Since announcing that team captain Chris Pronger would be out for the remainder of the 2011-2012 season, the Philadelphia Flyers have been linked to virtually every other team in the NHL with proposed trades to replace the All-Star defenceman.
The logic is clear: Losing a player as talented as Chris Pronger so early in the season leaves a gaping hole in the depth chart and opens up a whole host of questions as to the sustainability of the team.
Investigating potential trades is the natural, knee-jerk response to this kind of situation.
However, the more time you take to assess the team, the more the need for a major trade seems to fade away. Upon closer inspection, it's clear that—while the Flyers are not perfect—keeping the team stable might be the best option.
Claude Giroux has been one of the most dynamic players in the NHL so far this season.
With 17 goals and 43 points in 29 games (including four points in his return Wednesday night), Giroux has finally begun to emerge as the superstar that Flyers fans have been hoping he could become ever since his debut in 2008.
So naturally, when Flyers fans found out that Giroux would be out indefinitely with "concussion-like symptoms," panic began to set in.
When the team announced two days later that Chris Pronger would be out the entire season, Broad Street collapsed into full-fledged pandemonium.
The fear of being without both its star forward and its team captain certainly had to contribute to the ferocity of Philadelphia's trade rumors.
The uncertainty that swirled around the team clubhouse had many calling for a trade that would provide a boost of stability to the lineup.
However, Flyers fans can breathe a sigh of relief today.
Not only was Claude Giroux back on the ice against the Dallas Stars on December 21st, but he looked like he hadn't missed a beat during his absence. The forward notched four points in his return, scoring a goal and three assists in a 4-1 victory.
Missing Chris Pronger for the rest of the season is a massive blow to the team; that goes without saying.
But knowing that Claude Giroux is back and playing at the same level is an incredible boon to the club, and should both calm the panic that's been growing in Philadelphia and add a dose of much-needed stability to the team.
If you were to listen to half the analysts who reported on the state of the Flyers after Pronger was ruled out for the season, you'd think the team was on the verge of calling the season a loss and looking forward to 2012.
The truth is, since Pronger was first sidelined on November 19th, the Flyers have gone 10-3-1, notching up 21 points and surging to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Take away one ugly loss to the Bruins, and Philadelphia has at least stayed competitive in every one of its losses since Pronger left.
So how have the Flyers thrived without their captain? By every player finding a way to pick up the slack on the ice and carry the team to victory.
Special acknowledgement must be paid to veterans Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen, who have both set the pace defensively since they lost their All-Star defenceman.
Yet almost every player has been playing above expectations in order to keep the Flyers at the top of the standings.
When discussing potential trades, it's important to think of the careful balance that this team has established since Pronger's absence.
The Flyers have cobbled together a winning formula within their own clubhouse, and a massive trade potentially could derail that.
One of the most curious aspects of all the trade rumors that have emerged for the Flyers is how desperate and urgent most of them sound.
If you were to base your opinion of the team solely on rumors, you'd think that the Flyers' window of opportunity for a Stanley Cup is almost closed.
In reality, it's just starting to open.
The Flyers are an incredibly young team with mountains of potential.
Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk, Sergei Bobrovsky, Wayne Simmonds and many others on the team are all 23 years old or younger, and the majority of the roster is under the age of 30.
Meanwhile, rookies like Matt Read, Sean Couturier and, yes, even Brayden Schenn all show tremendous upside.
This Flyers team has perhaps the most potential of any club in the NHL, and in a few years could the perennial favorite for Lord Stanley's Cup.
Bear in mind, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Flyers, and they've already found themselves leading the Eastern Conference. Imagine what they could accomplish with another year or two of experience.
Replacing Pronger would require the Flyers to mortgage that bright future.
Any NHL team that would be willing to hand over a defenceman of Pronger's quality certainly would be looking for young, talented players in return. The team would, in essence, be trading away playoff runs of the future for one panicked move of the present.
As difficult as it may be to accept, the Flyers' best bet would to suppress the urge to make a blockbuster trade and instead invest in the future by letting this group of players continue the path they've been forging since November 19th.
Chris Pronger might be down, but the Flyers are looking up.