What do these men have in common? Yes, they all play for the Flyers. Yes, they are all defensemen. Yes, the Flyers paid a hefty price to acquire all four.
Those acquisitions are what I would like to explore.
The Flyers acquired Carle in 2009 from the Tampa Bay Lightning for infamous winger Steve Downie, defenseman Steve Eminger, and Tampa Bay’s own fourth-round pick, snagged Walker in a surprise July, 2010 deal for Simon Gagne, picked up Meszaros a short time afterwards for the Flyers’ 2012 second-round pick.
On Saturday February 18, the Flyers dipped into the well again, acquiring Pavel Kubina from (say it with me now) Tampa Bay for second- and fourth-round draft choices.
Why is this a big deal? Well, Tampa Bay, a team that has consistently struggled defensively over the last few years, continues to send their defensemen to the Flyers.
Now, each player sent to the Flyers is a talented player in their own right, but why was Tampa Bay so willing to trade a critical defensive piece when they are sorely lacking for defensive substance?
With Kubina, it was easy to trade because Tampa Bay had decided that they were rebuilding and were able to acquire high draft picks. Matt Walker was obtained in the Flyers salary dump of Gagne. But why trade Carle and Meszaros, two young blueliners reaching the prime of their careers?
As we now know, both Carle and Meszaros have become staples on the Flyers’ blue line (although Carle, the oft-maligned Hobey Baker winner will be an unrestricted free agent come July 1). Kubina came to Philadelphia as the latest defensive fix, but he had very little to contribute to the Flyers’ blue line as he played in only 17 regular season and five postseason games. Walker has been injury prone, racking up a pair of hip surgeries, and has failed to make a difference in Philadelphia or Glens Falls.
Going into the playoffs, the Flyers’ top-six defensemen were comprised of half of the former Bolts defensive corps (although Meszaros was injured). Maybe, just maybe, this could be the reason as to why the Flyers struggled defensively. It certainly points out a symptom the front office suffers when it chooses to make repeated deals with one club it does not deem a threat in some way.
As the Flyers head into the offseason, the Tampa Bay connection could be cut in at least half as Kubina and Walker will likely not be re-signed. Paul Holmgren made it known during his press conference in the aftermath of the loss to the Devils that he wants Carle back, and he believes that Carle will be back – perhaps even for below market value.
With a long Summer to think things over and make changes, it is time for the Flyers to step away from the Tampa Bay connection and begin to rebuild a defense that is getting old after taking years of punishment.