With the first trade deadline approaching before the Olympic break, trade rumors are swirling in the NHL.
One team certainly looking to make a deal is the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flyers are 26-23-6 on the season, and 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. For a team with the amount of talent that Philadelphia has, these numbers are simply unacceptable.
With players like Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Steve Downie and Matt Read entering the prime of their careers, along with the help of young stars Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, and crafty veterans Scott Hartnell and Vincent Lecavalier, the future is certainly bright on offense.
But where the light has shone brightest in years past, it has been depressingly dim on the defense and in net, with the exception of a healthy Chris Pronger.
*A moment of silence for our fallen brother.
Since Pronger’s last days playing, the defense has lacked a presence that any competitive team needs to become a serious threat.
Kimmo Timonen has been a fantastic Flyer, and probably the best defenseman the team has had since Pronger’s departure, but his age is beginning to show, and he can’t carry as large of a load anymore.
Young talent in Luke Schenn was added to hopefully evolve into the next star defenseman for the Flyers, but even though he has showed promise in the past, he is beginning to look like a bust. Through 52 games played this season, Schenn has only seven points, and a +/- rating of -4. To really understand how poor that is, defenseman Erik Gustafsson has played in 29 fewer games than Schenn, but still has nine points and a +/- rating of 8. This also begs the question, why is Gustafsson a healthy scratch on a regular basis?
A premier netminder is another want for the Flyers. Steve Mason and Ray Emery have been the duo this year, and at times they have been incredible. But more recently, their play has struggled.
In Mason’s last five games, he’s allowed 15 goals (GAA of 3.00), a save percentage of .876, and has been pulled twice. However, these numbers aren’t entirely his fault. See Dan King’s article for a more in-depth look at why: http://isportsweb.com/2014/01/31/philadelphia-flyers-screw-goalies/
So where do the Flyers look as the trade deadline rapidly approaches?
It certainly won’t be for a goaltender, as Mason was just resigned to a 3-year, $12.3M deal. So defense will be the area GM Paul Holmgren looks to improve.
According to CapGeek.com, the Flyers currently have around $2.9M in cap space to deal with at the moment. Depending if a move is made, and who it is made with, it’s enough room to make a run at top-notch blue-liner.
But is this the right time to make a move? Here’s why the answer is no:
This offseason will see the end of Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros’s contracts. Timonen will most likely retire. The 38-year-old has been fighting with this question for a few years, and now that his production is on a downward slope, now seems like a better time then ever to call it quits.
Meszaros has been a headache for the team since his arrival. When he isn’t dealing with an injury, he is performing well under the expectations of someone making $4M/year.
The two combined account for $10M/year, a healthy portion of the team’s salary cap.
There are no top blue-liners who are unrestricted free agents (UFA) this offseason, but P.K. Subban is a restricted free agent (RFA), and someone the Flyers should absolutely make a run for. However, it’s tough to picture the Montreal Canadiens letting one of the NHL’s top defenseman go. So even if the Flyers offer him a max deal, Montreal is likely to match it, much like what happened with Shea Weber not too long ago.
The Flyers have the ability to make a move in the offseason without losing any young talent, or other key pieces. But it’s more than likely they won’t be able to acquire anyone without making a trade.
They should focus on clearing some cap room in the offseason, resign Brayden Schenn, whose contract is up, and other younger minor league talent, and look to free agency to add another piece to the lineup. Then they should look to make a trade for a premier defensive talent.
But all Paul Holmgren should be thinking is how he can get his hands on Subban, because his play style is Flyer’s hockey in a nutshell.
The window for a Stanley Cup is just beginning, so there is no rush to win right now, although fans should expect to be competitive. As long as Mason can play to the level he has proven to be capable of, this team is just missing that one piece they have long been searching for.
HartnellDown Tracker: Scott currently sits at 194 HartnellDown’s for the season.