This is the year to be a seller, and for the teams lingering around the cellar, it’s time to assess the situation, evaluate the roster and start shaping it for next season.
It’s a harsh reality for Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, who hasn’t been in this position since taking over the GM job in October 2006.
However, with one of the deepest crop of 18-year-olds in this year’s amateur draft, it may not be a bad idea to add another first-round pick. Couple that with the Flyers' own pick, which is looking more like a top-15 selection, and Holmgren could set himself up for another interesting and productive offseason.
While many wonder if 35-year-old Danny Briere would graciously waive his no-trade clause, give the team some salary cap relief and provide a pick or two in return, I see the Flyers moving in a different direction.
Try Andrej Meszaros.
The Flyers' defenseman returned in March after separating his shoulder in the team’s fourth game of the season, which consequently forced him to miss the next six weeks. In the offseason he underwent surgery to repair a torn Achilles'.
Hard to believe he’s only 27 years old, but his body is already entering its mid-30s. Since his return, Meszaros hasn’t exactly solidified his place on the Flyers' blue line. He has been mixed and matched as head coach Peter Laviolette has stuck with Kimmo Timonen/Luke Schenn and Braydon Coburn/Nicklas Grossman as his top-two pairings.
Meszaros has been fifth on the depth chart, logging an average of 18:33 very average minutes. He has yet to record a plus game with an overall minus-6 rating, and it’s tough to gauge where he might fit in for next season.
However, if you’re one of those teams on the other side of the playoff fence, there are benefits to what Mez can bring. He has a very reasonable cap hit at $4 million, plus he’s under contract for next season. Under those terms, he would be a much more affordable and desirable option than Calgary’s Jay Bouwmeester, who has a hefty $6.5 million number and has never played in the postseason.
Meszaros, on the other hand, would bring a ton of playoff experience: 46 career games, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final (Senators ’07). He’s also capable of stepping up in all situations, and if healthy (raised eyebrows), Meszaros is good for 30-35 points next season.
NHL defensemen are like big-league starting pitchers and teams will overpay to get their hands on one. When you look across the league, a number of teams have taken significant hits to their blue lines. The Ottawa Senators took a major hit after losing Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson for the remainder of the season. The Senators are certainly familiar with Meszaros. However, if I were Holmgren, I wouldn’t even rule out the rival Rangers and Penguins, who will also be desperate to add defense. The price tag would just be a little steeper.
Start the bidding soon and by the time the April 3 trade deadline rolls around, Holmgren should be able to squeeze a first-round pick out of some team, and quite possibly a little bit more. And you don’t have to request Meszaros to waive a no-trade clause because he doesn’t have one.
From the Flyers' standpoint, Meszaros simply needs to stay healthy and play a little bit better. It could definitely help the orange and black next season, and perhaps, many seasons after that.