A report by the fantastic, reliable Chris Botta at AOL FanHouse says that the Flyers and GM Paul Holmgren are looking to deal at the trade deadline. An excerpt:
The general manager will also be operating from a position of power; the fact is, the 24-10-5 Flyers are strong enough at every position that Holmgren does not have to make a trade. Philadelphia has been well-stocked at forward for over a year. Last summer, Holmgren strengthened the defense with a trade for Andrej Meszaros and free agent signing of Sean O'Donnell. A mid-season injury to Chris Pronger -- he will resume skating on Thursday -- gave the 36-year-old defenseman the kind of break he would never ask for but could use at this juncture of his Hall of Fame career.
What will Holmgren do to improve his contending team over the next six weeks? The bet here is an upgrade at right wing. Despite scoring 13 goals (and two assists) in 35 games, Nikolai Zherdev clearly has not won Laviolette's full-time faith. Zherdev is averaging just 12:18 of icetime per game, lowest among the Flyers' top-nine forwards.
The point Botta makes in that first paragraph is the important one. Why would the Flyers be compelled to make a move, besides just making one to make one? For the first time in a very long time, the Flyers are in great shape at every position. They have one of the strongest defenses in the league from top to bottom.
They have an incredibly potent, balanced attack, with the potential for NINE 20 goal scorers. Seriously, nine of them. Through 39 games, the Flyers have scorers with 18 goals, two with 16, two with 13, one with 10 and three with nine. Basically, as Botta mentions, it comes down to Nikolay Zherdev and Peter Laviolette's incomprehensible mistrust of him.
We all know that Zherdev's a pretty enigmatic dude. He doesn't seem like the best teammate or perhaps the easiest guy to coach, but it's really difficult to argue with 13 goals while playing 12 minutes a night, mostly on the fourth line. He's eighth in the NHL in goals per 60 minutes of ice time.
The Flyers don't need an upgrade at right wing. They need to get Zherdev more playing time. Plain and simple.
They don't need an upgrade anywhere else, either. The offense is fantastic, perhaps the most balanced in the NHL. The blueline is, top to bottom, the best in the Eastern Conference. And they even have a surplus of extra help on the active roster and under the cap, even when everybody is healthy. They can keep an extra defenseman and an extra forward, vital in the postseason, and they can still be cap compliant.
We know it's against the grain of our usual thinking around here to just stay put at the deadline. Being content with the current standing of the team is just a bizarre situation to be in when you're a Flyers fan. If we can't be content with this Flyers team right now, though, will we ever be?