How Andrew MacDonald Trade Helps Philadelphia Flyers' 2014 Playoff Chances

Brad KurtzbergContributor IMarch 4, 2014

Andrew MacDonald is the newest Flyers defenseman.
Andrew MacDonald is the newest Flyers defenseman.Kathy Kmonicek/Associated Press

The Philadelphia Flyers acquired defenseman Andrew MacDonald from the New York Islanders today in exchange for a third-round draft choice in 2014 and a second-round pick in 2015. The Flyers also sent minor league center Matt Mangene to the Islanders as part of the deal.

The NHL trade deadline is Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. ET.

The trade was a good one by Flyers' general manager Paul Holmgren. MacDonald is not the final ingredient in a championship run, but he is a solid addition that strengthens the Flyers' weakest area: defense. The Flyers have upgraded their roster without sacrificing a first-round draft choice, a major prospect or a player off their current roster.

MacDonald has scored four goals and 24 points in 63 games with the Islanders this season. He has a minus-19 rating this season, although the team's poor play and the fact that MacDonald had to log extra minutes during the first half of the season due to injuries are contributing factors to that poor number.

Is MacDonald the next Chris Pronger or Bobby Orr? Absolutely not. He won't wow you with his rushes up ice or his thundering hits in his own zone that completely stifle opposing forwards. But what the Flyers do get is a heady defenseman who is usually smart with the puck, makes a solid outlet pass and is smart positionally in his own zone. He can also help on the second power play and penalty kill units.

At his best, MacDonald is a poor man's Francois Beauchemin. He won't make many headlines, but he will help his team win hockey games with his steady, subtle play. He will also be a minute muncher, which helps make other defensemen more effective by reducing their minutes and clarifying their roles.

Acquiring MacDonald was a low-risk trade for the Flyers.
Acquiring MacDonald was a low-risk trade for the Flyers.Matt Slocum/Associated Press

One major key to MacDonald's success is to limit his minutes to no more than 24 or 25 per game. When the Islanders had injuries to both Lubomir Visnovsky and Brian Strait earlier this season, MacDonald was forced to play almost 30 minutes a game, and his play suffered as a result. Keep him to under 25 minutes, and he is much more effective. If he plays more than that, he is more prone to mistakes, especially in his own zone.

In the race for the playoffs, the Flyers already have a more explosive offense than the teams they are competing with like the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and Columbus Blue Jackets. With the addition of MacDonald, they have at least closed the gap on defense without sacrificing the future.

If MacDonald plays well, the Flyers now have the inside track at re-signing him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. He is 27 years old and is currently in his prime.

Even if they don't re-sign him, Holmgren didn't give up a lot to get a helpful rental player for the playoff drive and postseason.

Either way, this is a low risk move by the Flyers that should help them in the short term.