Philadelphia Flyers defense needs help, so who's available?

Harry How

Let's look at the Flyers' remaining options to improve their defense.

Heading into the 2013 season, the Philadelphia Flyers defense is a concern. That's not a surprise to anybody. But how does Paul Holmgren plan on fixing the problem? He's not just going into the season with the blue line we have, right?

Well, that very well might happen, but we know that at the very least, Homer will try to make some sort of acquisition before the season starts in a week. Who might be available?

Trades are nearly impossible to predict, so we'll leave out any potential trade options for now. But let's look around the free agency pool. We'll start with restricted free agents, because they're the most unrealistic but also most drool-worthy options the Flyers have.

P.K. Subban

The Flyers are certainly interested in Subban -- how could they not be? -- but the chances of them actually prying him away from the Montreal Canadiens is somewhere between ridiculously slim and absolutely none.

Think about it: If the Flyers couldn't get Shea Weber away from Nashville with ALL THE MONEY, why do we think they'll be able to do the same with Subban? Montreal has cash. At the very best, we can simply drive up his cost. The Habs aren't letting him walk.

Michael Del Zotto

Basically the same thing here. MDZ wants to have a new deal before Rangers camp opens. The Rangers want him to have a new deal before camp opens. I'd bet they get something done really, really soon after the league officially opens up for business again either Saturday or Sunday. The Flyers could send an offer sheet, but it would do nothing more than just drive up the price. Although that'd be fun...

Now, onto the UFA market...

Paul Ranger

Ranger is an intriguing option. The defenseman currently doesn't have an NHL contract, and after taking a few years off of from hockey, he joined the AHL's Toronto Marlies on a minor-league deal prior to this season. Despite not playing in the NHL since the 2009-10 season, he's having a great year in the AHL according to all accounts.

Here's Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins talking about what Ranger has brought to the team this year in his return to hockey, via the Toronto Sun, back in November:

"He just keeps getting better and better," Eakins said. "Other than (last Friday's loss in) Hamilton, I would have to say from the start of the road trip until now (10 games) he's been our best defenseman every night. It's a great story for me. A guy who was off that long, to come in Day One of training camp and set the tone with his fitness level and pick up his game this fast ... it shows not only his hockey ability, but his mental fortitude."

Ranger is a big guy, can make a strong breakout pass, has a nice shot and is apparently in great shape for a guy who hasn't played at the NHL level in three years. In a short season when you need the help on defense anyway, why not take a chance?

Randy Jones

lol just for kicks

Kurtis Foster

The Flyers already have reported interest in Foster, according to the Delaware County Times. He's struggled since suffering a broken leg back in 2008. He crashed into the boards on an icing call and it was really nasty, and ever since he's been a bit slower than he once was. Foster has a nice big shot and could potentially help on the power play, and he's definitely a big body, but he only averaged 12-and-a-half minutes of even strength ice time per game in 2011-12 with Minnesota, New Jersey and Anaheim.

***
The concern with any of these guys is that you're just adding to the plethora of sixth and seventh defensemen already on the team. The Flyers already have Bruno Gervais and Andreas Lilja in that role. Will adding another guy of that caliber do anything to fix the real problems the defense will face this year.

They need a second-pairing guy who can eat some minutes, not another third pairing plug, and unfortunately it doesn't seem like those guys are all that available unless you're giving up something to get them.

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