Each day from now until July 1, the day free agency begins, Sarah Baicker and Tim Riday will profile some of the NHL's top impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Flyers.
Erik Gudbranson, defenseman
Last team: Florida Panthers
2013-14 AAV: $3.2 million
Gudbranson is one of the most promising, young shutdown defenseman in the NHL. He uses his huge 6-foot-5, 216-pound frame to his advantage both along the boards and in front of the net. He's not afraid to throw his body around and is willing to drop the gloves when necessary. He has tremendous leadership qualities and displays all-around potential. He hasn't put up a lot of points yet, but he has a heavy shot and could potentially quarterback power-play units in the future.
At the 2010 NHL draft, the Panthers selected Gudbranson with the third-overall pick. He's battled through injuries and illness early on in his career, but has proved to be a key member of the Panthers' blue line when in the lineup. In his first three seasons in the NHL, he's picked up five goals, 16 assists and 239 penalty minutes in 169 games.
Would the Flyers like Gudbranson? Of course. He's got the size, strength and smarts to make an impact on the blue line wherever he plays. And he's only 22. The thing is, the Flyers aren't going to get him; Gudbranson will stay in Florida -- and this underlines something that new GM Ron Hextall has said repeatedly since he took over for Paul Holmgren: The Flyers need to draft and develop their own players (especially defensemen) instead of coveting others'. Gudbranson will probably get a big raise, too, and it has to be said that further makes him inaccessible for the Flyers. Though as Tim says below, it's hard to see any other teams even getting a chance at him.
I don't think there's a single team in the league that wouldn't want Gudbranson in its lineup. He is a true defensive defenseman. He clears the front with authority, battles hard in the corners and his hockey IQ is off the charts. The Flyers could use a defensively-responsible guy like Gudbranson on their back end. Problem is the Panthers will likely match an offer sheet sent Gudbranson's way. In fact, I think they'll lock him up before any team gets the chance to try to steal him away from the Sunshine State. Panthers GM Dave Tallon is very high on Gudbranson and envisions the 22-year-old as the team's future captain. Sorry, Flyers fans. Gudbranson is staying put.