The Philadelphia Flyers are going to acquire a defenseman before the April 12 trade deadline; it’s the worst kept secret in the NHL right now.
With a blue line that has been unable to recover the departure of Matt Niskanen before the season and some ineptitude coming from some new guys and returning veterans, the Flyers have been scouring the market for anyone that can fit into their top-four and provide some stability.
According to The Athletic’s Pierre Lebrun, that help might come in the form of Arizona Coyotes blueliner Alex Goligoski.
At the age of 35, he won’t necessarily make the difference that a Mattias Ekholm trade would, but since he’s a pending unrestricted free agent with a cap hit of $5.475-million (it would be less with a deadline trade) there is little commitment to someone that can bring at least a different dynamic on this Flyers blue line that we have groaned about since puck drop a couple months ago. A different flavor of defense, if you will.
Goligoski has earned only a couple of assists through 26 games for the Coyotes this season, but has a past as a stable generator of offense that has chipped in on the power play now and again. He won’t move the needle, but he’s essentially the exact defenseman you want if you’re Chuck Fletcher and “doing something” is on your deadline to-do list.
Since the 2009-10 season, the 35-year-old has only had one season where he averaged under 22 minutes a game. As a consumer of top-four minutes, an acquisition of Goligoski is easily justifiable by looking at how much he has played the last decade and his sporadic experience in the playoffs.
While he is left-handed, Goligoski has experience playing on both sides of the blue line and the Flyers could really use any improvement that would knock an underperforming Erik Gustafsson or Robert Hagg out of the lineup. Whether a hypothetical trade is really to heal the wounds left by Niskanen in the top-four, or to raise the floor by making Goligoski a depth defender, it would certainly be a move that shouldn’t be made unless all other options have been exhausted.
Even Lebrun mentions in his little rumor-fueled blurb that while the Flyers would like Ekholm, he would cause more headaches due to the extra year on his contract and the Seattle Kraken’s expansion draft looming. While it makes the most sense for Philadelphia to protect Ivan Provorov, Phillippe Myers and Travis Sanheim as their three defensemen allotted, Ekholm would muddle that plan slightly. The team can go ahead and protect four blueliners, but that would reduce the forwards protected to four, rather than the seven they’re allowed with three blueliners.
It’s a realistic trade, and while it might not cost a whole lot of assets going to Arizona, it might not be the best course of action for a team that needs a significant overhaul if they want to go far in the playoffs.
This inoffensive defenseman has just been there in recent years and might welcome a move to a team that has a larger spotlight like the Flyers, so he can earn some extra cash for what will most likely be the final contract of his career.