The Philadelphia Flyers are in an interesting spot right now, sitting neck and neck with a number of teams just outside of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The NHL trade deadline is looming, and there are some decisions that need to be made about the future of the organization.
Regardless of whether or not GM Paul Holmgren wants to make a playoff push or not, the Flyers really just have one glaring need. Their defense is one of the worst in the league when healthy, and currently they are as banged up as can be.
Andrej Meszaros has been extremely injury prone ever since arriving in Philadelphia a few years ago, and this season has been no different. He had only played in 11 games before re-injuring his shoulder last week.
Meszaros needs surgery and joins Braydon Coburn on the list of players who are out for the season.
That leaves the Flyers defense in a truly dire state. Kimmo Timonen is the best player left on the unit, and he is 38 years old and declining rapidly.
Luke Schenn is big, strong, hits hard and is solid in his own end. But he is painfully slow and prone to turning the puck over. He would be a great second-line pairing with a skilled offensive defenseman, but the Flyers don't have anyone like that.
Nicklas Grossmann is similar to Schenn in that he is a strong defensive defenseman, but lacks any real playmaking ability. He contributes almost nothing offensively, and is a slow skater without great puck-handling skills. He has also been day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
After Timonen, Schenn and Grossmann, the rest of the defensive corps is a random assortment of young prospects and journeymen.
Bruno Gervais has played most of the season, unfortunately. Kurtis Foster is a veteran, much like Gervais, who really has way too much responsibility on the Flyers' blue line.
Erik Gustafsson has some talent, but has been a real liability because of his lack of strength and poor decision-making. He's still only 24, but has yet to show real adequate development.
"The Great Dane" Oliver Lauridsen was called up this past weekend to make his NHL debut against the Boston Bruins. He has been average in the past two games, although his 6'6" frame and good skating ability should get fans at least a little excited.
This past weekend, Philadelphia made its first move of the season, bringing in Kent Huskins from the Red Wings, who had played in 11 games this season with Detroit. But Huskins is nothing but a very mediocre band-aid at this point.
So the Flyers need defensemen, and if they want any chance of making the playoffs this year, need to make a deal in the next 36 hours. There have been a few players already connected with Philadelphia (via Sam Carchidi of The Philadelphia Inquirer).
Jay Bouwmeester would be an excellent addition to the blue line. He has one year remaining on his deal at a cap hit of a reasonable $6.68 million, and is one of the most consistent defensemen in the game.
The Flames' iron man has only missed games in one of his nine NHL seasons, and would be a major help both defensively and to the power play.
Out in San Jose, Dan Boyle has quietly been one of the better defensemen in the league. He's an extremely skilled offensive defenseman who can move the puck, but isn't afraid to scrap it up in the trenches either.
The Flyers could also take advantage of a potential fire sale in Buffalo and target 32-year-old Robyn Regehr. He wouldn't necessarily make the Flyers more skilled on the blue line, but he'd at least be a solid, consistent presence for the orange and black.
Lastly, Keith Yandle has been speculated to be on his way out of Phoenix for some time now. Although it would take a lot to acquire a great two-way defenseman in his prime, he would be the perfect starting point for Philadelphia to build a new defense around.
Whether they try to get faster, stronger or just healthier on defense, the Flyers need some NHL-ready bodies back there soon. They may decide to hold off and wait on their options in the offseason, but there are some names out there at the trade deadline who could help them a lot now and in the future.