Even before the rumor season began, I was hoping to see Paul Holmgren stay quiet during the week leading up to the NHL trade deadline. The deadline is next Wednesday, March 5th. So far, the Flyers have not made any moves but they have been linked to several players. What they do between now and March 5th will tell us a lot about what management thinks this team can do.
When I say that I think Holmgren should be quiet this year at the trade deadline, that does not mean that I think he should do nothing. Unless a deal comes up for a top pairing defenseman (names like Ehrhoff, Vatanen, and Edler have come up) that does not cost too much, then Homer should stay away from adding players. In my opinion, as far as trade bait goes, Sean Couturier and our first round pick should be off the table.
One of the most helpful things that Holmgren can do for this team’s future is sell off their UFA’s. They only have three of note, Kimmo Timonen, Steve Downie, and Andrej Meszaros (with the injury to Emery I don’t think he is going anywhere). As much sense as it may make to trade Timonen and possibly get a first round pick + for him, I just do not see the Flyers being willing to part with their assistant captain. Steve Downie could possible fetch a mid/low level draft pick or two, but considering the way he plays with Read and Couturier, the Flyers may want to hang on to him for the rest of the season.
When it comes to Andrej Meszaros, there are multiple reasons why he should be dealt by Wednesday. Here are just three:
First, the Flyers could get a quality asset for him. At first, I was skeptical of the thought that another team would actually want Meszaros enough to call the Flyers about him. However, Darren Dreger reported on the NHL Network that the Bruins were interested in Mesz and the always reliable Eklund (ok, maybe not) has reported Boston’s interest in him on numerous occasions, including this one. But then we must wonder, can the Flyers get anything better than a sixth/seventh round pick for him? I believe so. In this article, a Bruins blogger gives multiple reasons why the Bruins would love Meszaros. I will let you read the arguments on your own (I don’t want to steal his thunder), but he mentions at the end that the Bruins could give up a second or third round draft choice for Meszaros. For a defenseman who has been in and out of the lineup over the past few years with injuries (and just being a healthy scratch), receiving a second or third round pick for him sounds glorious. When July 1st comes, it is very unlikely that Meszaros will have re-signed with the Flyers. Why not get an asset for him instead of letting him walk away for nothing? And if he really has turned his career around and is a true top-4 defenseman, then we can always sign him this summer.
Second, it allows the Flyers to play Erik Gustafsson full time. As I have stated many times on this blog, I am a huge fan of the GusBus. Gustafsson is a restricted free agent at the end of this season and will likely be re-signed. Unfortunately, the Flyers have a log jam on defense and Gustafsson has had to switch in and out of the lineup with Meszaros for the entirety of the season. Yes, Gustafsson has bad games every once in a while. However, unlike other Flyers defensemen he seems to be benched at the first sign of trouble. This both hinders his development and sets a bad precedent. What message does this treatment of Gus send to guys like Morin, Hagg, and Gostisbehere? It says that the Flyers will bench you at the first sign of trouble. And when it comes to young defensemen, there will inevitably be times of trouble. Therefore, trading Meszaros gives Gustafsson the freedom to play on a nightly basis without the press box looming over his head.
Third, it frees the Flyers to make other small moves. I am not opposed to making a small tweak here or there to the Flyers line up. And as I stated earlier, I would not be opposed to a trade that brought in a top defenseman, if the price is right. However, the Flyers are in no position to make any trades right now. According to capgeek.com the Flyers can only afford to take on a contract of $2, 929, 573 million this season. Even for a ‘small tweak’, just under $3M is not a lot of money to work with. Even if it is only for a short time, taking Meszaros’ $4M AAV off the books could give the Flyers breathing room. That way the Flyers could make the small moves that may be needed to keep the team afloat. For example, the status of Ray Emery is unclear at this time. If the Flyers need to find a veteran back up for the short term, more cap room offers more flexibility. If the Flyers take the advice of Brendan Canney and I (and a host of others out there) and do not make too many moves, cap space will not be a big deal, but it is always nice to have some breathing room.
I do not hate Meszaros, nor do I think he is a bad player. But right now, I see no reason why he should be on the Philadelphia Flyers roster come March 6th.