The debate rages on. Between twitter and Flyers blogs (this one included, obviously) everyone is asking the same question. How do the Philadelphia Flyers get their hands on a #1 defenseman? Flyers fans/writers are in agreement, with the exceptions of Carchidi and Panaccio, that they need help on the blue line. That is pretty obvious. The debate is over what to do next. Do the Flyers send away a few young, promising, NHL ready forwards for a #1 defenseman? Or do they take what they can get for picks/prospects and keep the core intact? Although the need for a top pairing defenseman is glaring, I lean towards the latter proposition (though I am far from fully convinced). However, before getting into the two questions above, here are three thoughts to consider.
First, as I wrote earlier this week, the Flyers have an improvement on their blue line sitting in the press box. Erik Gustafsson is a fast, skilled defenseman. No, he is not a Subban or a Karlsson, but he is an improvement over almost everyone on the ice. With Meszaros finding his game and the redundancy of having both Grossmann and L.Schenn, I see no reason why Gus cannot come in and replace one of the big guys (preferably Grossmann right now). This defense needs some skill. Before breaking the bank with a trade, the organization should do what they can from the inside. Playing Gus costs no assets and will help the Flyers in both the short and long term.
Second, right now may not be a good time for a deal. The Flyers might be better off sizing up other teams for right now. Teams like Nashville, Phoenix, and Winnipeg have playoff hopes. Although, there are rumors surrounding both PHX and WPG that they could deal a defenseman soon, the chances of them dealing a high end defenseman while they are trying to make a playoff run are slim. Take last night’s opponent, Nashville, for example. They are eight points out of a playoff spot with about 33 games to play. When the trade deadline comes around, they could easily be 10+ points out of the playoff race and will have just 20 games left. If they are no longer viable playoff candidates and decide to be “sellers”, they would be more willing to trade away a skilled defenseman (Ellis/Ekholm/Josi???) for picks and prospects without demanding one of our prized pieces like B.Schenn or Couturier.
Third, Giroux and the forwards are just now entering their prime. Therefore, their window for winning a Stanley Cup is just now opening. I totally agree with those that say that they will need a #1 defenseman to win the Cup. They will, it’s a necessity in today’s NHL. I also agree that Ghost, Morin, and Hagg are good prospects, but they could be 4-6 years away from being bonafide NHLers and even then they may not be #1 material. So, the Flyers will almost certainly have to make a trade to acquire this needed defenseman. With that said, a trade does NOT have to happen this season. Next season, all of the current forwards will be a year older. Add Laughton and possibly Mark Alt/Oliver Lauridsen to the mix of young players and the Flyers could have even greater organizational depth. Why not take a year or two, accumulate some prospect depth through the draft, and then make a big trade? Here is how old the Flyers “core” forwards will be in two years:
Giroux – 28
Simmonds – 27
Voracek – 26
B. Schenn – 24
Couturier – 23
Read – 29
Raffl – 27
Downie – 28
There are eight guys, each with at least the potential to be a top-6 forward, who will be in their prime at the same time. So why not accumulate assets and picks over these next two years and then see what is available? It may be wise to sit tight and let this core grow together. The window to win a Cup will not end this year. In fact, it will just be getting started.
One final note to add about a potential trade is that the Flyers have nine defensemen on NHL contracts. Bruno Gervais may be nicely tucked away in Adirondack, but that still leaves eight active defensemen on the roster. Before any trade would go down, someone has to be dealt. The question that leads us to is this. Who would want to trade for one of our defensemen? I doubt there are a lot of takers out there right now.
I know many of you will disagree with me, and you will probably have very solid points. I’m willing to listen and greatly respect the opinions of my readers. Whether we agree or not, I always enjoy the conversations. Hopefully this was some food for thought.