In assessing the current NHL trade market, most of the "buyers" could probably use help on their blue lines. The Philadelphia Flyers may be tops on that list. In analyzing the market deeper, Francois Beauchemin of the Anaheim Ducks and Tim Gleason of the Carolina Hurricanes are probably staying put after each signed a contract extension recently. That leaves pending restricted free agent Shea Weber and pending unrestricted free agent Ryan Suter, both of the Nashville Predators, as the remaining members of the list of potentially available top defenders.
A myriad of media reports and rumors have linked both Weber and Suter to Flyers' General Manager Paul Holmgren's wish list. Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun reiterated the Flyers' interest in Suter earlier this week on TSN. In that same aired piece, Dreger reported the current asking price for Suter: a current NHL player, a grade A prospect, a grade B prospect, and a first round draft choice. As Robin the boy wonder would say, "Holy Toledo!"
In some markets, asking prices drop as the deadline approaches. In this case, however, we all need to ask ourselves what Nashville has to lose by retaining Suter past the February 27th non-waiver deadline. Well, as long as they remain in the thick of the Western Conference race, the answer to that question is a resounding, "NOTHING."
Should Paul Holmgren pay Nashville GM David Poile's ransom? In my humble opinion, he should pass as of today. With that stated, though, the Flyers could utilize this trade market to put themselves in an auspicious position to acquire Suter or Weber prior the deadline.
Instead of battling the strong head winds of this market in an attempt to force Poile to drop his price, the Flyers should go with the flow of this market. To do that they need to take their own trade asset to use as bait.
Defenseman Matt Carle represents that bait. He is a pending UFA with a current cap hit of $3.348 million. His forte is puck movement, particularly on the power play. He has 22 assists on the season while playing at a plus-0 with increased responsibilities during five-on-five play, given the absence of Chris Pronger. With regards to his power play production, Carle has six assists on the season. If the Flyers retain Carle through the end of this season, they may undertake a rather arduous task of trying to re-sign Carle in the off season. Carle's representation may cite Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith (both of the Chicago Blackhawks) as well as James Wisniewski of the Columbus Blue Jackets as comparable players. That would put Carle's price at an average annual value in the neighborhood of $5 million per season. That may be impractical for the Flyers in regards to the salary cap.
In keeping with this suggestion (this is NOT a rumor), the Flyers would want to deal with a Western Conference team which is struggling on the power play. The Los Angeles Kings (23rd in the NHL) and the St. Louis Blues (28th in the NHL) fit the bill. Since the Flyers and Kings have made complementary trading partners in the past, let's explore a potential deal with the Kings.
Reverting back to the ritzy market for defenders, even pending free agents, the Kings may be willing to deal talented defensive prospect Slava Voynov along with a first round draft pick. Drew Doughty has nine power play assists, Jack Johnson has chipped in with six, and no other defenseman has more than two for the Kings.
Moreover, if the Predators adore Voynov, then perhaps the Flyers could ascertain half of Poile's asking price for a defender whom they may be hard-pressed to re-sign this summer. At that juncture, the Flyers may need include one roster player (perhaps James van Riemsdyk) as well as one of their own B level prospects in a potential trade with the Predators for Suter or Weber. The Flyers would undoubtedly want a sign-and-trade to ensure the long-term status of the acquired player. Doing so would meet Poile's asking price, per Dreger's source. Moreover, to replace the lost body on the blue line, the Flyers could theoretically acquire a lower tier/stay-at-home defender (i.e. Hal Gill of the Montreal Canadiens or Bryan Allen of the Carolina Hurricanes) for a draft pick. In forecasting for the future the departure of Carle would provide the Flyers with additional cap space with which they could use to sign Suter or Weber.
By completing this series of moves, the Flyers could have their proverbial cake and eat it, too.
Granted, all the aforementioned may be highly speculative, but given the apparent trade climate at this juncture, is it really all that quixotic from a Flyers' perspective? More importantly, would the Flyers be a better team right now sans Matt Carle and plus Shea Weber/Ryan Suter and Hal Gill/Bryan Allen?