I'm a little worried about the Flyers defense next season. They've been lacking a solid number one defenseman since Chris Pronger was injured, and the FA market for defenseman is very thin for next year. With cap restraints as well as a lot of multi-year contracts the immediate future doesn't look particularly bright.
1st Pairing: Coburn and Timonen:
I've always liked Timonen and I think him and Coburn make each other better, but he is bound to slow down soon. I also think the MacDonald signing sorta forces him into retirement, unless he's willing to to take a massive pay cut. He's bound to lose a step at some point and even if he comes back next year I'm skeptical that he will be as effective as he's been this year. Coburn has consistently been a solid defender, with the exception of last season, and $4.5 million isn't a bad rate for him going forwards. My biggest worry is who is going to take Timonen's spot if he leaves? Ghost Bear was phenomenal in the Frozen Four and I think he has potential to fill the Desjardins/Timonen role in a few years, but next season would be too early. Streit is an option to move up, and I think he would have a positive effect on Coburn the same way that Timonen does, but that would leave the second pairing much weaker. Gus with Coburn might be an acceptable line as well, as long as Coburn doesn't implode like he does when he's matched with some other defenseman.
2nd Pairing: Streit and Grossman:
There was a piece on the emergence of the Streit-Grossman pairing, and I think they've done well in the second half of the season as well. Streit might need to move up to the first pairing next season, and I think Gus would be a nice fit on this line if the coaching staff gives him a chance there. I'm curious as to why he is never used, when I've liked what I've seen for the most part and his possession numbers aren't horrible. For a few seasons he was always the "next season" guy, this'll be his breakout year, but it's just never happened. I hope he gets an increased role next season, since there is going to be a need for a mobile defenseman to work with Grossman. If Gus can fit in with Coburn I think this pair should stay intact. I just hope Berube & company can find some faith in the 25 year old.
3rd Pairing: L. Schenn and MacDonald:
This pairing is just a festering turd. They're both just not very good defenseman, and the potential for them is just nonexistent. AMac's new contract makes the bottom pairing worth $8.6 million until 2015-16 when Schenn's contract is up, and it'd be great if he got traded before his NTC kicks in that season. There's not much to be done with this line, because with the money tied up in both of them there's not gonna be a chance to bring in someone else to step in, unless one of them goes. Bottom line, there is a lot of cap space invested in a third defensive pairing, and it is just plain stupid.
Depth Options and Prospects:
As stated previously, Gus could get a larger role if the staff finally shows any faith in him at all. Ghost Bear could benefit from a year or two with the Phantoms and all of the other defensive prospects are still a season or two away from being NHL ready, if they do ever make that jump. Gill probably won't be back next season, and Bourdon might never make it back to the NHL due to his concussion problems.
Trades and Free Agency:
Holmgren shot himself in the foot with the AMac contract, it's going to be hard to justify tying up more salary in another defenseman when 30% of the projected $71 million cap is tied up in 5 defenseman (with AMac being the second highest paid defenseman on the team, dammit) and needing to resign B. Schenn, if they go that route with him. There's possibly a cheap depth option they could pick up if they don't have faith in Gus, but I don't think that it's really an appealing option, especially if they can resign him for cheap.
I like the future of the defense, I think the Flyers will be set in a few years if they can develop their talent, but for the immediate future I am less than optimistic. I think that next season the core will remain largely intact with a few minor changes, but there probably won't be any major overhauls (who knows with Homer, though). It's going to be a waiting game for the Flyers and their fans, and hopefully we're rewarded with a young, talented blue line in a few years.