Can the Flyers Sign Any of Their Impending UFA Defensemen?BREAKING NEWS, Flyers, News, NHL Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
“I think the longest time, you used to hear that Matty was good because he played next to Chris,” said Laviolette. “That was the common theme, and yet here he is. We certainly wish we had Chris and were able to pair them up together, but we don’t, and yet Matty’s been a mainstay for us. He’s another one of those guys, like Kimmo… you don’t ask many questions. He just shows up on the line-up sheet every night. He played 23 minutes, they’re usually really good minutes for us and he’s consistent in all three zones. Especially with the injuries that we’ve had at the back end to have a guy like that available for us is a real bonus for our team.”
In his latest edition of “30 Thoughts,” Elliot Friedman of CBC wrote, “We all go crazy checking to see what teams are scouting every game before the deadline. Well, you’ll still see plenty of them watching the Flyers- eying potential UFA defenders Matt Carle, Nicklas Grossmann and Pavel Kubina.”
While the Flyers could end up signing all three, it’s just as likely that they will be unable to sign any of them for the 2012-13 NHL season.
Carle has been with the Flyers since 2008, when he was traded from the Tampa Bay Lightning. At the age of 24, it was a question mark at the time whether he could perform at the level he achieved in his first full year in the NHL with the San Jose Sharks (11 goals and 53 points).
It was a gamble for Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, but thankfully Carle has been one of the most consistent offensive defensemen for the orange and black, with or without Chris Pronger. If you have the stomach for statistics, Geoff Detweiler of Broad Street Hockey explained recently in an excellent post why Carle is one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL. This post was somewhat intended to serve as “further reading” for another story on Carle by Frank Seravalli of the Daily News.
The line that best summed up, in my opinion, the issue many have with Carle is this: “If you’re looking for an elite shutdown defenseman, Matt Carle is not it.”
Carle has played decently considering he has been paired predominantly with rookies this season, but he’s not a guy that is going to clear the porch when the other team begins pressuring on the forecheck. This was a glaring issue for the team before the recent trade deadline, and has since been helped by the acquisition of Grossmann.
I’ve questioned his decision-making in the past as a result of ugly turnovers, but Detweiler makes another great point- the Flyers fans that bemoan his giveaways probably don’t watch the other elite defensemen on a regular basis, who are just as guilty of committing mistakes to varying degrees of failure.
The Flyers would likely have already re-signed Carle, but it’s becoming clear that in spite of his public acknowledgement that he’d like to stay in Philadelphia, he (or at least his agent) knows he’s in line for a significant pay raise.
Of the “elite” defensemen that Detweiler hand-picked for his post (replacing Ryan Suter for Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski), their average salary cap hit is about $6.28 million per year.
The question then remains- is it necessary for the Flyers to dedicate a significant chunk of salary for the offense that Carle provides?
Grossmann is arguably the best defenseman the Flyers have for replacing the coverage that Pronger used to provide, but he has never tallied more than 12 points in any of his five NHL seasons.
How much is that worth? It’s difficult to say, but with defensemen in high demand lately, he could choose to test free agency instead of taking an offer from the Flyers.
As for Kubina, he has also publicly stated that, should he play well, he’d prefer to stay in Philadelphia rather than test free agency. That’s great and all, but his last two contracts had cap hits of $5 million and $3.85 million, respectively, while his production has steadily dropped over the last two seasons.
Kubina turns 35 in April, meaning his next contract will have more stipulations on it. How much is an aging but solid right-shooting defenseman worth?
Add in to the conversation that there are mixed signals coming from the NHL about the 2012-13 NHL salary cap and it’s almost impossible to know what exactly Holmgren has to work with. According to Nick Cotsonika of Puck Daddy, “It could rise significantly this summer from its current level at $64.3 million, but it could drop significantly in the fall if the League receives concessions from the players in the next CBA.”
In other words, God only knows.
Ideally, I’d like to see a defense of Coburn-Grossmann / Carle-Timonen / Gustafsson-Meszaros (Lilja) next season (assuming that Pronger is unable to return from his severe post-concussion syndrome). It remains to be seen, however, if the Flyers have any control over their own destiny unless they’re willing to hand over their checkbook much like they did last summer for a goaltender.
For the latest Flyers news and updates, you can follow me on twitter (@JoshJanet).
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