Philadelphia Flyers: 7 Defensemen the Flyers Need to Pursue

Dan Fremuth@@hometownphanContributor IIIJune 26, 2012

Philadelphia Flyers: 7 Defensemen the Flyers Need to Pursue

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    The NHL free agent frenzy is less than a week away. And one team that always seems to make a splash this time of year is the Philadelphia Flyers.

    Loaded with forward depth and saddled with another eight years remaining on Ilyz Bryzgalov's mega deal from a season ago, the Flyers appear primed to make their annual splash on defense.

    With Chris Pronger likely to remain on long-term injured reserve next year, an overhaul on the Philly back end was expected.  

    The transformation began with the acquisition of Niklas Grossman at last year's trade deadline and continued at the conclusion of the draft when the Flyers swapped James van Riemsdyk for Luke Schenn.

    But there's still work to be done. Here are seven defensemen the Flyers need to aggressively pursue in the weeks to come.

Matt Carle

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    Why not start with a guy who's already a Philadelphia Flyer?

    Carle might not be the most attractive free-agent option out there, but he's one who's incredibly familiar with Philadelphia and the Flyers are certainly accustomed to him.

    The seven-year pro has spent more than half of his NHL career in the orange and black and has produced respectable numbers during his time in the City of Brotherly Love. While missing only two games over four years in Philly, Carle has produced 15 goals, 122 assists and 137 points.

    He's proven he can contribute on the power play posting five goals and 36 points on the Flyers' man advantage and can be trusted in all situations having posted a plus rating in each of the last four seasons.

    A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Carle will certainly be due a raise from the nearly $3.5 million cap hit he earned a season ago. But the Flyers should have the inside track on courting Carle and would likely be eligible for a hometown discount if they find a way to bring the smooth skating blueliner back.

Ryan Suter

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    Suter is the class of the free-agent market for defensemen this summer.

    At 27 years old, the Madison, Wisconsin native is a perennial All-Star waiting to happen. The former seventh overall pick in the 2003 draft, Suter has tallied 30 or more points in each of the last five seasons and is coming off a career-high 46 points last year.

    He averaged a career-best 26:30 in ice time last season (20 seconds more than Shea Weber) and has only missed 32 games in seven years of NHL service.

    Suter's durability, leadership, offensive upside and all-around game make him an ideal offseason target for any NHL team. The Nashville blueliner earned just $3.5 million last season and will command significantly more on the open market, but Philadelphia would be wise to make a serious play for Suter's services.

    It would take some savvy salary cap negotiating to bring Suter to Philadelphia, but the Flyers will need a replacement for Kimmo Timonen after his contract expires next season and Suter would fill that role expertly.

Dennis Wideman

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    If the Flyers can't win the bidding war on Suter, another attractive target to bring offense to the back end could be Washington Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman.

    Just two years older than Suter, Wideman still provides an element of youth on the back end with a significant offensive upside. The Kitchener, Ontario native led all Caps blueliners in scoring and finished tied for third on Washington's roster with 46 points.

    One area where Wideman really excels is the power play. Forty-two of his 86 points over the last two seasons have come on the man-advantage.

    And like Suter, Wideman brings a history of durability, having missed just 17 games over the last five seasons.

    With a recent rash of injuries on the back end, Wideman's durability would be a welcome addition to the Flyers' defensive corps. So would 20-plus power-play points per year. 

Bryan Allen

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    Potentially lacking the salary cap flexibility to land the big free agent prizes, the Flyers may need to get creative with their spending this summer and one reasonably priced option might be Allen.

    The Carolina defenseman may not be a household name but likely to command less than $3 million per year on the open market, Allen could be a rather attractive option for more than a few teams.

    He doesn't pack much of an offensive punch (44 points in 228 games), but boasts better than 600 games of NHL experience on his resume. He's missed only 18 games over the last three years and at 31 years old should have plenty of mileage left.

    Allen won't be a very sexy splash in the free-agent market but could be an awfully solid addition to a Flyers defense looking for some stability. 

Joe Corvo

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    Another reasonably priced defensive alternative for the Orange and Black could be Corvo.

    The 35-year-old veteran has nine seasons and more than 650 career NHL games under his belt, but like Allen will likely command less than $3 million per year..  

    But even in the latter stages of his career, Corvo has proven he can still contribute. The Orland Park, Illinois native notched four goals and 25 points in 75 games last season and is only one year removed from a 40-point campaign in which he didn't miss a single regular-season game.

    With plenty of youth on the back end in Schenn, Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson, the Flyers could use another veteran presence on defense. Corvo could provide that seasoned voice and as a vet who has yet to hoist the cup would bring a will to win each and every night. 

Justin Schultz

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    The final unrestricted free agent on this list hasn't even played an NHL game.

    In a rare maneuver, Schultz de-registered from the University of Wisconsin in late May triggering a 30-day window for the former Badger to sign with the Anaheim Ducks who made him the 43rd overall selection in the 2008 NHL draft. With the signing window in the rear view mirror, Schultz is in the unique position of being a 21-year-old unrestricted free agent.

    He'll be an unbelievably attractive option for the remaining 29 teams after producing 40 goals, 73 assists and 113 points over the last three years in Wisconsin. Potentially even more attractive than his gaudy numbers is the fact the two-time All-WHCA First Teamer will be signing his entry level deal with a price sticker of just $925,000 per year.

    A native of West Kelowna, British Columbia, Schultz will likely look to play north of the border, but if the Flyers can guarantee him a roster spot and entice him with performance bonuses, he'd be an awfully significant upgrade to the Flyers' defensive future.

Shea Weber

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    The Flyers defense is in the midst of a transformation as a result of the expected long-term loss of Pronger. If there's one player who could single-handedly replace Pronger it's Weber.

    He's the total package.  

    A 6'4", 235-pound defenseman who provides leadership and contributes offensively, Weber's combination of size and skill is an incredibly rare combination and one that would be a tremendous coup if the Flyers could work a deal for the seven-year NHL pro.

    Weber is an on- and off-ice leader who could bring the snarl factor Philadelphia lost with the injury to Pronger.

    With just one year remaining on a deal that pays him $7.5 million annually, Weber could only be acquired via trade. Nashville will likely only part ways with its captain for several high-end prospects and several draft picks, but it's not out of the realm of possibility.

    If the Flyers are serious about winning the Stanley Cup, they need to make a serious run at acquiring Weber.