Plan B (or C or D?): Where can the Shea Weber-less Flyers turn next?

NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 26: Shea Weber #6 of the Nashville Predators grimmaces after colliding with Brian Bickell #29 of the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on April 26, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Shea Weber is staying in Nashville, and all things considered, it could be worse. The Flyers offer sheet served at least one purpose: It guaranteed that Weber would not play for the New York Rangers or another Eastern Conference rival. The bright side, you guys!

But the Flyers still have a problem. A pretty big one, if you ask me. Chris Pronger's career is likely over thanks to concussion problems that don't seem to be going away. Kimmo Timonen's career is almost over as well, and it's possible the Flyers only get one more season out of him. Matt Carle is no longer with the organization.

Braydon Coburn is still on the upswing of his career, but can he hold down the top pairing as a No. 1 guy? How many more minutes can the Flyers get out of him per game, anyway? Andrej Meszaros has been mostly a third pairing guy over the last two seasons with the Flyers. How much more will they get out of him?

Nicklas Grossmann is only 27 years old, but he does have knee issues and has never been a top-pairing guy. A nice player to plug the middle pairing at best. Luke Schenn was a third-pairing defenseman last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs (who are really bad at hockey) and while he has potential, there's no guarantee he'll be the player the league thought he'd be when he was drafted fifth overall.

This is the Flyers' current Shea Weber-less outlook on defense. Any other pieces in the organization are either career minor leaguers or nothing more than third-pairing plugs. (Sorry, Bruno Gervais.) And as anybody who's taken even a cursory look at the team's draft strategy over the last decade knows, drafting and developing elite defensemen is not the Flyers' strong suit. We're at the point where they don't even bother to try.

So in short, to fix the current problem that faces the organization on defense, the Flyers are going to have to look elsewhere. They tried their hardest with Shea Weber -- man, it was a damn good shot -- but it failed, and now they find themselves with far lesser options on their plate. What exactly are those options?

Shane Doan! Bobby Ryan! Lots of people are talking about these guys as options. You know, because the Flyers are in this just to throw money around at big name guys. I'm not sure how much sense it makes. Shane Doan remains a solid option at the right price, just as was the case when the chance of getting Weber still existed. He would help up front, but he doesn't solve the problem on defense. Same for Ryan, of course, and as far as we know, the Ducks are still asking for Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier in return. No. Thanks.

More offer sheets? There are still several young RFA defensemen on the market who have yet to sign with their clubs, and, well, the Flyers have proven that they aren't shy when it comes to the offer sheet taboo. Who's available?

Cap hits and stats are 2011-12 numbers. In parentheses are team ranks for each of the last two stats columns.

Player Team Age Cap Hit GP G A Corsi Rel QoC TOI/G
Michael Del Zotto NYR 22 $1.087m 77 10 31 0.211 (3) 22:26 (3)
P.K. Subban MTL 23 $875k 81 7 29 1.266 (2) 24:18 (1)
John Carlson WSH 22 $845k 82 9 23 1.050 (2) 21:51 (2)
Dmitry Kulikov FLA 21 $1.325m 58 4 24 0.464 (4) 21:51 (3)

Del Zotto, Carlson and Subban are all young potential top-pairing defensemen. Kulikov isn't as sure-fire, but he does have that upside as well.That their teams haven't signed them yet is shocking, really, but again, that goes to show the rarity of the offer sheet. General managers are not nervous enough about the potential of an offer sheet to care all that much.

But while there was a legitimate chance of the Flyers landing Weber via the offer sheet thanks to the outrageous terms of the deal, there's much less a chance it works with one of these players. The Flyers would have to drastically overpay to force a team not to match, and well, then you're drastically overpaying.

The Flyers have cap space. They don't have all the cap space.

Remaining 2012 UFA's? Maybe there's a chance that there's a diamond in the rough out there! Everybody missed him and the Flyers will swoop on in and pick him up! It'll be great! ... nope.

Trades? Dealing with a team is always a possibility, but when it comes to speculation about those types of things, it's almost impossible to talk accurately. A trade seems more likely than signing of a current RFA or one of the extremely underwhelming UFA's left on the market, but again, speculating about exact players is a futile effort. (Shouldn't stop you from doing it in the comments, though!)

Alright then, 2013 UFA's? Let's just stick with the defense the team has this year and move on, shall we? We don't know which defensemen will be available come July of next year, but the crop is sort of mediocre regardless. Well, maybe not. Perhaps Joe Corvo and Marek Zidlicky excite you. The 2014 crop is better, but that's two years away. Things will change in the next two years.

***

All things considered, it really does look like some sort of trade is the Flyers' best option here. That means giving up something of value, but thankfully the Flyers do have plenty of value scattered around their roster. We all know that Paul Holmgren is going to have to spend to get what he wants, though, and that's not going to be all that fun.

That, or I guess we can hope Luke Schenn turns into a No. 1 defenseman over night.

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