As we learned Thursday night, the Flyers and Matt Carle may divorce on Sunday. Without him, the Flyers have a serious hole on defense, as Carle eats more minutes than anybody on the team. So what are the options beyond to fill that void should he leave?
- Ryan Suter, of course. He's the prize of the UFA market on defense, but all indications are that he doesn't have Philadelphia on his short list. And if Carle's leaving due to a better offer elsewhere, that means the Flyers didn't offer him what he wanted -- and that means they likely wouldn't offer Suter what he wants, either.
- Justin Schultz, the Wisconsin standout who ditched Anaheim (the team that drafted him) and will hit the UFA market on Saturday, reportedly doesn't want to come to Philly either. He's a rookie and as real as the hype may be, who really knows how well he'd be able to step in and play a full NHL season right off the bat? Asking any rookie to replace Matt Carle's role on this team is a risk.
- Luke Schenn might be able to fill the hole someday but that day has not yet arrived. This was a bottom-pairing guy last year. As awesome as it would be for him to step up immediately and play a top-pairing role, it's not something the Flyers can bank on entering this season.
- Braydon Coburn is already playing 22 minutes a night. Maybe you give him tougher assignments but he can't take much more ice time. Kimmo Timonen is old. Nicklas Grossmann's knees might not be able to handle much more than what he's already doing.
So ... alright, then. We're going to have to keep looking. Who else on the free agent market could be an option? We'll go through this one at a time over the next few days, beginning here with Ottawa Senators defenseman Filip Kuba.
#17 / Defenseman / Ottawa Senators
Dec 29, 1976
advanced stats key -- number in parentheses is team rank
|GP||G||A||P||+/-||PIM||SOG||PP Pts||Blocks||PP TOI/G||TOI/G|
|TOI/60||Corsi Rel QoC||Corsi Rel QoT||Pts/60||GF/60||GA/60||OZ%||PDO||Corsi Rel||Sh%||Sv%|
|17.44 (2)||0.807 (1)
Kuba had a great year with the Sens after a pretty awful 2010-11 campaign, but one worries how much of his success was the effect of Erik Karlsson, the Norris Trophy candidate who played alongside Kuba for most of the season.
That said, if the Flyers lose Carle, Kuba could certainly plug in alongside Kimmo Timonen and eat up plenty of minutes on the top or second pairing. Kuba can also play on the penalty kill and he's not one of those guys you need to worry about when it comes to his defensive game.
He's used to taking on tough assignments as a member of Ottawa's top pairing last year, but the results weren't necessarily all that pretty. But much of that may come from playing alongside Karlsson, a young defender who's a great scorer but still needs some work in the defensive zone. At least that's what I'd like to believe.
He can be a bit inconsistent at times, but for the most part he's a steady defender who can eat minutes and chip in on special teams. He's more mobile than you'd expect for a 35-year-old, 6'4 defenseman.
Sens blog Silver Seven would pass on Kuba if the decision was theirs this offseason, though. That's concerning.
I was on boat with that idea for much of the second half of the season, but once the playoffs began, I jumped off and swam to shore. Kuba's a good regular season defenceman, but his post-season performance showed me that he doesn't have what it takes to succeed in the playoffs. He showed no "extra gear" once the second season began, and his lack of physicality becomes more concerning in the playoffs. I harbour no ill will towards Kuba, and appreciate his time here, but I think it's time for the Senators to move on.
Ironically, the guy Silver Seven looks to fill the void left by Kuba? None other than Matt Carle, among others.
Kuba is 35, so he's not a long-term option. One or two years should be the max on him, but if it gets the Flyers over the bridge to a world where Luke Schenn grows into a better player, it could be a decent move for the team this summer. Really, though, this should make us realize how steep the drop off in the market is beyond Carle and Suter.