The Avalanche placed Matt Hunwick, their top defenseman in 2013, on waivers today. I do not know exactly why they did this other than a pretty clear desire to shake things up under new management and a new coach, but it's a move that could reap benefits for another team in the league.
Could the Flyers be that team?
Let's first say that the Flyers currently have too many defensemen. They sent a qualifying offer to Erik Gustafsson yesterday, and if he ultimately re-signs as expected, there will be nine NHL-caliber defensemen on the roster (not including Chris Pronger). After the Mark Streit signing, the defense is probably not the Flyers' chief concern any longer, but the unit of six-seven guys that will ultimately play on the blueline this year could still be improved.
Here's how things stand at present:
Kimmo Timonen - Luke Schenn
Braydon Coburn - Mark Streit
Andrej Meszaros - Nicklas Grossmann
Extras: Erik Gustafsson, Bruno Gervais
AHL: Marc-Andre Bourdon
(This is why I consider Meszaros perfect trade bait. He feels like the odd man out here, as I'd rather have Gustafsson in the top six than him, especially when you consider Meszaros' $4 million cap hit. Doesn't even matter what you get back for him. Losing the $4 million is a nice gain.)
Looking at the current crop, it's easy to say there's no room to add anybody. But if you can get Hunwick for nothing on the waiver wire, it's worth it.
He's 27 years old and earns just $1.6 million against the cap on his current deal, which expires after this coming season. He rebounded from a really tough 2011-12 season and dominated on the Colorado blueline, playing over 21 minutes per game and leading the team in even strength ice time per game.
He typically faced the opposition's top competition all year with the Avalanche and performed admirably -- basically, he was the only guy on that team who could even come close to being considered a "shut down" defenseman. He played in all situations, is a strong puck-mover and a great skater. One downside is that he's not very physical, but not every defenseman needs to be a bruiser, damnit.
Hunwick's affordable and he's a top-four guy who can make the defense better. Yeah, there'd be a log jam on defense if the Flyers added him, but that's a good problem to have. You can always deal a guy if push comes to shove and you need to free up a spot. Depth is a good thing, and when the Flyers lose Timonen after next season, having a puck-mover like Hunwick would help fill the void provided they can re-sign him.
At the very worst, Hunwick will go to another team that claims him ahead of the Flyers. Putting a claim in on him can only help the Flyers situation on defense. So why not do it?