SUNRISE, Fla. -- With Andrej Meszaros out for at least a third of the season, the Flyers are in the market for a defenseman.
This time, acquiring a depth defenseman isn’t going to cut it. Bruno Gervais, Kurtis Foster and Andreas Lilja are serviceable third-pairing players. But a weak third pair, as they currently constitute by league standards, could hamper the Flyers’ chances. Especially in a shortened season.
Having Meszaros healthy, or any Top 4 defenseman, to use on the third unit substantially changes the outlook.
So, what options does Holmgren have?
> The Flyers can trade for a defenseman. In Pittsburgh, Simon Despres seems to be available. Despres has failed to impress in the early goings this season, and word is circulating in the rumor mill that Ray Shero may be willing to part with him. Despres (day-PRAY) is a 1st round pick (2009, 30th overall) and might be a nice piece moving forward in a new system. He’s 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, is a smooth skater and moves the puck well.
He’s just one name.
Here’s the problem: the Flyers don’t have a position of strength to deal from. They’re already thin at forward with Scott Laughton, Tye McGinn and others plugging important holes since Hartnell, Danny Briere and Zac Rinaldo are out. Holmgren is not willing to part with his young players, like a Sean Couturier.
> They could sign an unrestricted free agent. Brent Sopel is one name the Flyers could be interested in. Sopel, 36, hasn't played in the NHL since 2011. He's played in Russia for the last two seasons. He won the Stanley Cup in 2010 with Chicago.
> The Flyers can go after restricted free agent P.K. Subban in Montreal.
There have been rumblings of the Flyers’ interest in Subban for quite a while. Heck, what teams are not interested in Subban?
Pernell Karl Subban, 23, is a tough, young defender who can skate like the wind. He can play the power play and plays a physical style which would make him a perfect fit in Philadelphia. He was famously able to agitate former captain Mike Richards with his on-ice pestilence.
During Hartnell’s Hurricane Sandy charity scrimmage in Atlantic City in November, Subban was arguably the best player on the ice.
Subban, looking for his second NHL contract, is reportedly not close to a new deal with the Canadiens - and thus, has been sitting out this season. At this point, It’s not exactly clear what it would take for the Habs to sign him.
Per Renaud Lavoie of RDS Canada, the Canadiens’ offer has not changed since May: a two-year deal worth (a prorated) $2.3 million this year and $2.9 million in 2013-14. Subban wants a long-term deal. You can see why a two-year deal, especially at a prorated salary this year which shrinks with each day he goes unsigned, is an unpalatable option.
Could the Flyers possibly make a run at an offer sheet? Unlikely.
The Flyers have already tried the restricted free agent offer sheet game (see: Weber, Shea) and their poison pill wasn’t successful against one of the NHL’s least affluent teams. Why would another one work against one of hockey’s proud, well-to-do franchises in Montreal?
Seemingly, the only way to nab Subban on a offer sheet is to throw a ridiculous offer out there. You’d have to presume that anything within reason will be matched by new GM Marc Bergevin quickly - and Subban will be back on the ice within days.
Would a ridiculous offer be worth it? He is not a $4 million per year player. Like all young players, he still has his shortcomings. Plus, the salary cap is decreasing next season, from $70.2 million to $64.3 million, and while the Flyers are in good shape, they don’t have unlimited room.
There are a few creative approaches to try and lure Subban from Montreal, but a lot of those - like a max-offer for this season, which would be pro-rated because of the lockout, before dropping down to a more-manageable number - were snuffed out in the new, more strict CBA. The Flyers’ hands are tied; a Weber-like offer is tougher to pull off.
One thing that is interesting: depending on the salary, the rebuilding Canadiens might ultimately be persuaded into not matching by the number of draft picks involved. Here was last summer’s draft pick compensation chart (changing figure based on average league salary):
$1,110,249 or below - No Compensation
Over $1,110,249 to $1,682,194 - 3rd round pick
Over $1,682,194 to $3,364,391 - 2nd round pick
Over $3,364,391 to $5,046,585 - 1st round pick, 3rd
Over $5,046,585 to $6,728,781 - 1st round pick, 2nd, 3rd
Over $6,728,781 To $8,410,976 - Two 1st Round Picks, 2nd, 3rd
Over $8,410,976 - Four 1st Round Picks
Question number 3: is Subban worth a 1st and a 3rd round pick? I believe the Flyers would not mind parting with that. But they’ve drafted incredibly well in the first round over the last 2 years, with Couturier and Laughton making the jump directly to the NHL.
The Flyers could also work out a trade for Subban’s rights, but again, what can they offer in return that doesn’t weaken their team?
To me, all of those things make it unlikely that Subban receives an offer sheet from anyone, let alone the Flyers.
The longer the Subban saga goes on, the more interesting it becomes. Stay tuned.
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers
Odds from Bovada.lv: What will happen next for P.K. Subban?
Plays a Game for the Montreal Canadiens -200 (1/2)
Plays a Game for another NHL Team +150 (3/2)