MONTREAL, QC - MAY 22: James van Riemsdyk #21 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on from the bench against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre on May 22, 2010 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
We know that Paul Holmgren and the Philadelphia Flyers are indeed working the phones, trying to see what's out there when it comes to the trade market for defensemen. We don't have first-hand knowledge of this, but Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun of TSN do, and they're the best in the business when it comes to this stuff.
(By the way, this is simple: Nobody is as insidery as these insiders. If somebody is saying they have more information than these guys on a major trade story like this, they're likely talking out of their ass.)
From Thursday night's Insider Trading segment on TSN, here's Dreger on the possibility of a trade between the Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs:
They have been, both past and present, and they're talking about James van Riemsdyk. Now, he's a big forward that we know Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs have coveted since Burke arrived in Toronto. As I said, there have been some discussions, but to say that there's a deal in the works is premature at this stage.
Is Luke Schenn involved? Well, the Toronto Maple Leafs have not offered Luke Schenn to anyone, including the Philadelphia Flyers. That being said, if James van Riemsdyk or a big forward such as became available, Schenn isn't untouchable. Neither is any other player in Toronto.
Eric Duhatschek of The Globe & Mail and Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News have both written about the Flyers' interest in Schenn as well. It is real. That doesn't mean a trade is anywhere near close, however. It's the same situation regarding other defensemen in the league. Here's LeBrun:
Well, I knew the Flyers -- Chris Pronger being out for the year -- are looking for a defenseman, and I believe Ryan Suter tops that list. They're not the only team that would want Ryan Suter, but the Flyers have to wait and see if he actually becomes available from the Nashville Predators.
Once that situation clarifies itself they can either go for it or not. Tim Gleason of the Carolina Hurricanes, another defenseman I'm told that the Flyers covet. Bottom line: defense, the No. 1 priority for the Flyers.
There's interest in a few guys, and Holmgren is certainly not in the wrong to be actively working the phones ahead of the late-February trade deadline. But does that mean a trade is going to happen, or that a trade should happen? The short answer: We don't know yet. We'll get into the long answer after the jump.
There's no doubt that the Flyers could benefit from the addition of a top-four defenseman this year, with Suter coming in on the high end, Gleason on the lower end and Schenn falling in the middle in terms of caliber between these three guys.
But just as with the goalie situation over the summer, you have to weigh the cost versus the benefit to the team. Our Geoff Detweiler talked about this in regards to Suter and Schenn at SB Nation Philly earlier this week: No matter what the Flyers give up, it's going to be a hefty price for these guys.
You have to look at it in terms of long-term versus short-term.
Short-term, as in over the course of this very season, it's sort of unclear what the Flyers should do. It seems silly to suggest that it could all hinge on a guy who's played just eight NHL games -- let alone a guy who doesn't even exist, according to FedEx -- but this really does depend on Erik Gustafsson's play.
If Gus can step back into the lineup and solidify the third pairing, the Flyers will be fine for the rest of this season with the defense they have.
They have an enviable top pairing in Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn, Matt Carle and Marc-Andre Bourdon have been very strong as the second pairing, and Gus replacing Andreas Lilja should go a long way towards pulling up the third unit. (All of that's dependent on pairings not changing with Gus back in, of course.)
A lot of people who don't watch the Flyers on an everyday basis see some of the personnel on defense here and think there's trouble brewing, but with Bourdon playing so well and Gus ready to come back, it's not crazy to think that the blueline could work out well the rest of the year. It all hinges on how Gustafsson plays.
If Gus plays well, I'm not sure the cost of acquiring any of those guys -- Schenn, Suter or Gleason -- is worth it in terms of what you'll gain this season. You'll lose picks, you'll lose current roster players, you might even lose James van Riemsdyk and the world of potential that still surrounds him. All to fill a void that might not really be there yet.
In that sense, the Flyers might be better off shedding less now and picking up a guy to prop up the bottom-four, not the top-four. Luckily, there's still time until the deadline for this stuff to sort itself out.
But what about long-term? Again, it relies on the exact cost, of which it's impossible to know at this point. But with Chris Pronger on the shelf for what could be forever, Timonen getting older by the second and Carle getting ready to hit unrestricted free agency in July, the need for a young, top-four defenseman definitely comes into focus.
Would it be worth giving up van Riemsdyk and perhaps a first round pick? Maybe even multiple picks? I'm not sure. JvR has been underwhelming to date, and that contract extension he's yet to earn does kick in next season, but as mentioned, the potential for him to become a superstar is still very real.
Worth noting: In the case of Suter and Gleason, the Flyers know what they'd be getting, but it's a little less clear with Schenn, who's struggled a bit, not unlike JvR. No coincidence that they're both 22.
At the same time, there's much more depth here at forward than there is at defense, so maybe it's a matter of trading a relative strength for a relative weakness. On the flip side, maybe the other concern lies in guys like Matt Read and Sean Couturier, as good as they've been, also still being unproven as NHLers. By trading away JvR, you'd be putting much more pressure on them to fully develop at a faster rate. That's the last thing we want.
Weighing all the options, would you be willing to part with a piece such as James van Riemsdyk and multiple draft picks if it means a serious improvement at the top of the D-corps? Should Paul Holmgren shift the focus to a player who isn't such a marquee name in hopes of improving somewhere in the bottom-four instead of the top-four?
Every option on the table carries with it unique risks and exciting potential. What should the Flyers do?