So far, the team has added future Hall-of-Fame defenseman Chris Pronger, goalies Ray Emery and Brian Boucher, and right wing Ian Laperriere.
They have lost wingers Mike Knuble and Joffrey Lupol, defenseman Luca Sbisa, and goalies Martin Biron and Antero Nittymaki.
With the addition of Pronger, the Flyers have gotten the shutdown defenseman they needed. At 6'6"-220 pounds, Pronger is one of the league’s toughest players and most feared hitters. In addition to making this team immeasurably tougher, he helps them in many other ways.
He brings offensive firepower from the blue line, veteran leadership and experience, and surprisingly good skating ability for such a big player.
Pronger’s 48 points put him 14th among NHL defenseman last season. Pronger, who has been a captain of the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks, is one of just five active NHL players to be a captain on two different NHL teams. He has also been an alternate captain for the Edmonton Oilers and the Ducks.
Pronger was a key part of the Oilers’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006 and the Ducks’ Stanley Cup Championship in 2007, so he has plenty of playoff experience.
He is a workhorse, who has played in all 82 games last season and averaged nearly 27 minutes per game, which was good enough for third among NHL defenseman.
Although Pronger will turn 35 in October, he has a reputation for taking great care of his body and hasn’t shown any signs of aging so far. This is good news for the Flyers, who have extended his contract for the next seven years. While he may retire sooner than that, he will almost certainly retire as a Flyer and is likely to be an effective player for years to come.
Emery, who will replace Biron as the team’s starting goalie, is widely considered an upgrade in talent.
Emery led the Ottawa Senators to the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals. However, he was released by Ottawa after a string of off-ice incidents. After spending last season in Russia’s KHL, Emery is said to be a changed man. If he can stay out of trouble, the Flyers will have a goaltender who is capable of helping them win the Cup.
Emery is signed to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million and is viewed as a low-risk, high-reward signing because of the length of his contract and its relatively low price.
Emery is perhaps most famous for his on-ice fights in both the minor leagues and the NHL.
Boucher, who led the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Finals as a rookie back in 2000, will serve as a capable backup to Emery.
Laperriere will add toughness and attitude to this team as an enforcer. The Flyers may also add a promising young player from the minors such as James Van Riemsdiek to the roster.
To get Pronger, they traded Sbisa and Lupol. Sbisa is a promising young defenseman, but Pronger will be a huge upgrade over the undeveloped Sbisa in the short run. The Flyers have a surplus of offensive talent, making Lupol expendable. They also traded two first-round draft picks for Pronger, but Pronger is well worth the steep price for a team on the verge of winning it all right now.
They let Knuble, Biron, and Nittymaki leave through free agency.
The Flyers will miss Knuble’s ability to score on the power play and his presence in front of the net.
In terms of talent, Emery is an upgrade over Biron, while Boucher is a capable backup. This new goaltending tandem is considerably more affordable than Biron and Nittymaki, which allowed the Flyers to get Pronger under the salary cap.
Taking everything into consideration, the Flyers have added more than they have lost this offseason. They made a significant upgrade to the team’s greatest weakness from last year by adding Pronger to the defense.
With Pronger and Kimmo Timmonen, the Flyers now have two elite defensemen. What’s better is that both bring different expertise as Pronger is an elite physical presence and the smallish Timmonen is an elite skater and puck handler.
With talented young defensemen Braydon Coburn, Ryan Parent, and Matt Carle, the Flyers have a good mix of youth and experience to go along with plenty of talent on defense.
The offense includes veteran stars Simone Gagne, Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, and plenty of gritty role players. With rising offensive stars such as Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Claude Giroux, the whole team has a good balance of youthful exuberance and veteran leadership. Ray Emery gives this team a talented starting goalie.
With the additions of Pronger, Laperriere, and Emery, the Flyers now have a toughness that is reminiscent of the old Broad Street Bullies.
The Flyers seem to have all the ingredients of a championship team and should be serious competitor for this year’s Stanley Cup.
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