General manager Paul Holmgren has a quandary: Does he trade defenseman Andrej Meszaros, who has played well despite being yanked in and out of the lineup but is a potential unrestricted free agent in July, or does he keep him because of the valuable depth he gives the Flyers for the stretch run?
The clock is ticking. The trade deadline is Wednesday at 3 p.m.
In 35 games entering Thursday’s matchup against San Jose, Meszaros had 16 points and was plus-3, and he has come out of the coach Craig Berube’s doghouse with his improved play on the defensive side.
“He’s come in lately and done a good job _ getting pucks to the net, jumping up in the play, been better defensively,” Berube said after Thursday’s morning skate. “He’s really come around.”
Berube said Meszaros, 28, struggled defensively earlier in the season because he was still getting into form after missing most of last season because of shoulder injuries. “I think his injuries had something to do with it, but he’s beyond his injuries now and playing pretty good hockey for us,” he said.
Boston is among the teams that have reportedly shown interest in acquiring the 6-foot-2, 223-pound Meszaros, who was teammates with the Bruins’ Zdeno Chara on Slovakia’s Olympic team. It is believed Chara is nudging the Bruins to add Meszaros for the stretch run.
“There’s always going to be rumors, especially now before the trade deadline,” Meszaros said. “If you hear something like that, you realize it’s a business and out of your hands, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re here right now and you’re trying to do your job and play as good as you can.”
Asked if he wanted to stay with the Flyers, Meszaros said, “I love Philadelphia and I love everything here. It’s my last year of my contract, obviously, and whatever will happen will happen. I’m not really thinking about it, so we’ll see.”
The Flyers would probably get around a third-round pick or a prospect for Meszaros. They have to weigh that against his value during the last six regular-season weeks and, if all goes well, the playoffs. You could argue he is one of the Flyers’ top six defensemen, though he hasn’t always been used in that capacity.
Dealing Meszaros ($4 million cap hit) would give the Flyers more cap room to make another trade.
In the Olympics, Meszaros _ the winner of the Barry Ashbee Award as the Flyers’ best defenseman in 2010-11 _ played in all situations and was one of Slovakia’s top defensemen.
“Hopefully I can carry it on over here,” he said.
Sharks get help. San Jose will get forwards Logan Couture and Raffi Torres back in the lineup Thursday against the Flyers.
Couture, who has 14 goals and 35 points in 43 games, has missed the last 16 games after undergoing hand surgery. He is expected to center Patrick Marleau and Marty Havlat.
Torres, a feisty left winger, has missed the entire season after tearing his anterior-cruciate ligament in the preseason. Torres, suspended for a dangerous hit in last year’s playoffs, will be on a line with center Joe Thornton and either Tyler Kennedy or Matt Nieto.
“They’ve got some guys back…and we’re going to have to do a very good job tonight without the puck,” Berube said. “We’re going to have to check well and be smart and make sure we’re not turning the puck over in the neutral zone. Little things like that, when you play teams like San Jose, you’ve got to be really good at.”
The Flyers will try to extend their four-game winning streak.
Steve Mason (23-14-5, 2.49 GAA, .918 save percentage) will face the Sharks’ Alex Stalock, who has been superb as Antti Niemi’s backup. Stalock is 8-4 with a 1.67 GAA and .938 save percentage, and he allowed one goal on five shots in relief of Niemi on Feb. 3, a 5-2 Flyers victory in San Jose.
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.