NHL Trades/Free Agency 2012: 9 Defensemen Who Make Sense for Philadelphia Flyers

Dan FremuthContributor IIIJune 5, 2012

NHL Trades/Free Agency 2012: 9 Defensemen Who Make Sense for Philadelphia Flyers

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    After an unexpected second-round exit, the Philadelphia Flyers are sure to undergo some changes this offseason.

    One area that definitely needs some help is the Orange and Black's defense.  The Flyers survived an opening round series with Pittsburgh despite giving up 26 goals-against in six games.  The team's defense (or lack thereof) caught up with them in the second round when Philly surrendered 18 goals-against in its five-game setback to New Jersey.  

    For long stretches throughout the postseason, Philadelphia's defense looked soft and out of sorts.  They were consistently hemmed in their own end and blew countless coverages in front of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.

    So here are nine defensemen who would fit perfectly in Philadelphia.  Some are genuinely realistic alternatives while others are enjoyable pipe dreams for Flyers fans.  The one thing they all have in common—they would be welcome with open arms in the City of Brotherly Love. 

Ryan Suter

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    Suter is the class of the free-agent market for defensemen this summer.

    At 27-years-old, the Madison, Wisconsin native is a perennial All-Star waiting to happen.  The former seventh overall pick in the 2003 draft, Suter has tallied 30 or more points in each of the last five seasons and is coming off a career-high 46 points last year.

    He averaged a career-best 26:30 in ice time last season (20 seconds more than Shea Weber) and has only missed 32 games in seven years of NHL service.

    Suter's durability, leadership, offensive upside and all-around game make him an ideal offseason target for any NHL team.  The Nashville blueliner earned just $3.5 million last season and will command significantly more on the open market, but Philadelphia would be wise to make a serious play for Suter's services.

Dennis Wideman

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    For the 29 teams that miss out on Suter, the next target will be Washington Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman.

    Just two years older than Suter, Wideman still provides an element of youth on the back end with a significant offensive upside.  The Kitchener, Ontario native led all Caps blueliners in scoring and finished tied for third on Washington's roster with 46 points.

    One area where Wideman really excels is the power play.  42 of his 86 points over the last two seasons have come on the man-advantage.

    And like Suter, Wideman brings a history of durability, having missed just 17 games over the last five seasons.

    With a recent rash of injuries on the back end, Wideman's durability would be a welcome addition to the Flyers' defensive corps.  So would 20-plus power play points per year. 

Brad Stuart

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    If the Flyers fail to make a major splash with either Suter or Wideman, a nice consolation prize might be Detroit's Brad Stuart.

    While Stuart won't pack the offensive punch of a Suter or Wideman, he would bring a steadying defensive presence that has been severely lacking since the Flyers lost Chris Pronger.  

    A 12-year NHL veteran, Stuart has exactly 900 career NHL games under his belt (including 124 postseason tilts) and was a Stanley Cup champion with Detroit back in 2008.

    He earned $3.75 million last season and it will be interesting to see how close he comes to that number this summer.  Stuart's experience and defensive presence would be welcome on the Flyers' back end if they could keep the dollars and length of contract reasonable.

Barret Jackman

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    Barret Jackman is your prototypical defensive defenseman.

    He's tallied just 33 points (three goals, 30 assists) over the last three seasons (207 games) but brings so much more to the table.

    Jackman plays bigger than his 6'0", 205-pound frame and embraces the role of a shutdown defender.  He's averaged better than 20 minutes of ice time in each of the last six seasons and could be a tremendous third-pair d-man for the Flyers.

    An unrestricted free agent this summer, Jackman should command close to the $3.625 million he earned last season, and in a two-to-three-year agreement, could be a nice fit in Philly.

Bryan Allen

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    The final unrestricted free agent on this list isn't a household name.

    But likely to command less than $3 million per year on the open market, Bryan Allen could be an attractive fit for several NHL teams.

    He doesn't pack much of an offensive punch (44 points in 228 games), but boasts better than 600 games of NHL experience on his resume.  He's missed only 18 games over the last three years and at 31 years old should have plenty of mileage left.

    Allen won't be a very sexy splash on the free-agent market but could be an awfully solid addition to a Flyers defense looking for some stability. 

Shea Weber

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    A restricted free agent, Shea Weber isn't on the open market, but the rumors have swirled for months that he's potentially available.

    Weber is the total package.  

    He's a 6'4", 235-pound defenseman who provides leadership and contributes offensively.  Weber's combination of size and skill is an incredibly rare combination and one that would be a tremendous coup if the Flyers could work a deal for the seven-year NHL pro.

    Philadelphia has potentially lost its captain on the back end (Pronger) and with that loss is seriously lacking the snarl factor that players like Pronger and Weber bring to the frozen surface.

    With just one year remaining on a deal that pays him $7.5 million annually, Weber could only be acquired via trade.  Nashville will likely only part ways with its captain for several high-end prospects and several draft picks, but it's not out of the realm of possibility.

Erik Johnson

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    Another restricted free agent, Erik Johnson isn't quite Shea Weber, but he's a heck of a defenseman.

    At just 24-years-old, Johnson still has room to grow but already contributes so much.  

    The former first overall pick in 2006, Johnson finished first among all Colorado defensemen in scoring with 26 points last season.  He plays in all situations and has already contributed 55 points on the power play in four years of NHL duty.

    With a cap hit of just $2.6 million next season, Johnson is an incredibly attractive target for next year, but obviously will command more financially in years to come.  If Philadelphia could swing a trade for Johnson this summer the Flyers could use this year to recruit the highly-touted blueliner for a hometown discount down the road.

Luke Schenn

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    The Flyers worked a trade for Brayden Schenn last summer.  Why not swing a trade for brother Luke this summer?

    There are a number of impressive hockey families in the NHL right now and the brothers Schenn could pack an awfully impressive 1-2 punch if paired in Philadelphia.

    After failing to qualify for the postseason for the seventh straight year, the Toronto Maple Leafs (in particular GM Brian Burke) will be anxious to shake things up.  Part of that could involve the highly-touted Schenn.

    A reunion with Brayden in Philadelphia makes perfect sense.  Luke signed a five-year extension with Toronto last September, but his cap hit is manageable ($3.6 million) and could easily be moved to Broad Street if the Flyers can offer a package that includes an NHL-ready player and a high-end draft pick.

Niklas Kronwall

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    The odds of Philadelphia acquiring Niklas Kronwall?  Slim and next to none.  But wouldn't he be a perfect fit in Philly?

    Kronwall embodies everything Flyers hockey is all about.  The 6'0", 190-pound blueliner contributes in the offensive end, expertly defends his own zone and hits everything in sight.

    The Stockholm, Sweden native led all Detroit defensemen in scoring last season (even ahead of Nicklas Lidstrom) with 36 points.  And after the first four years of his NHL career produced just 16 power-play points, the last four campaigns have seen Kronwall register 57 points on the man-advantage.

    The retirement of Lidstrom coupled with the seven-year extension Kronwall inked with Detroit last October make him all but untouchable in the eyes of Red Wings GM Ken Holland.  But if there's a modern-day defenseman who should be wearing orange and black, you'd be hard pressed to find a better candidate than Kronwall.