Paul Holmgren has always been known for trying to make a splash before the July 1 free agent signing day, and now we sit and ponder: will this year be any different? In the past, the Flyers' general manager has traded for Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen in an attempt to be able to talk to them before any other team could. Last summer, he did the same with Ilya Bryzgalov, and signed the goaltender to a nine-year deal worth $51 million. Is more of the same on the way?
We don't know. There have been rumors of Rick Nash becoming a Flyer for about the 10th time, but until we hear anything, we won't know. What we do know is this: the Flyers defense will have a different look come October. For starters, the following are under contract: Kimmo Timonen, Chris Pronger, Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, Nick Grossmann, and Andreas Lilja. Those are six talented defenseman.
We also know that it's likely one of them won't be suiting up next year, or maybe ever again. That's Pronger, whom the Flyers will look to put on the long-term injury list from now until the day his contract expires, which would be after the 2016-2017 season. That leaves the team with five capable defenseman. It's likely that the team views Andreas Lilja as an expendable part, but it's also likely that the team views Matt Carle, who spent the last three years with the team, as a part of their future. Plenty will not like it when they hear it, but it's highly possible Carle is a Flyer for the foreseeable future. Over the last three years, he's played 80, 82, and 82 games respectively. Yep, he's been durable. He also had 38 points last season, the most since he had 42 with San Jose in the '06-'07 campaign. Carle certainly benefited from having Pronger beside him on most nights, but that's time that it appears we are not getting back.
A lot of people blamed Carle for some mistakes in the post-season, and those mistakes are hard to ignore. Plus/minus is not a great statistics, but Carle was a -3 in the post-season. That said, he still had two goals and four assists and was logging major minutes. It's obvious that coach Peter Laviolette and Holmgren both believe heavily in Carle, as he was playing 25 minutes or more in most games in the post-season. He was playing about 17 or 18 a night in the regular season. Needless to say, he appears to be part of the future. A three-year contract for around $12 million would likely get Carle re-signed.
The defense will thus likely have Coburn paired with Timonen as the top line, subject to change. The second pair could be Carle and Grossmann, which leaves the third pairing up in the air. Do the Flyers trust their youth? It's a question that needs to be answered. Erik Gustafsson did impress many in the little action he got last year, as did Marc-Andre Bourdon. Holmgren has often pursued as much offense as possible, so it may not surprise anyone that Nash is on the team's radar once more. With pieces to trade up front, the Flyers could take this off-season in numerous directions. The most likely route, as of now, would appear to be trading James van Riemsdyk along with Sergei Bobrovsky for a veteran forward such as Nash, then re-signing Carle and going with the defense they have. Even without Carle or Pronger, the Flyers can still run Timonen, Coburn, Grossmann, Meszaros, Lilja, Bourdon, and Gustafsson out there.
The Flyers have plenty of depth, and for much of this season, they looked like a team to beat in the NHL. By now, we all know that the Los Angeles Kings, with the help of many former Flyers, were able to get the job done. That shouldn't frustrate Flyer fans too much. They got good value in those trades for Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, receiving Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jake Voracek, the pick used to draft Sean Couturier, and the pick used to trade for Grossmann. The team later signed Grossmann before he could even hit the market. Holmgren appears comfortable with the defense, but if Carle does not return, there could be some pieces to move around. Or, the team could feel comfortable with that top four and piecing the last pair together. At this point, I would think a high-profile trade for a forward is likelier than the Flyers pursuing someone like Ryan Suter or Shea Weber. After all, the Flyers went to the second round of the post-season last year for a reason. They got tripped up by the Devils in the second round, a team that went on to come within two games of winning the Stanley Cup. They don't need to do too much tinkering, but nothing ever seems to please Holmgren or owner Ed Snider.
Needless to say, it's going to be an interesting summer ahead for a team that has had an up and down past few years. They don't have much in the pipeline in terms of draft picks, but they don't need to. They have everything they need to make a run this year, the next year, and beyond.
Sources: TSN, PhiladelphiaFlyers.com, Behindthenet.ca
Victor Filoromo is a featured contributor for Yahoo! and also contributes to PhuturePhillies.com, a Phillies' prospect blog. He grew up just outside of Philadelphia, and enjoys Philadelphia sports, media, and politics.
- Sports & Recreation
- Kimmo Timonen
- Andreas Lilja
- Matt Carle
- Paul Holmgren
- Chris Pronger