I have noticed lately that the panic meter has been getting higher with injuries to Chris Pronger, Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, among others. But with recent news that Giroux and Couturier are doing better, with Giroux possibly playing tonight, the main concern is of course Pronger being out for the season and what we need to do on defense to replace him. Chris Pronger is our captain and our leader, but his importance to the team I feel is overstated, despite the good offensive stats to start the year Pronger is a shell of his former self on D (mostly because he is no young man anymore) and frankly our record without him is better than our record with him, now I'm not trying to say losing Pronger for the season is a good thing, far from it, but its not the tragedy that people make it out to be.
The loss of Pronger has opened the door for 2 young defensemen, Kevin Marshall and Marc-Andre Bourdon. I have been very impressed with these two, mostly Bourdon, which makes me hope that the Flyers keep them around even when Liljas ready to go, the two kids are very good, solid on D, and Bourdon has a solid shot. Are they long term top line defenders? probably not, but Bourdon at least is a very solid 2nd pair defender.
Now the question is with this Pronger injury being incredibly serious, not only to his career but to his life, is what are the Flyers going to do long term for a top pair defensemen, Brayden Coburn was just signed to an extension, but he's not really a top line guy, Kimmo Timonen is running out of steam, he doesn't have a whole lot of time left, Andrej Meszaros I feel with a little more grooming will be a top line guy, and of course those who have read my articles know my feelings towards Matt Carle (would have no problems letting him walk this offseason). So the problem being moving forward that the Flyers could really use Top Pair talent on D, and I think this is the perfect time to acquire one via trade.
I have heard some names be thrown around, Mike Komisarek, Sergei Gonchar, Drew Doughty, Shea Weber, but I really don't see any of them fitting well. The first two just flat are either at the end of their career, therefore not solving the problem, or just flat not that good, not solving the problem. Doughty and Weber would each be great additions and definitely our long term solution on defense, but there are two problems, what it would take to get them, and their cap number. Not only would it take a ton of top talent and draft picks to get Drew Doughty, but he's signed through 2019 and has a cap hit of 7 million per season, that would put the Flyers in Cap Hell for the next few seasons and probably beyond, same deal with Weber, he's currently at 7.5 million and could command the same if not more in the offseason (someone will pay it, Weber I feel is the best Defenseman in the league). It would be amazing to acquire one of those defensemen, but it just wouldn't be practical or smart, I feel there is one target the Flyers should be looking at on defense to see if we can get him long term.
That target's name is Ryan Suter.
Suter is the unsung hero of the Nashville Predators, excelling at passing and is a pure lock down defender. He doesn't get the publicity or the paycheck that his linemate does, but Suter is an exceptional defenseman and is only 26 years old. Right now his cap hit is only a manageable 3.5 million, and would likely only require a prospect and maybe some draft picks to obtain his services, since he's about to be an unrestricted free agent, unlike Weber who would cost more seeing as he will be an RFA and easily retained by the Preds. Suter will likely command around 6 million in free agency, and with a little massaging the Flyers should be able to fit him in, probably giving him one of those ridiculously long, cap friendly contracts Holmgren loves to hand out.
The bottom line of this is that the Flyers should not panic, this team is solid and the defense/goaltending seems to be really putting it together lately. Even though it would be highly beneficial for the Flyers this season to acquire Ryan Suter, it is not particularly needed since he will be unrestricted come July. The Flyers are in fairly good shape and should only make a deal if the price is right.