Flyers Add A Star Destroyer To Their Defense
Dallas defenseman Nicklas Grossman brings needed size and hitting ability, but is Holmgren done?
As the Flyers’ season marches closer towards its conclusion, it didn’t take much to realize that their defense was in need of a sizable player who would present somewhat of an intimidating presence that had been sorely missing since captain Chris Pronger’s season ending concussion.
While it’s next to impossible to replace the size, skill, and intimidation package Pronger possesses with just one defenseman, standing pat was not in the mindset of general manager Paul Holmgren.
As such, he traded for Dallas Stars’ defenseman Nicklas Grossman. The hulking Swedish defenseman stands 6’4, weighs 226lbs, and has doled out an impressive 96 hits this season. He also has five points this season (all assists) and has scored three goals throughout his NHL career.
Grossman brings the reputation of a no frills, stay at home defenseman and based off that archetype can be an asset to blue liners like Matt Carle and Andrej Meszaros who are players with more of an offensive bend to their game.
Grossman also has a reputation as a strong penalty killer who has blocked 100 shots this season. He can also lessen the ice time load on the Flyers defensive corps, as he averages just under 19:00 per contest.
"He is experienced, he is a bigger body and he is a good solid defensive defenseman”, Holmgren said, during his media availability. “He can kill penalties for us and play regular shifts. He can chew up minutes. Like I said, he is a big body."
By all accounts, Grossman plays a hard game, but a clean one as well with 26 penalty minutes. Oppose that with his hits total and you find a lot to like.
In short, several elements that the Flyers desperately needed to possess, they got in this deal.
So, what are some of the drawbacks? In exchange for a defenseman that will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, the Flyers parted with a second round pick in this year’s entry draft, one that many are describing as a prospect bonanza, along with a third round pick in 2013 (acquired from Los Angeles and Minnesota, respectively).
However, the lost second round pick might be mitigated if the Flyers chose to take the Florida Panthers 2012 second round pick option (instead of their 2013) pick as part of the Kris Versteeg trade over the summer.
Grossman makes a very cap friendly $1,750,000 this season on a 2 year contract. As he is entering the prime of his career, his combination of size and reputation for solid physical play could earn him a solid increase in pay.
So in some ways, Grossman’s auditioning for both Philadelphia and the rest of National Hockey League going from a team on the outside of the playoff hunt to a team that’s right in the thick of it.
Holmgren acknowledged as such, when he was asked if he would consider resigning him.
“I think that kind of goes both ways. Nick has to see if he likes it here, too. We certainly like him. He has been a guy that we talked about over the past few weeks. We talked to Dallas about him, but they weren't prepared to move him until just recently. Like I said, we are happy to have him. We will see where it goes from here.”
Now the question becomes: are there any more deals on the table for Holmgren to make before the trading deadline?
Projecting From Now To Deadline Day
Barring an absolutely shocking maneuver, it’s unlikely the Flyers will go after a player of Rick Nash’s ilk.
Between Nash’s unwieldy $7.8 million per season cap hit that increases to $8.2 in 2017-18 and the likely heavy cost in trading for him, it would be ill advised for a lot of contending teams to take on a player, while he is a prototypical power forward who averages 30 goals on a weak Columbus team, who would take up such a sizable portion of their salary structure.
The expectation here is that, if Holmgren chooses to make another move, he’ll look for a bottom nine checking forward (possibly a center with good faceoff ability) at a reasonable cost. Does Buffalo’s Paul Gaustad ($2.3 million cap hit) or Montreal’s Travis Moen ($1.5 million) fit what they’re looking for?
Another option might be to add another defenseman, possibly one who could help add an attack element and help compensate for the offensive numbers the Flyers lost with Pronger out (however limited those numbers would be in comparison).
One area the Flyers have lacked for some time is a right shot from the point. A right shot like that of Tampa’s Pavel Kubina, would increase the flow of their power play substantially and make them a real threat. Problem is that an offensive defenseman acquisition will cost them more than they would care to add on at this point of the season.
Perhaps though, they might want to look at through a long term view. Does Holmgren open communications with some of his former staff members in Los Angeles to talk about the apparently available Jack Johnson? Perhaps he revisits the purported Luke Schenn deal with Toronto or begin talking with the Nashville Predators about Ryan Suter, though the later might be more likely dealt with closer to the July 1st free agency period.
In either circumstance with the team now at the maximum allotted number of contracts (50), Holmgren likely would have to move a player(s) in trade or place a player on waivers to get under that number.
In each circumstance, even with deadline cap space of $2,661,062 (per Cap Geek.com), Holmgren will be making a statement by what he does or does not do by then.
The Grossman acquisition was definitely a statement by the Philadelphia Flyers. Do they have any more to make?
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photo by Drew King