot would have made a lot of sense before his injury. Methot is likely lost for the rest of the regular season, but these are the types of defensemen the Flyers should be looking at. He is signed for the next four years at $3-million per season and (Has outstanding size and defensive acumen. An underrated fellow, he shows great commitment to playing a sound, stay-at-home game, rarely making mistakes in his own end. Displays leadership qualities.) Obviously, not saying they should deal for him because he is hurt, just including him as an example.
Other names that would be good, solid fits for the Flyers at the right price are Chris Butler, Calgary, Jan Hejda, Colorado, and Nicklas Grossman, Dallas.
These, are the types of defensemen that will make the Flyers better now and in the future. They may take a bit more to land, but they are worth surely worth it for a team that lacks some youth on the backend.
Personally, I’ve come to the conclusion that to obtain the type of defensemen that would help the Flyers most, a roster player is likely to be involved – a good old fashioned hockey trade.
A trade to help both teams involved. Rumors have run rampant of the Flyers trading young forward van Riemsdyk in a package to bring back a young, promising defenseman. Recently those defensemen have been Jack Johnson and Luke Schenn. van Riemsdyk is a young player who is still coming into his own and is only going to get better as a budding power forward with confidence.
He’s been injured since Jan. 14 but is the type of player the Flyers would have to include in a package for a solid, young defensemen. The injury is a problem in any deal, but could acquire J. Johnson from the Kings, Schenn from the Leafs, E. Johnson from the Avalanche? it’s a deal the Flyers have to think long and hard about. It’s a deal that would help both teams for years to come.