Welcome to the Philadelphia Flyers’ Four-Check.
At the Four-Check, we will explore four major story lines from the Flyers each week. Though it is mid-summer, the Flyers are active on every front, from prospect camp to free agency.
As the team shapes up for 2012-13, fans cannot help but speculate about the look of the team for the coming season. Today, the Four-Check will explore the look of the Flyers and what we can expect come October.
Yesterday, no news was bigger than the offer sheet signed by Predators’ defenseman Shea Weber.
Numerous sources, beginning with TSN's Darren Dreger and including several Bleacher Report writers, reported around 1 a.m. on Thursday morning that Nashville’s restricted free agent d-man signed an offer sheet good for 14 years and $110 million.
Weber, who is a conceivable replacement for the fallen Chris Pronger, will learn within seven days whether or not the Predators are willing to match the contract or lose Weber to the Flyers in exchange for Philly’s next four first-round picks in the draft.
If the Predators match the contract, they will owe Weber a reported $27 million in salary and bonuses, a steep price for a low-earning franchise. Furthermore, Weber will not be able to be traded for one calendar year.
The move is an example of Paul Holmgren’s brilliance comparable to his Peter Forsberg trade in 2007, when he sent the aging forward to Nashville in exchange for Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent and Nashville’s first-round pick, only to trade back the pick for the rights to Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen.
In the Weber scenario, Holmgren has ensured that Weber will either be a Flyer or a Predator next season, eliminating all competition for at least a year and giving his own team an upper hand in acquiring the runner-up for the Norris Trophy.
Last season, the Flyers possessed the third-best offense in the entire NHL, leaving the status of their forwards as less of a concern for the front office than positions behind the blue line.
Nonetheless, looking at the team’s current right wing depth chart, which is now missing the departed Jaromir Jagr and restricted free agent Jakub Voracek, there is reason to be alarmed.
While it is still assumed that Voracek will be rejoining the Flyers, the current depth chart features only Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds as true right-wingers, with players like Zac Rinaldo and Eric Wellwood filling in where needed. The team is rumored to be interested in Shane Doan (Pro Hockey Talk), but Doan remains committed to the Coyotes as long as the team can promise a future in Arizona.
The Phantoms’ Jason Akeson remains an option on the right side if the Flyers are willing to reinvest in rookies, like last season. If the aforementioned Weber acquisition goes through, the Flyers could conceivably use their excess defensemen to construct a trade for Anaheim right winger Bobby Ryan, though any deal at this point is pure speculation and is fueled only by Anaheim’s desire to trade Ryan.
Prospect camp is only boring by comparison.
Last season, Matt Read, Brayden Schenn, Zac Rinaldo and Sean Couturier all spent their summers skating for the Flyers’ brass, hoping to earn a spot on the Flyers roster. And for all four players, the mid-July effort paid off.
This year, it would seem that the Flyers have less space available for impressive prospects, as the defense has considerable depth and the offense has been shored up by young players from Couturier to Schenn to Eric Wellwood, looking to establish themselves as true NHL threats.
Still, prospect camp which opened July ninth has allowed players to showcase their talents, from first-round draft pick Scott Laughton to blue line attention-grabber Brandon Manning.
CSN Philly's Sarah Baicker has looked at players from Laughton to Trevor van Riemsdyk, the younger brother of the recently-departed James. Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly has explored the toughness of Fredric Larsson on the blue line.
Don’t expect the plethora of surprises that emerged from last year’s camp, but a couple of the prospects spending their summers in Voorhees will eventually find their way to the Flyers’ starting roster in 2012-13.
With the Flyers still being thrashed about by the waves of free agency, there is no better way of assessing Philly’s strengths and weaknesses than by looking at the team’s current lineup for 2012-13.
The Four-Check’s Speculated Lineup:
Hartnell-Giroux-Voracek (pending Voracek’s signing)
The Voracek signing is presumed because, as of this writing, there is no indication Voracek will play anywhere but Philadelphia next season. The fourth line could be a place for Jason Akeson or Tye McGinn, and Shea Weber’s presence would vastly impact that Flyers’ blue line.
At the moment, though, the Flyers seem to be a solid contender in the Eastern Conference, with plenty of depth at center and defense. Next week, this all could change significantly, but Holmgren should be happy with his current lineup while he waits for the next offseason development.