|The Flyers didn't get Shea Weber, so where do they go now?. (Getty Images)|
It's been an interesting -- if not frustrating -- offseason for the Philadelphia Flyers and their fans.
Maybe not one that's made them a better hockey team to this point, but definitely an interesting one. General manager Paul Holmgren has left no stone unturned in his effort to add even more impact players to his roster, and has had his team involved (or rumored to be involved) with just about every major player that's been available in free agency or the trade market.
To this point, however, they've come up short and have yet to finalize that sort of major addition.
It certainly hasn't been for a lack of trying.
They were reportedly the highest bidders for free agent Zach Parise, but like everybody else lost out on him and defenseman Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild. Rick Nash, another player they were rumored to have some interest in, ended up going to their divisional rivals in New York. Their bold -- and kind of awesome -- move to sign restricted free agent Shea Weber to a 14-year offer sheet ended when the Predators matched the offer on Tuesday afternoon.
According to CapGeek the Flyers still have over $7 million in cap space for this upcoming season with still a couple of restricted free agents, including forward Jakub Voracek, remaining to be signed. Now that the Weber saga has reached its conclusion with him remaining in Nashville, the Flyers have to move on to their fallback option if they still plan on using that cap space to improve their team.
But what is that option at this point?
The Flyers biggest need, by far, remains additional help on their blue line. They've had interest in a number of big-time forwards this offseason (and seem to be one of the 20-plus teams interested in Shane Doan) but even though they've lost James van Riemsdyk and Jaromir Jagr this summer they're still bringing back a pretty potent lineup offensively. Defense is still the area that needs to be addressed. Nobody knows for sure when (or if) Chris Pronger will ever play again, and they already lost one of their top defenseman from last season when Matt Carle signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning as an unrestricted free agent.
The Flyers made an effort to bolster their blue line right after the NHL draft when they traded promising van Riemsdyk to Toronto for Luke Schenn, but I'm not sure he's much of an upgrade or will make a significant impact for the Flyers. At least based on his play with the Maple Leafs over the years.
|Shea Weber offer sheet|
|More NHL coverage|
For purely selfish reasons I'd love to see the Flyers dip back into the restricted free agency pool for no other reason than to see what the reaction would be. Holmgren has already shown he's not afraid to go that route, and if you're going to go as far as to make a 14-year offer for a player like Weber, why not go all out and do it again? It's a perfectly legal move and there are still other attractive options out there.
The best restricted free agent defenseman remaining now that Weber is signed is probably Montreal's P.K. Subban. Like Weber he would require an enormous offer, and also like Weber there's a good chance his team (the Canadiens) would do everything in their power to match it … unless the Flyers made an offer so large it that it would be impossible. As of Wednesday the Canadiens are around $6 million under the salary cap so they would likely be able to match any sort of offer for their best young player.
For a more conventional plan of attack, the unrestricted free agent market offers little in the way of options at this point. The best defenseman still out there might be former St. Louis Blues rearguard Carlo Colaiacovo. Of course, when you're going from the potential of adding a player like Shea Weber to the suggestion of adding Carlo Colaiacovo as a fallback you're obviously going a long way down to the list of NHL defensemen. But if the Flyers wanted to go in that direction would he be that big of a drop from somelike like Carle if the Flyers were looking to replace him?
Let's take a look at their "advanced" numbers from this past season...
|Matt Carle vs. Carlo Colaiacovo: 2011-12 Advanced Numbers (5-on-5 play)|
|Player||Corsi Rel QoC||On-ice Corsi||Relative Corsi||Points||Mins. Per Game|
|Matt Carle||.589||4.71||3.2||26||18:39 (82 games)|
|Carlo Colaiacovo||.792||8.39||3.6||11||16:41 (64 games)|
Obviously not the only thing that matters (there are other concerns we'll get to in a minute) but it's an interesting comparison. Colaiacovo seems to be a nice enough player. He's never really become the player he may have been hyped up to be when he was progressing through the Toronto farm system in the early 2000s but he's become a solid two-way defender that can move the puck up the ice.
This past season he spent most of the year playing on the Blues top defensive pairing next to Alex Pietrangelo and played well alongside him. Even though his box score numbers (two goals, 17 assists, plus-7, all in 64 games) aren't going to wow you, his underlying and possession numbers (as shown above from this past season) have always been pretty strong, especially since he joined the Blues a few years ago.
The concern with Colaiacovo is that when he was separated from Pietrangelo last season his performance saw a pretty significant drop. Going to a team like Philadelphia and its current blue line he wouldn't have that sort of partner next to him, which might be a problem. Nothing against Nicklas Grossmann or Braydon Coburn at this point, but that wouldn't exactly be the same thing as playing next to Pietrangelo for 17 minutes every night, especially if Pietrangelo was the one carrying the play.
Once you get past the obvious free agent options there is of course a potential trade. But who is available? The Calgary Flames suddenly have a logjam of defensemen on their blue line and have a big contract in Jay Bouwmeester taking up over $6 million in cap space. The Coyotes listened to offers for Keith Yandle earlier in the summer but don't seem to have much interest in actually moving him (he's signed for the next four years at over $5 million per season) without some team paying an arm and a leg for him.
You have to imagine the Flyers are going to do something else this summer. They've been too active and still have enough holes (especially on the blue line) for them to not do something else. It's just a matter of what direction Holmgren and the front office decides to go.