Flyers' Defensive Options With Injuries Mounting

Emil Andrae struggled at times to keep up at the NHL level. With injuries mounting, could he get a second chance?
Emil Andrae struggled at times to keep up at the NHL level. With injuries mounting, could he get a second chance? / Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photo/GettyImages

It turns out that the fact that the Flyers dropped a 7-6 game to the Penguins wasn't the worst part of Sunday's matchup. If you saw that game, you would've seen young blueliner Jamie Drysdale take a nasty, but clean hit from Jansen Harkins. Drysdale had to leave the game and never returned. He was in obvious discomfort and was drooping his previously injured shoulder as he ran into the locker room.

The results are in. It is confirmed to be a shoulder injury and he is designated as "week-to-week". Things like that usually are pretty vague. Hopefully, he won't miss the rest of the season. He can rest up, heal, and come back and show us some of the spark that he has had already over the last month.

However, this comes on the heels of Rasmus Ristolainen being placed on injured reserve. He has already missed the first part of the season, came back, played in 31 games, and then got hurt with an upper body injury. Whether or not he will return this year is yet to be seen. Given that he has that injury designation, and given that the team will probably want to properly evaluate the younger talent, his return is less likely than Drysdale's.

So, moving forward, what can the Flyers do with these two defenders down?

First of all, John Tortorella has been playing with seven defenders for much of the last few weeks so as to give everyone playing time. The defensive corps is playing well enough and everyone has been getting rotations in and out. After Bobby Brink being recalled was, Tortorella has been forced with the standard six man defensive unit. It will be:

Travis Sanheim - Cam York

Nick Seeler - Sean Walker

Egor Zamula - Marc Staal

That's a pretty steady unit for now.

But what if Walker and/or Seeler get traded? At that point, you may see some of the AHL prospects come up. Louis Belpedio played well enough his first time up this fall. I could see him getting a call for veteran depth. Emil Andrae has had some playing time. He or Ronnie Attard could be the next ones on the list. After that, the next best option would probably be Adam Ginning. 

It may be possible that the Flyers trade for a young defender too, be it a prospect or a young player in need of a change of scenery. However, that may cut back on the draft pick returns. An NHL ready defender who could be a game changer now might be worth it.

The Flyers' defensive unit has been playing fairly well all season. They've been effective in shutting down the opposing power plays and are not giving up as many mistakes and breakaways as last year's group. 

However, this team is in prime contention for a playoff spot. This could be a good chance to test the mettle of a young player like Andrae or Attard and see what they have to offer. The team may also trade for a young prospect at the deadline who could be tested as well.  

The team has a week and a half to go until the trade deadline. We'll see what Daniel Briere does with this squad. Do we go all in for the playoffs or do we hold steady and keep building for even better things next season?