It is unlikely that this offseason will feature more than two big moves on defense for the Flyers.
There will be no Keith Yandle, Alex Pietrangelo or Shea Weber patrolling Philadelphia’s blue line. The Flyers have been interested in Yandle for a few years now and they finally managed to get him.
Well, not him. They go Mark Streit and he’s kind of like Yandle. They both have the same cap hit and both put up nearly the same amount of points in the last two seasons (Streit had 74 points and Yandle had 73). Streit may be older but he cost nothing in terms of prospects or draft picks, making it a wise move for next season — especially considering how durable Streit has been through all but one season of his career.
That was the big addition to the blue line.
The next move will likely be the big subtraction that has been in the works since the draft or perhaps even prior to it. Edmonton wants Braydon Coburn. It is just a question of whether or not they will give up a young winger — likely the asking price (or it should be, anyway) — to get him.
The Flyers need to clear up salary to get under the cap and, given how few viable options the Flyers actually have, Coburn is likely the odd man out.
That’s it? Yeah, that’s it.
As crazy as it may seem, this is not a bad situation for the Flyers.
From an offensive standpoint, Kimmo Timonen and Streit will be able to generate offense. Streit will also help with making that first lead pass and possessing the puck, two areas where the Flyers needed help last season.
Luke Schenn started to come into his own last season and well likely be the biggest minute muncher and punishing bruiser on the back end again.
Beyond this top three are two defensemen who will be battling hard to prove their worth.
Andrej Meszaros, who arguably had the roughest and unluckiest year and a half of any Flyer not named Chris Pronger, is not far removed from being a Barry Ashbee winner and the best defenseman in Philly. Meszaros is in the final year of his contract and the direction of his career might hinge upon his performance this upcoming season. When he returns to action, expect him to be the most motivated defender out there.
Coming off a strong performance for Sweden in the World Championships and a solid end to the 2013 NHL season, Erik Gustafsson, a restricted free agent, will have the opportunity to compete for big minutes and prove his worth as a steady NHL defender.
Plenty of moving parts could round out the top six, including Bruno Gervais who played above expectations, Nicklas Grossmann who is recovering from a concussion but played very well for the Flyers when healthy, and Oliver Lauridsen who surprised everyone with his edgy play and impressive mean streak at the end of last season.
One of the big knocks against Philadelphia is the organization’s lack of patience when it comes to developing defenseman. Leaving spots in the top six for guys like Gustafsson and Lauridsen to earn and lean from their mistakes is a big part of doing this.
If you, like most other fans out there, do not want to give up Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier and want to see the Flyers develop defensemen then the choice seems pretty clear: leave a spot open for a guy like Gustafsson to develop at the NHL level rather than trading away Couturier for Yandle, doesn’t it?