The Flyers need to upgrade their defense, but at what cost?
The rumors are swirling as fans and bloggers alike, flock to Twitter to express their opinions. The number one topic of the past week has been Seth Jones. Is he worth the price? Who should the Flyers give up to obtain him? Flyers faithful are as divided on this topic as the division seen in political tweets. That’s pretty bad!
Jones could be an expensive rental player unless Check Fletcher can pull off a sign and trade. His current cap hit is $5.4 Million.
I am torn on the idea of picking up Jones as I wouldn’t make the deal unless he can be signed. Also, I feel that the Flyers are in need of that bruising, punishing defender, and I am not sure Jones fits that description. Now, the 26-year-old Texan has upped his hitting game the past few seasons. His average ice time has been about 25 minutes. As a top defenseman for Columbus, he only registered 26 penalty minutes last year, 194 PIM for his career. Acquiring a player of Jones’s talent would be great for the Flyers.
Trading for Jones will likely cost the Flyers young talent. Names that have surfaced are Travis Sanheim, Phil Myers, Travis Konecny, Joel Farabee, and Morgan Frost. Also, the rumors floating around is that it will cost draft picks as well as a top prospect. If Frost isn’t in that top prospect mix, then we’re talking Cam York or Tyson Foerster. Those two would be a hard no for me. Recently it has been reported that the trade talks with Columbus have died down.
Free Agents the Flyers Could Target
With free agency just two weeks away, the Flyers’ ability to make a splash revolves around the Expansion Draft. Will the Kraken take James van Riemsdyk or Jake Voracek? That move opens up a lot of space to sign some talent. Will Fletcher trade away some pieces to free up cap space? Currently, the Flyers have just over $13 million, but still have to sign Carter Hart, a backup net-minder, and Travis Sanheim. Elliotte Friedman reported that the Flyers and Jake Voracek may be looking to make a change!
Then there is the top free-agent defender, Carolina Blueliner Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton has expressed interest in staying in Raleigh but is also dipping his toe in the free agency waters. Hamilton will come at a cost, most likely in the 8-9 million AAV range. That is something the Flyers just don’t have at the moment. Plus the Flyers have already stated they will not pursue Hamilton. Is this a little gamesmanship from Fletcher?
Less Expensive Defense Options
Should the Flyers make a trade, you have to think a defender will be traded. As I previously discussed, Sanheim and Myers fit that bill. Myers maybe that player moved. The Flyers are short on right-handed defenders. Add that fact, with the fact that the Flyers defense was not a physical juggernaut last season, I propose they go after some blue line toughness.
I was listening to the Missing Curfew crew a few weeks ago. During that episode, Shane O’Brien and Scottie Upshall were talking about Alex Tuch not going to the paint. During the segment, both former NHL players agreed, it takes guts to go towards the net, knowing you’re going to get a beatdown. In this case, they were referring to Shea Weber and Jeff Petry on the Canadiens. Upshall said that you have to put it in your mind that going hard to the net was going to hurt. Those guys were there to punish you for the effort.
Does anyone else agree that this is what the Flyers lacked last season? One player who fits this mold is Finnish defender, Jani Hakanpaa.
A Massive Finn
The Flyers have lacked a level of physical play on the blue line since Radko Gudas was traded. Alain Vigneault experimented with Sam Morin, but Morin spent too much time in the penalty box. Morin had 37 penalty minutes in 20 games. While I like Morin and Robert Haag on the third pairing, I feel there is room for improvement.
Hakanpaa is a massive defender. The 29-year-old defender is 6’5″, 220lbs. Hakanpaa brings a level of physical play that the Flyers were lacking this season. He was among the league leaders in hits with 215 while blocking 87 shots. Although he plays a physical game, he only recorded 35 penalty minutes in 57 games played.
Hakanpaa would be a welcome addition to the Flyers’ blue line. He would also fit, what Chuck Fletcher said, as a defense that is tough to play against. Hakanpaa wouldn’t be all too expensive as he has yet to play a full season.
The concern about Hakanpaa is his experience. Seeing his ability to be that player who is hard to play against, he could flourish in the right environment. Hakanpaa is not an end-all-be-all answer to the defensive issues, and he would be projected as a third pairing. He brings a physical defensive game, kills penalties, and is hard to get around- something the Flyers need.
As we get closer to the end of July, hopefully, all of our questions will be answered.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre