For Flyers fans to be able to move on to next season, they first have to come to terms with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter winning a Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings. I’ll give you a few seconds. Good? Feel better? No? I didn’t think it would be that easy. Let’s move on, shall we?
The biggest news to date is that the Flyers have offered superstar restricted free agent defenseman Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators an offer sheet worth over $100 million for 14 years. Early reports were that the Predators were exploring trade offers, but the Flyers grew impatient and made the offer. The Predators have seven days to match the offer sheet, but it isn’t likely they will be able to due to their reluctance to spend big money on players.
Another big move the Flyers made this offseason was shipping forward James van Riemsdyk to the Toronto Maple Leafs for defenseman Luke Schenn, brother of current Flyers forward Brayden Schenn. The deal was almost a year in the making — rumored to be in the works even before last season’s trade deadline. This trade just had to be done. The second overall pick in the 2007 National Hockey League Entry Draft has been spotty at best in his time with the Flyers. He had shown some flashes of brilliance, but he only played 43 games last year, hampered with injury complications. Van Riemsdyk is becoming a player that you associate with phrases like “oft-injured” or “injury-prone,” and the Flyers did a good job to dump him onto an organization that seems to have a fetish with American-born hockey players.
Schenn is a middle-of-the-road defenseman who will, no doubt, be looked upon to help a depleted core that will be missing Chris Pronger. Last season he recorded 22 points in 79 games with a -7 rating. The plus-minus rating should be taken with a grain of salt because of the Leafs’ handicap in net — they allowed the second-most goals in the league with 3.16 goals per game. But don’t let Schenn off the hook — he does need to improve for the Flyers to win this trade, but the change of scenery should do him wonders.
But the Flyers let Matt Carle slip through their fingers to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Carle was a much-improved defenseman who benefited from playing with the likes of Pronger. Carle’s best year was in 2010, when he ended the season with a +30 rating — a majority of his minutes played with Pronger. The value of a young defenseman of Carle’s caliber will be sorely missed.
The Flyers also signed forward Ruslan Fedotenko and defenseman Bruno Gervais as free agents. Both of the signings are depth moves, but Fedotenko will see considerably more ice time than Gervais. Fedotenko is a reliable two-way player, which can give any checking line some extra pop. Gervais, on the other hand, is not very impressive. He will most likely be fighting for the seventh-defenseman spot during training camp.
But are the Flyers better than they were last season? Assuming the Predators don’t outbid the Flyers’ offer sheet, the answer is a resounding yes. Acquiring Weber will give the Flyers one of the best defensemen in the league to back up their maturing forwards. With a stout defense there is more wiggle room for the forwards to work and create offense.
But what a bombshell that has been dropped on the NHL with this offer sheet. The Flyers are one step closer to a Cup.