As the Flyers approach the trade deadline, they may be faced with the question of whether or not to deal their longest tenured player in Braydon Coburn.
We all know that the Flyers aren't going to be buyers at this year's trade deadline. Regardless of how optimistic you are about their chances of making the playoffs, the hard reality is they probably won't, and that means that they might be looking to ship away some players to solidify their future.
Of all the players that the Flyers have as potential trade bait, Coburn is potentially one of the most tantalizing for contending teams. Solid defensemen aren't exactly easy to come across by trade at any time in the NHL, and especially if they are on relatively cap friendly deals.
Given that the Flyers have a potentially coveted asset in Braydon Coburn, would they consider shipping out the veteran to help their future?
The case for trading Coburn
Like I said above, Coburn is just one of those guys that contending teams will be looking to add to make a playoff push. Despite all the misdirected criticism he gets from fans, the fact is that Coburn is one of the better defensemen on the Flyers. He is a solid penalty killer that can log big minutes, both of which are attributes that teams tend to place a high value on at deadline time.
Given all of that, the chances of the Flyers being able to pull in fair value (which I would contend is rather high) are pretty good. I wouldn't be entirely shocked if Coburn was able to fetch a first rounder, although I think that realistically the return will be smaller. Regardless, he'll bring in something worthwhile.
Would the Flyers miss him? Absolutely. But, again, they are most likely not making the playoffs this year, so it really won't matter much. As for the future, in all likelihood, the team won't be very good for a few years and having Coburn here won't change that in any considerable way. When they're ready and able to contend again, I imagine that at least one of their top four defensive prospects will be playing at the NHL level, so all will be fine (I hope).
Hell, trading Coburn could be a positive in that he'll open up a roster spot for one of the new kids to get a chance to crack the roster sooner rather than later.
The long and short of it is yes, Braydon Coburn is a solid player. But given what he could return and the fact that the Flyers are stacked with defensive prospects, it might be worth getting rid of him.
The case for keeping Coburn
Here's the thing about Braydon Coburn: he's pretty decent. Sure, he's not a "game changing" defenseman, but he could very much be a suitable complementary guy on a top pairing on pretty much any team in the league. Simply put, he's one of the Flyers' better defensemen, and has been for many years.
Considering that he's a relatively young veteran defenseman, it might be nice to have Coburn around to usher in the new cast of Flyers defensemen. We all know that Kimmo Timonen and Mark Streit aren't going to be around for much longer, so Coburn is, despite maybe not being as good, a nice replacement in that regard.
And, not to get too sentimental, but Coburn is the longest tenured Flyer. For a team that seems completely willing to cut ties with their on-ice talent at a whim, Coburn has been a nice, consistent force on the blue line for the past couple of years. I would be pretty sad to see him go, for whatever that is worth.
As sad as I would be to see Coburn go, I think the trade deadline might be the right time to part ways with the veteran defenseman. Based on his skills, his cap hit, and his age, it's entirely possible that too many teams will be knocking on the door with offers for Ron Hextall to say no.
But let's be clear: dealing Braydon Coburn will certainly mark a step back for the Flyers in terms of defense. But if the return is good enough -- and I think it can be -- the pros will simply outweigh the cons. In that case, I think the Flyers will be better off making a deal than not.