Flyers Would Be Wise To Pluck Adam Larsson Instead

NHL: MAY 03 Oilers at Canucks
VANCOUVER, BC – MAY 03: Edmonton Oilers Defenceman Adam Larsson (6) congratulates Edmonton Oilers Goalie Mikko Koskinen (19) after the Oilers defgeat the Vancouver Canucls 5-3 during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on May 3, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Flyers need an ace defenseman on the right side with Ivan Provorov. Adam Larsson is the flat-cap-friendly option for the job.

If there is one answer to any question that lives rent-free in my head, it refers to what Chuck Fletcher said about the makeup of the defense after mentioning Erik Gustafsson not working out:

“There’s different types of defensemen. There’s puck-moving offensive defensemen, there’s defensive defensemen, and there are a few that combine both. We’ll just have to see what the opportunities are in the summer, and we’ll also have to continue to see how some of our defensemen play here for the rest of the season.”

Chuck Fletcher; 4/12/21

Per his own words, Fletcher knows what needs to happen this offseason. The Flyers defense features too many offensive and two-way defensemen. Defensive defensemen are lacking in the lineup to compensate for the offensive risks taken on the back end. Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, and Shayne Gostisbehere are the premier offensive defensemen in Philadelphia. Having an abundance of one particular skill when variety is required loses its meaning.

Buzzword players like Seth Jones may receive a lot of attention but fit awkwardly on the Flyers. Sure, Jones can score points, but Philadelphia allowed the most goals last season. Blue-line scoring misses the point of gaining a top pair, right-handed defenseman. The Flyers need a defenseman who can toe the line and stay at home to back up Provorov while aiding Carter Hart.

Instead of focusing on expensive players, there is one particular defenseman Fletcher has under his watchful eye. Adam Larsson from the Edmonton Oilers becomes the new player of interest. In comparison, Larsson plays better defense than Jones.

What could it cost Philadelphia to land Larsson? Certainly less than what is needed to lure Jones from the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Can the Flyers Afford Larsson?

Adam Larsson does more for the defensive tone than Seth Jones at a cheaper value.

The Philadelphia Flyers have to extend Carter Hart and Travis Sanhiem before they know which player the Seattle Kraken select. That will likely cut into at least half of the expected cap room ($13.085mil) without including questionable extensions to Samuel Morin and Nolan Patrick. Then, the second priority to a top pair right-hand defenseman is a goaltender to rotate with Hart. If the Kraken does not select James van Riemsdyk or Jakub Voracek, the Flyers will battle the cap more than most teams while negotiating for a top-pair defenseman. Jones expects to receive between $8-9mil AAV, which is more than what Larsson would get.

Larsson received $4.166 AAV from the Edmonton Oilers. His extension and negotiation assumingly would be ~$5mil for at least three years. A negotiation for Larsson at a contract similar to that allows Philadelphia some breathing room as Larsson carries on while Justin Braun phases out.

Now, say Seattle selects van Riemsdyk or Voracek. Suddenly, by investing in Larsson instead, the Flyers can make more additions to flirt with the salary cap or leverage the flat cap in making trades. Many trades for above-average to great talent will feature teams taking a percentage of existing contracts. Understandably, that is a tough bind to agree upon, but trade leverage nonetheless.

If I told you that choosing Larsson over Jones could potentially put Philadelphia closer to their starting cap room figure, would you consider detaching from the buzzword target? Yeah, me too.

By The Numbers

Before pursuing Adam Larsson, the Philadelphia Flyers would have ~$6mil available before the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft (considering Carter Hart, Travis Sanheim, Nolan Patrick, and Samuel Morin all receive extensions.) Without a trade to free cap space, Chuck Fletcher should be able to afford negotiations with Larsson. Signing a suitable replacement is usually always better than sacrificing a package of assets for one. Fletcher wouldn’t be putting all of his eggs in one basket for Larsson as he would for Seth Jones.

Remember, the Columbus Blue Jackets are divisional rivals. Jones doesn’t fit into an orange and black sweater without the Blue Jackets receiving handsome compensation. Larsson is a safer play to bolster the defensive aspect of the position, while Jones could be a foolish maneuver, gathering more of the same at a ~$9mil price tag.

Statistically speaking, Larsson helps more than Jones in the problematic defensive metrics. Jones initially pops off the page because of his offensive statistics; Corsi and Fenwick don’t tell the entire story.

Throughout Philadelphia’s Alain Vigneault era to date, Larsson showed he’s as good or better than Jones in blocking shots (128 > 101 in 2020-2021,) limiting turnovers (77 > 80 in this aspect,) and doesn’t trail him in creating takeaways by a wide margin. As an outfit to Ivan Provorov, it’s paramount his partner can limit turnovers. The Flyers can drive points at the blue line with Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim, and Cam York. There are far fewer defensemen in Philadelphia who stay at home and support the transition. Robert Hagg likely won’t contribute more than a seventh-defenseman role, and Philippe Myers has been inconsistent.

A focus on the finer defensive details must be the focus, and negotiations with Larsson are a great place to begin.

Photo by Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire