The Philadelphia Flyers, Peter Laviolette, and upper management have some very interesting decisions ahead as the draft and free agency fast approach on June 30 and July 1 respectively. The first problem is, if they stay put then who do they select at 11? The obvious answer would be a defenseman, as they were shredded much of the year by the upper-echelon teams, leaving their goaltender out to dry.
The problem with that is the Flyers have not drafted and developed a home-grown player on the blue line in what seems like decades. They have, however, been very successful in drafting and developing forwards as seen by players like Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne, and their new star center Claude Giroux.
Some of the names thrown about for the Flyers to target are Darnell Nurse, Ryan Pulock and Rasmus Ristolainen. Nurse is a very interesting prospect in that he already has a Philly connection due to the fact that he is the nephew of none other than former Philadelphia Eagles franchise quarterback, Donovan McNabb.
Nurse is a smooth skater who can play at both ends, and has a real physicality to his game as evidenced by the number of fights he has participated in in junior hockey. I believe the Flyers should target a player like this that they can groom and develop on the blue line because it is such a crying need.
Despite not having much success at developing their own players on defense, they have to take the chance this year with one of these high-quality prospects.
In free agency, I believe the Flyers should look to trade for a veteran No. 1 defenseman to be the face of their defense and to replace the aging Kimmo Timonen. He logged way too many minutes this past season. Considering this and the permanent loss of Chris Pronger, this is a move the Flyers almost must make.
While it may cost them a youngster like Sean Couturier, it is a chance they will have to take to see their playoff prospects improve. No. 2 on the agenda would be adding a sniper. A player like Bobby Ryan would be ideal next to Giroux as he is a pure goal scorer to go along with one of the game’s great young play makers in Giroux.
The goalie situation is one that the Flyers really have to ponder. Illya Bryzgalov is a candidate to be amnestied while Steve Mason impressed down the stretch in a lost season. These are all scenarios for the Flyers to ponder. Paul Holmgren is historically a very aggressive GM, and I think this summer will be no different.
With the right moves, look for this young Flyers team to be Cup contenders once again next Fall.