Inside the Flyers: Flyers bolster defense, but offense may need help

Posted: June 25, 2012

PITTSBURGH - The Flyers have had some pretty good brother combinations in their history. The Watsons and Sutter twins come to mind.

And now, a big part of their future is being entrusted to the development of center Brayden Schenn and his big brother, Luke, who was acquired Saturday in a deal that sent James van Riemsdyk to Toronto.

Flyers fans will like Luke Schenn's aggressive style. When rumors surfaced last season about Schenn being dealt to the Flyers, I focused on his game to see what he would bring. In one contest, he frustrated Claude Giroux with some crunching hits that sent the center to the ice.

In four seasons, the Maple Leafs didn't see enough consistency from Schenn, however, and he never reached his potential.

The same goes for van Riemsdyk, who, like Schenn, was a high draft pick who showed flashes of dominance but then disappeared for games at a time.

In essence, both teams are hoping a change of scenery helps the players blossom into game-changers.

And when you draft a player second overall (van Riemsdyk in 2007) and fifth overall (Schenn in 2008), that's what you expect: a game-changer.

The deal saves the Flyers some money - Schenn has a $3.6 million cap hit for four years, JVR has a $4.25 cap hit for the next six years - and it appears to shut the door on the Flyers' pursuit of Ryan Suter and Justin Schultz, a pair of soon-to-be free-agent defensemen.

Assuming captain Chris Pronger is unable to return and that the Flyers re-sign Matt Carle, their defense for next season might look like this: Braydon Coburn and Nick Grossmann; Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros; and Carle and Schenn, a stay-at-home, 6-foot-2, 229-pound defender.

That would give the Flyers a formidable (and beefy) unit, with Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson providing solid depth if needed.

But, suddenly, there is a hole in the offense. General manager Paul Holmgren said it is 50/50 that the club will be able to re-sign Jaromir Jagr, who can become a free agent next Sunday. Even if Jagr is re-signed, the Flyers appear to have enough cap space to go after winger Zach Parise, the jewel of this free-agent class.

Problem is, Pittsburgh - whose fans booed so loudly when the Flyers made a draft pick here this weekend that they drowned out the announced selections - have cleared lots of cap room and seem primed to make a strong run at Parise, who will have a long list of suitors.

Landing Parise, then, would be a double-win for the Penguins, who lost out to the Flyers in the Jagr sweepstakes last summer. (Side note: Late-blooming P.A. Parenteau of the Islanders is an intriguing free-agent winger.)

For Pittsburgh, getting Parise in his prime would trump the Flyers' getting the still-effective Jagr late in his Hall of Fame career.

Even without JVR as a bargaining chip, Holmgren has not ruled out making more deals to improve a team that vanished in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Cherry Hill native Bobby Ryan, the Anaheim winger who has scored at least 30 goals in each of the last four seasons, and Columbus star winger Rick Nash are available. Nash's $7.8 million cap hit through 2017-18 makes him less attractive than Ryan ($5.1 million cap hit through 2014-15).

The Flyers, I'm told, do not want to trade any of their coming-of-age young forwards, such as Sean Couturier, Matt Read, and Brayden Schenn. That will make a deal for Ryan more difficult - and makes the free-agent rout seem like the logical alternative.

That is, unless Giroux has a hockey-playing brother we don't know about.


Inside the Flyers: Flyers Draft: Player by Player

Round   Player   Pos.   Ht.   Wt.

1. (20th overall)    Scott Laughton   C   6-0   177

Flyers compare him to Mike Richards, a solid two-way player.

2. (45)     Anthony Stolarz    G     6-5     210

His size and athleticism excite the Flyers.

3. (78)     Shayne Gostisbehere    D     5-11    160

Smallish, offensive-minded, he helped college team to Frozen Four.

4. (111)     Fredrik Larsson     D     6-3      172

He is regarded as a strong skater; played in Sweden last season.

4. (117)     Taylor Leier                LW    5-10    174

Two-way player had 13 goals and 24 assists in WHL last season.

5. (141)     Reece Willcox             D      6-3     184

Flyers think he's a steal at 141st pick; had 23 points in BCHL.

7. (201)     Valeri Vasiliev               D      6-1     203

He turned 18 last month; Flyers like his size and aggressive play.

- Sam Carchidi


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.conm,

or on Twitter @BroadStBull.

 

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