As long as we can all remember, the Philadelphia Flyers defense has been in a state of flux. Sure, the team has had some workhorses and solid guys over the last 30 years: Gary Galley, Eric Desjardins, Chris Therien, Luke Richardson, Kevin Hatcher, Chris Pronger, and Kimmo Timonen to name a few. Some guys were great. Some, like Paul Coffey, were at the tail end of their careers. Others were wastes of money, like Andrew MacDonald and Erik Gustafson. Still, there were those like Ivan Prororov or Shayne Gostisbehere, that we wanted more from.
It’s not that the Flyers defense has been bad. It’s just that it really hasn’t been a top-10 squad for a very long time. But then again, what do you want in a defense? After all, that’s the issue with the Norris Trophy, right? Do you want a defender who puts up an insane amount of points, like Erik Karlsson, or do you want a guy who hangs back but makes sure that the other team never scores? Do you want a quarterback to run the power play, like Tony DeAngelo, or someone to punish any forward coming into our zone, like Pronger used to?
Well, a guy who should be a Norris Trophy finalist could be up for grabs, depending on what happens this summer. Brett Pesce, a super talented blueliner from Carolina, will be a free agent next summer. The Hurricanes are trying to hammer out an extension this summer. If they can’t agree to a deal, he’ll most likely be shipped out.
Pesce is not a point scoring defender, although he had 30 points this year; making it a career high for the 28 year old. He’s a guy who guards the blueline with a passion. He’s tough, but not reckless. Only twice in his career has he had a negative +/- rating, with twice in his career posting over a 20. This year he set a career high with 43 penalty minutes. He blocked 110 shots, doled out 27 hits, and stole the puck 60 times while coughing it up just 26 times.
He’s not physical, despite being 6’3″ and 190 lbs. He’s just a solid, dependable guy. He has quietly become one of the more respected defensive minded defenders in the NHL. He’s what EVERY NHL team wants. So why is there is issue with Carolina?
Well, the Hurricanes have some financial issues. They have about $24 million in cap space for this year. At first, you would think that is good. However, they have the following free agents to consider signing: Jordan Staal, Paul Stastny, Derek Stepan, Jesper Fast, and Mackenzie MacEachern. This also doesn’t include defenders Dylan Coughlan, Calvin De Haan, and Gostisbehere. Oh yeah, both of their goalies, Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta are free agents. Max Pacioretty and Jake Gardiner are free agents too, if they are healthy enough to play. And next year, Sebastian Aho, Jordan Martinook, Brady Skjei, and Teuvo Teräväinen will all hit the market and be eligible as well. Geez.
This is good news to the Flyers who could use Carolina’s looming financial woes to their advantage. Most likely, the Canes will do everything they can to secure Aho and Skjei first and work backwards from there. That leaves someone like Pesce open for the taking.
This upcoming season, Pesce will be earning a little over $4 million. When you look at what the Flyers are paying DeAngelo, Travis Sanheim, and Rasmus Ristolainen, that’s a steal!
A trade for Pesce will cost the team some draft picks and prospects, no doubt. But if the Flyers could do a sign and trade with him, he could be signed for probably $6-7 million. He would be a steadying influence on a younger player like Cam York. And taking on his full salary would allow Carolina to build for their future too. You might not have to give up too much, but there will be a lot of buyers for someone of Pesce’s skill set. That might drive his price up.
I would start here. If this drags out over the summer, and the Canes couldn’t keep both goalies, perhaps offering one of our four goalies to get Pesce with a lower draft pick (5th or 6th round might sweeten the deal.
I’m not one for trading away future assets, but if you can get someone who is really good now, I’d consider it. Pesce is a solid defender who could really jumpstart our team’s defense. It’s worth looking into if he is available.