Here we are approaching the middle of January and the Philadelphia Flyers have yet to emerge in the midst of any major NHL trade rumor scuttlebutt.
What in Lord Stanley's name is going on here?
Perhaps it is a testament to the depth of the squad that Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren has assembled for the 2010-11 NHL season.
With 59 points in the NHL standings at the halfway point of the regular season (tied for second overall in the league), it would seem Philadelphia has no need to tinker with a winning formula.
Scoring depth? Check.
Defensive depth? Check.
Goaltending depth? Check (wait, what?!).
Mention of the Flyers in the rumor mill this season has been fleeting, at best.
There was Tim Panaccio's report of interest in James van Riemsdyk by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Panaccio also reported Flyers GM Paul Holmgren made an unsuccessful attempt to shop enigmatic forward Nikolay Zherdev last month.
The latest Flyers trade rumor swirled briefly around New Jersey Devils veteran right winger Jamie Langenbrunner, who was shipped to the Dallas Stars almost immediately after news of the Flyers rumored interest in him came to light.
The latest rumor involving Langenbrunner is the most intriguing, as it emerged days after Chris Botta of NHL Fanhouse reported the Flyers were "looking to exhaust all means possible" to make another serious run at the Stanley Cup.
The Flyers' interest in Langenbrunner appeared to be genuine as Mark Everson of the New York Post reported Philadelphia offered New Jersey a "firm" second round pick and perhaps a fourth round selection as well.
Rather than trade a significant player within the Atlantic Division, the Devils shipped Langenbrunner to Dallas for a conditional third round selection in the 2011 NHL Draft.
Yesterday, in his weekly Puck Daddy Hockey Rumors Live Chat, Greg Wyshynski opined that Philadelphia's flirtation with Bill Guerin during the preseason combined with reported interest in Langenbrunner suggested the Flyers were targeting a veteran winger, to which venerable NHL trade rumor analyst Lyle Richardson (of SpectorsHockey.net) concurred.
Which got me thinking.
If Botta, Wyshynski and Richardson are reading the tea leaves correctly with regard to the Flyers interest in a veteran winger, of the trade market out there, who might best fit into the Flyers plans?
Langenbrunner is in the last year of a $2.8 million contract.
The Flyers' reported offer suggests the team has the ability to fit such a contact into their current salary structure.
But if it is to be believed that Philadelphia hopes to sign Ville Leino to a contract extension beyond 2010-11, any player arriving via trade will most likely be a playoff rental, suggesting a player in the final year of their contract.
With that in mind, what players out there fit into needs for an impact playoff rental player? Here's a short list, based purely on speculation (as almost all trade rumors are):
Who Would You Like To See The Flyers Acquire By The Trade Deadline?
John Madden (Wild): Wait, don't the Flyers already have a great fourth-line center and penalty kill specialist in Blair Betts?
They sure do.
Of course, Betts has a right shoulder that is so creaky, the Flyers pivot missed multiple games in 2009-10 after injuries to the shoulder that occurred while (ready for this?) taking a face-off, and making a routine hit along the boards.
The addition of Madden would give the Flyers a formidable fourth line and penalty killing presence, an excellent face-off specialist, and insurance should Betts' shoulder disintegrate between now and the postseason.
Ruslan Fedotenko (Rangers): Should the Rangers fall out of playoff contention and become sellers, it's plausible to consider whether the Rangers might shop Fedotenko within the division.
There is still enough pop to "Rusty's" game to make him a adequate addition to the Flyers third scoring line.
At a minimum, with the acquisition of Fedotenko, the Flyers would have the assurance that his penchant for timely postseason heroics would, for once, not be used against the Flyers.
Fedotenko has a one year deal with the Rangers which pays $1 million.
He is an unrestricted free agent in 2011-12.
Mark Recchi (Bruins): The first thing that should be mentioned about Mark Recchi is that he has a no-trade-clause.
Of course, he waived his no-trade-clause as a Pittsburgh Penguin in order to facilitate the deal which sent Recchi to Carolina in 2006, where he won the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes.
When considering the Bruins had shown interest in Nikolay Zherdev before the Russian sniper signed with the Flyers this summer, it's worth wondering aloud whether there is still interest on the part of the Bruins.
Taking his history with the Flyers into account (this would be his third tour of duty in Philadelphia), would Recchi have interest in a return to Philadelphia in the twilight of his career for one more shot at the Stanley Cup on a loaded Flyers team?
Recchi is in the final year of a deal that pays him $1.95 million.
At 42 years old, Recchi is still an able set-up man (on pace for 35 assists this season) and has the ability to chip in goal production (pacing for 16 goals in 2010-11).
Cory Stillman (Panthers): Chris Botta likes the thought of Stillman in a Flyers sweater. I'm not so sure I agree, considering he has played in just four postseason games since he last won the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005-06.
Stillman fits the mold as a playoff rental; an expensive playoff rental at that, as he is in the final year of a contract that pays him $3.5 million per season.
Still, he has flirted with 20 goal seasons over the last two years on a terrible Panthers team. Injuries played a factor in his inability to hit the 20 goal mark in each season.
And he's paid his debt to society, spending the last three years in the Hockey Mecca of Miami Florida.
Fredrik Modin (Thrashers): It's been four seasons since Modin last scratched the 20 goal plateau (22 goals in 2006-07). Of course, he spent the majority of those four seasons laboring for the Columbus Blue Jackets, and has struggled with injuries in that time as well.
Modin is currently on a one-year contract with Atlanta which pays him $1.2 million, making him a cheap rental option for the Flyers.
Chris Higgins (Panthers): Higgins doesn't really meet the criteria of a playoff rental as an experienced, affordable veteran entering the final year of his contract.
However, Higgins does fit into the mold of a under-performing former first round selection, which the Flyers can't seem to get enough of in the Paul Holmgren era (see: Nikolay Zherdev, Andrej Meszaros, Braydon Coburn, Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent).
Higgins will be an unrestricted free agent in 2011-12. His current contract pays him $2.25 million through 2010-11, and his performance over the past three season (he has not breached the 20 goal marker since potting 27 goals for Montreal in 2007-08) suggests he could be a cheap Plan B for Philadelphia in the offseason, should Ville Leino price himself out of the Flyers' salary structure.
Chuck Kobasew (Flames): see Chris Higgins.
Kobasew is in the final year of a contract that pays him $2.3 million.
Raffi Torres (Canucks): Other than the Maple Leafs Tomas Kaberle, no other player has been linked to the Flyers through the rumor mill more than Raffi Torres in recent years.
I would feel remiss not to include Raffi Torres is such a conversation.
Torres is currently playing on a one-year contract with the Canucks which pays him $1 million.
Okay, who did I miss? What are your thoughts as the Flyers approach the deadline next month?
I welcome your thoughts, additions, and criticism in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!
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