Flyers should put Andrej Meszaros on the trade block

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Flyers should put Andrej Meszaros on the trade block

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.

Flyers returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

Flyers returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

VOORHEES, N.J. – It’s as if the season began right where it left off for the handful of Flyers players that participated in the World Cup of Hockey. 

Five months removed from their first round series with Washington, the group that played in the international tournament says it was nearly identical to the tempo they saw in the NHL playoffs.

“Our division was really tight so right from the get-go you couldn’t afford to lose a game,” said Sean Couturier, who suited up for North America. “It definitely felt like playoffs, and it definitely didn’t feel like September.”

Couturier was joined by his World Cup teammate Shayne Gostisbehere, along with Team Czech Republic’s Jake Voracek and Michael Neuvirth, in their return to Voorhees for their first practice with the Flyers on Monday. Team Canada’s Claude Giroux and the Team Europe duo of Mark Streit and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare will be competing in the finals this week.

While it may have been an early exit for the first wave of Flyers who reported back, the experience of playing in a tournament with that high of intensity has left them more confident than they’ve ever felt at this time of the year, particularly for Gostisbehere. 

The Calder Trophy runner-up underwent offseason hip surgery following his 46-point season. Having missed a season two years ago because of a torn ACL, Gostisbehere is thankful for how much the World Cup prepared him for his second year. He says he feels better now than he ever has in his career after picking up four assists in the tournament.

“You don’t play in those games in September normally so it was pretty cool to do,” Gostisbehere said. “I think the tournament was a good stepping stone for me and to branch off my injury and give yourself the confidence that you’re feeling good for the year.”

Like Couturier and Gostisbehere, Voracek said the World Cup gameplay mirrored that of the NHL postseason. 

“When I look at the season for the Flyers, it was the best thing that could have happened for me,” Voracek said. “The World Cup was high level… I’m six games in before training camp even starts.”

After what he calls a “good offseason” of training, Voracek saw this opportunity as almost a saving grace – a chance to regain form before embarking on his sixth season in Philadelphia. The winger had one goal and one assist in three games that “felt like I was playing in the playoffs.”

Had this tournament occurred in 2015, the mindset coming back may have been different. Dave Hakstol was coaching his first professional season and as evidenced by their record to start the year and the comments made throughout, things took a little longer than expected when it came to picking up the new coach’s system.

That process is behind the Flyers, and it makes missing the first weekend of camp and possibly the first week of preseason games an easier obstacle to overcome.

“It’s always better when you know the system and what Hak wants in you,” Voracek said. “It’s obviously going to get better and better.”

The best-of-three World Cup finals will begin on Tuesday with the third game (if needed) commencing on Saturday. If the teams go the full distance, the remaining three Flyers involved would likely not play their first preseason game until Oct. 6 if not Oct. 8, the final exhibition game. 

Pressure is on Flyers' fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde to fend off competition

Pressure is on Flyers' fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde to fend off competition

VOORHEES, N.J. — Even before Flyers training camp opened, Ron Hextall talked about a plenitude of internal competition for jobs.
 
It’s all over the ice, too.

Who starts in goal: Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth, who came on strong at the end of last season? 
 
Does Ivan Provorov win a spot on the roster? And if he does, who gets sent packing?
 
Between Scott Laughton and Nick Cousins, who gets the lion's share of ice time? 
 
Can Travis Konecny or Roman Lyubimov force a veteran forward off the team?
 
Then there’s free-agent signee Boyd Gordon, a PK specialist who was second only to Claude Giroux in the league last season on winning defensive zone draws. More competition.
 
Well, one of the key battles in training camp for both roster space and minutes concerns how veteran fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde handles the competition from Lyubimov — the 24-year-old Russian who plays a heavy game and can handle special teams — and others.
 
VandeVelde saw a bit of an offensive drop-off last season with 14 points. Though just a point fewer than the year before, the bigger dip was going from nine goals to two.
 
With no real goal-scoring additions in the offseason, Hextall is expecting bigger outputs from returning players.
 
In VandeVelde’s case, two goals is something Lyubimov could easily match or exceed.
 
“You have to go out there and give it your all,” VandeVelde said. “Hopefully, work hard and kind of make an impression. There’s a lot of guys fighting for a fair amount of spots. It’s going to be interesting.
 
“I think I’ve felt pressure every year. Obviously, you want to make an impression and get noticed out there. Reassure [them] I can still do the job and add a few things to my offensive game.”
 
And his self-evaluation?
 
“I think I was solid,” he replied. “As a fourth line, we were very good at times. Individually, I can add a little more and chip in a little more.”
 
VandeVelde is not scheduled to play in either of Monday’s split-squad games in New Jersey or Brooklyn.
 
At stake here isn’t just his job on the fourth line but the penalty kill, as well. VandeVelde’s 2:17 shorthanded ice time per game was second only to linemate Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (2:35) among the forwards.
 
The 6-foot-2, 207-pound Lyubimov has played on the penalty kill in the KHL, and Gordon is a PK specialist. What was VandeVelde’s edge is now something up for grabs, especially given both Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol have vowed there will be improvement on the PK, which ranked 20th last season after being among the bottom 10 much of the year.
 
Hakstol has said he intends to tweak the PK with some structural changes. That sounds like personnel changes and Gordon could be a guy on the fourth unit and will certainly be in the mix on the penalty kill.
 
How to make the kill better remains at large.
 
“We have to start a little more aggressively,” VandeVelde said. “Kind of like we finished the last couple games there against Washington [in the playoffs]. We kind of got burnt there, 6-1 [in Game 3]. We switched styles a little too late.”
 
The Flyers gave up five power-play goals in Game 3 to the Caps.
 
VandeVelde admits his penalty kill experience gives him a bit of an edge going into camp.
 
“If I can bring that extra edge and solidify a role, that is huge,” he said.
 
VandeVelde returned to his home in Moorhead, Minnesota, over the summer to focus on his skating, hoping to get a more explosive start on the ice that he could utilize better during the penalty kill.
 
One thing seems certain: VandeVelde says there’s a greater comfort level for returning players as to what to expect from Hakstol. Also, whereas last year’s camp was one of implementing systems, this year’s camp is one of expanding on them.
 
“Everyone knows what to expect,” VandeVelde said. “So do all three coaches. They are going to tweak some things, whether it's penalty kill or power play or other systems. We’ll learn that. That is what preseason is for. All the players know what to expect and are ready to go.”
 
VandeVelde said he’s already been informed what the team expects from him this season. The competition could push him in that direction.
 
“I know what they want,” he said. “Obviously, I can do more offensively and want to chip in a little more as a fourth line and as an individual. Maybe just work on that.”