For the Philadelphia Flyers, the 2012 season began with uncertainty and end (like always) in disappointment. Expectations for the Flyers seemed minimal in October, yet skyrocketed to Stanley Cup dreams late in the year, only to be quickly dashed away. The New Jersey Devils exposed some pretty big holes in the Flyers, areas which they hope to mend this offseason.
GM Paul Holmgren never ceases to amaze when it comes to making moves, and this July will be no different. There is no doubt “Homer” has a plan of action for this offseason, and it should look along the lines of this one.
Part A) Draft A Defenseman.
There was no bigger mess with the Flyers last year than the defensemen. Each key defenseman felt the wrath of the injury bug, especially Chris Pronger, whose career is in jeopardy. The Flyers must go forward without their best defenseman and Captain, and need to groom a young defenseman. At pick #20 the pickings get a little thinner, Derrick Pouliot and Brady Skeji the best options. However, Philadelphia seems poised to move up towards the Top 10. Philadelphia has been dangling backup Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky as trade bait, and a team like Tampa Bay at pick #10 could certainly use him. Higher in the first round, targets like Matthew Dumba and Cody Ceci are much more pro ready. Ceci could in time fill the void left by the absence of Chris Pronger. Like Pronger, Ceci is a big body who can contribute on the offensive end. For the Ottawa 67′s of the OHL, Ceci had a scoreline of 17/43/60. Both Dumba and Cody Ceci could make the Flyers roster out of camp, if Philadelphia can move up high enough to select them.
Part B) Sign/Trade for a Top Defenseman.
By no means should the Flyers stop revamping the blue line after the NHL Draft. At 37, Kimmo Timonen only has so much left in him, and Nicklas Grossmann and Andrej Meszaros are not #1 Defensemen. The Hockey Guys Dustin Leed is reporting that the Flyers and Matt Carle are close to an agreement to have him return to Philadelphia, a move that is very smart. Carle played in all 82 games last year, and was 21st among D-men with 38 points. Yet the Flyers will need a top guy to pair with Carle, and his name is Shea Weber. Weber is a Restricted Free Agent with the Nashville Predators, and his negotiating rights would have to be traded to Philadelphia. But, the price would certainly be worth him signing a long-term contract to play for the Flyers. At 26, Weber is already one of the premier defenseman in the NHL. An extremely physical player, he put up great numbers on both ends of the ice. Weber tallied 19 goals and 30 assists, and had a +/- of +21, good for 20th in the NHL and 7th out of Defenseman. Pair him up with Carle, and you have one of the most formidable pairings in all of hockey. Other options via Free Agency would be University of Wisconsin’s Justin Schultz, who was the first ever player to lead UW in goals, other Nashville standout Ryan Suter, ready to hit the open market for the first time, and the Washington Capitals Dennis Wideman, a big defenseman with a right-handed shot. All of these players have been rumored to Philadelphia, and will draw interest from them come July 1st.
Part C) Fill In The Last Piece To The Offensive Puzzle
In a move that would mimmic a Los Angeles like offensive force, Philadelphia is one winger away from having an Offense built like the reigning Stanley Cup champions. 3rd or 4th line options for the Flyers: LW Taylor Pyatt or RW Lee Stempinak. With Phoenix last year, Pyatt only scored 9 goals, but is only two years removed from scoring 18 goals. One of Pyatt’s strengths is that he is a great two-way player, a quality that is extremely valued from a 4th line guy. Stempinak put up good numbers with Calgary, putting up 28 points. The 29 year old winger can play both sides of the ice, and is a pretty good special teams player. Both Pyatt and Stempinak could be signed for very little, and would be very effective with the Flyers.
Part D) Do Not Spend Just To Spend
A flaw of Paul Holmgren: signing players because he can, a la Jody Shelley. With the salary cap rumored to be around $70.3 million, the Flyers have a lot of cap room and plenty of money to spend. But that does not mean they should. Although the Zach Parise’s and the Alex Semin’s of the world are enticing, there is no need to handcuff yourself by overpaying. It is important to fill the holes necessary, but it is almost as important to give yourself room if a midseason trade is necessary.
July 1st is set to be a crazy day for the Flyers organization, and this offseason is one of the more crucial in recent memory.