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Flyers' General Manager Paul Holmgren will make an impact deal.
Ever since Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren declared that team captain Chris Pronger would miss the rest of the season and playoffs with severe concussion symptoms, the elephant in the room has been the need for a bona fide top-pairing defenseman.
To his credit, Holmgren did not panic, and his veterans and youngsters performed in the absence of Pronger. The Flyers are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, three points behind the first-place Rangers. Defensive lapses and shoddy goaltending have proven to be their Achilles' heel against the Rangers and the Boston Bruins.
Rookies Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson have filled in admirably, but are they both ready to withstand the rigors of an NHL postseason as the fifth and sixth defensemen? Also, how many minutes can defenseman Kimmo Timonen play effectively on a nightly basis?
In 2010, the Flyers' ultimate undoing (forgetting Michael Leighton's horrific performances in Chicago as well as the nightmare of a Cup-winning goal that he allowed) was the fact that they played that entire Stanley Cup Final series with four capable defensemen. Surely, Paul Holmgren now knows that he needs at least five defenders who can play regular shifts in order to capture Lord Stanley's Cup.
1. Shea Weber, 26, Nashville Predators
Weber is right-handed, and he plays an edgy game (230 pounds) with a flare for offense. He won the largest arbitration award in league history last summer, at $7.5 million.
Weber has 10 goals and 24 assists (10 on the power play). He averages over 26 minutes per game. He is an impending restricted free agent.
2. Ryan Suter, 27, Nashville Predators
Suter is a smooth-skating puck mover. He has five goals and 23 assists (13 on the power play). He also averages over 26 minutes per game. Suter's cap hit is $3.5 million, and he is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st.
Predators general manager David Poile has indicated that team ownership will begin to commit more money to players' salaries. Since the Predators have never spent close to the cap in their history, one would need to wonder whether his statement reflects posturing and a negotiating ploy.
3. Francois Beauchemin, 31, Anaheim Ducks
Beauchemin is a 213-pound shot-blocking machine who can quarterback a power play. He has six goals and 12 assists. Beauchemin won the 2007 Stanley Cup with the Ducks. Beauchemin recently signed a three-year extension with the Ducks with an AAV of $3.5 million.
From a strictly financial perspective, the Flyers may want him to replace Matt Carle, who is an impending UFA. With the Ducks' recent surge, however, Beauchemin may be unavailable.
4. Hal Gill, 36, Montreal Canadiens
Gill is prototypical stay-at-home defenseman with his 6'7", 244-pound frame. He would provide organization, shot-blocking and penalty killing to the Flyers. The 13-year veteran earned a Stanley Cup ring with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009.
The move for a defenseman may wait until the Flyers have answers about Danny Briere's health as well as Ilya Bryzgalov's ability to maintain his job as the starting goaltender.