For the Philadelphia Flyers, the 2013-2014 season saw no shortage of offense. The Flyers attack contained seven different players with 20 goals or more including Wayne Simmonds, their captain Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Matt Read, Scott Hartnell, Brayden Schenn and Vinny Lecavalier.
Obviously, the most glaring issue faced by the Flyers was their defense. They have Andrew Macdonald under contract, who was inked to a six year, $30 million dollar. The Flyers also have Braydon Coburn, Luke Schenn, Niklas Grossmann, and Mark Streit locked in for at least the next two seasons.
This gives the Flyers a core of five defensemen, none of whom could be considered a top defenseman and all of whom played inconsistently last season. It remains unclear if the 39-year-old Kimmo Timonen will be returning to the Flyers next season and with the departure of Erik Gustafsson to the KHL, the Flyers will face a severe lack of depth on the blue line next year. Barring any trades, the Flyers will need to look to the free agent market to add defensive depth. The 2014 market should provide a handful of affordable options for the Flyers to upgrade with.
A couple defenders that the Flyers could pursue currently are battling for Lord Stanley’s cup. Matt Greene of the Los Angeles Kings is set to become a free agent and currently makes about $3 million a year. Greene is a pure defensive player, standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing 230 pounds. He would be a solid addition the Flyers defense and at age 31 still has a lot of hockey in front of him. Greene possesses tons of Stanley Cup playoff experience and would be a strong addition to a locker room which could be losing one of their core leaders in Timonen.
Anton Stralman of the New York Rangers could be another viable option in free agency for the Flyers this offseason. Stralman does not bring huge point production and is just 5-11 and 190 pounds. However, Stralman has been a valuable right-handed defenseman in the third pair for New York. He is a combined plus 32 in his three seasons with the Rangers and at 27 years old, Stralman is just entering the prime of his career. Stralman would be a valuable blue liner somewhere in the $3 million salary range.
The Flyers could also look into bringing over a defenseman from their rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Matt Niskanen is another free agent and had a big year for the Penguins, scoring 46 points as well as leading Penguins’ defensemen in scoring this season.
Niskanen would undoubtedly help the Flyers’ defense the most out of the three but at 27 years old and coming off a huge year, he could be looking to cash in this summer and may be out of the Flyers’ price range. A contract for Niskanen would likely fall in the $6 million range and would eat up most of the Flyers’ cap room. Niskanen is the best available defensemen but not necessarily the best value.
Unless there is a major trade, it’s unlikely that the Flyers defensive issues will be completely solved this offseason. However, it is vital that the Flyers make a move to upgrade. The Flyers will struggle to contend for a cup with the current defensive corps so look for the Flyers to add one of these three free agent blue liners this offseason. Any one of the three would add depth and improve the Flyers defense. The Flyers journey to a better defense will not end this July, but it definitely needs to start there.