Draft Day Preview: Should the Philadelphia Flyers Go After Weber, Nash, Ryan, or Suter?

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By Dustin Leed (@D_LEED)

It reminds you of the plague or something.

Black – and orange – death.

Trade rumors sweep across the computer screens of Philadelphia fans everywhere around this time of the year, leaving most fans with visions of Webers and Ryans and Suters and Nashes dancing in their heads.

And while most of the aforementioned names are extremely unlikely to become Flyers, it’s usually the need – or want – of said team that gives these rumors legs.

And while I agree that Shea Weber, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Suter, and Rick Nash would make the Flyers a better team, I think it’s important to remember that each of these players would require significant sacrifice from Philadelphia.

It’s simple to understand the want for Shea Weber. He is the cream of the crop among NHL defensemen and his contract negotiations and recent relationship with the Nashville Predators has been questionable to say the least. The Flyers have a legitimate need for a top-pairing defenseman after the loss of Chris Pronger – likely for his career – and Weber fits that need better than anyone.

But simply put, it’s hard to picture happening.

Weber is an RFA this summer on a team that ranks second with the most available cap space, with more than $38-million in space. In addition, he’s recently said he wants to play in Nashville for a long time.

If contract negotiations go sour and the possibility of moving Weber’s services becomes an option at some point down the road, be prepared to mortgage the future for the right-handed defenseman. If you thought Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, and two first round draft picks was a lot to give up for a 34-year-old Chris Pronger, do the math on what it would take to pry the 26-year-old beast out of Nashville.

Something I don’t think the Flyers should do. I also would not hinder the relationship between Paul Holmgren and Dave Poile by being “that guy” and throwing an offer sheet to Weber – especially with a lockout looming. It’s been awhile since the Flyers have had a young nucleus like this one with as much upside.

Weber’s partner in crime on the blueline in Nashville, Ryan Suter, is without a doubt the top unrestricted free agent defenseman available entering July 1.

It’s no surprise that Suter is going to walk off into the sunset on the evening of July 1 carrying heavy burlap sacks, but if that’s from Philadelphia, it’s a bad decision.

The Flyers, who always hang around the upper limits of the salary cap would do themselves a favor in the long run by walking away from the Suter sweepstakes.

The money Philadelphia can save by letting Suter play in the Western Conference will give the Flyers much more leverage in signing their own free agents, starting with Matt Carle.

The much-maligned defenseman who played 82 games a year ago with a torn stomach muscle is likely to be resigned by the Flyers on July 1 (http://thehockeyguys.net/breaking-matt-carle-and-philadelphia-flyers-working-to-reach-deal/) . Due to tagging space, the Flyers are unable to announce a deal until July 1. Carle brings a calming influence to the Flyers backend, along with durability and great first pass. His offensive upside and mobility, along with shot blocking prowess gives the Flyers a valuable piece on the blue line. In my opinion, Suter is a better defenseman than Carle, but by how much?  The Flyers already have a Suter-type defenseman in Carle for two-thirds of the cost. Last season Carle was the only player in the NHL that recorded more than 37 points and 160+ blocked shots. While Carle’s positioning and consistency can use work in his own zone, teams pay a lot of money on the open market for what Carle brings.

Speaking of paying a lot for a player, Rick Nash is an interesting name because it’s just that – Rick Nash.

Don’t be fooled, the Flyers want that winger to play with Claude Giroux for the foreseeable future and there are people within the Flyers organization who believe Nash may be that guy.

Not only have the Flyers had a want for a pure scoring winger when Jeff Carter was here and even more so now that he’s not here, I wouldn’t be so sure that the team realizes the goal-scoring production from Wayne Simmonds, Max Talbot, and Scott Hartnell among others was about as beneficial this season as it will ever be.

The Flyers didn’t have any trouble scoring goals last season, but the want of a pure goal-scorer is always high on a priority list of NHL teams – the Flyers included.

But Rick Nash? Recent reports indicate that Jackets GM Scott Howson is holding Nash for a kings’ ransom. And that’s something the Flyers shouldn’t forfeit for the $7.8 million-dollar winger.

No way I move Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier – two pieces Howson will likely want – for Rick Nash. If the Flyers could seriously get into the Nash sweeps without including any of those players, it’s worth sticking around to talk, but there are bigger wants and needs.

Same goes for winger Bobby Ryan. I know the connection and I know the sexiness that comes with that, but like Nash – no way I move Schenn or Couturier for Ryan.

So you’ve gotten this far.

No Weber, no Suter, no Nash, and no Ryan.

What gives, right?

My thoughts on the Flyers defensemen are this: The Flyers need a defenseman who can replace Chris Pronger – at some point – but if that player isn’t readily available at the moment, don’t give up more than you have to. If there isn’t a defenseman to go after, chances are the guy you want becomes the guy who is overpaid before the season starts.

I don’t think the Flyers defense needs to be “fixed”; I think the Flyers defense needs some tweaks. The Flyers defensive unit was literally the walking wounded as four out of the top five battled significant injuries. Because of that, I don’t think a complete overhaul of a young roster needs to be the answer.

Each defenseman went through a slew of injuries and the key is Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryz is likely to better adjust in his second season, and can help solidify the defense by simply playing better. The improvement from Bryzgalov along from more defensive help from the group of forwards will go a long way in improving the Flyers’ team defense.

Philadelphia will inevitably need a replacement for Pronger and Kimmo Timonen sooner rather than later, but why not wait until the trade deadline in 2013 and see if the need is bigger?

At that point you can address the issue of a player like Tobias Enstrom or Alex Edler, two unrestricted free agents after this season. They’re two players that aren’t on the level that a healthy Pronger was on, and a level that Shea Weber is on, but instead of mortgaging the future, each could be gotten for a much lower cost.

Or what about someone like Erik Johnson?

The rock-solid defenseman out of Colorado could be eyed in a draft day deal that would greatly benefit both teams – and more importantly I think a deal could be reached that would keep Schenn and Couturier in Philadelphia. I wrote a story on February 13 with reports linking the two teams in trade discussions regarding Johnson. The RFA made $2.6 million last season, and could agree to a considerable pay upgrade, but if Colorado feels they need a punch up front, a good trading partner could be the Flyers.

Or what about Justin Schultz?

The highly skilled offensive defenseman who recently de-registered from the University of Wisconsin will become a highly sought-after unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Chuck Schwartz, a well-respected scribe that covers the Badgers for SBNation, considers Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, New York Rangers, Detroit, and Philadelphia favorites to land the Anahiem Ducks second round pick.

Schwartz went on to say that of the recent Wisconsin defenders in the NHL, including Ryan McDonagh, Jake Gardiner, Jamie McBain, and others, Schultz has the highest upside of them all.

The best part is that Schultz can only cost a team $925,000 at most – plus bonuses. You’re looking at a deal around $3-million per. And the kicker – you don’t need to pull off a trade to make it happen.

The addition of Schultz could allow the Flyers to address their defensive unit without mortgaging their future via a trade and save them about half of the money Suter would cost.

The final and most likely option for the Flyers is to address their need of a young stud defenseman or winger via the NHL Draft on June 22 in Pittsburgh.

Without going after Weber, Suter, Ryan, or Nash, the Flyers are able to keep some bargaining chips in attempts to make a move into the top 10 of the draft.

It’s obvious that Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn have the highest upside of any youngsters on the Flyers roster, and James van Riemsdyk is a close third. The first two are extremely unlikely to move unless the target is Shea Weber – and like we’ve already covered, something I wouldn’t be a huge fan of.

But what if a deal presents itself to move one of JvR, Matt Read or Jake Voracek?

Don’t get me wrong, van Riemsdyk is highly regarded in the Flyers organization and around the league, but depending the deal, it could fetch you a serious return in the first round and likely more. Read is likely one of the most valuable players in the NHL right now because of his salary, but will the interest ever be higher in the soon-to-be first year 26-year-old? Voracek could be a core piece moving forward for Philadelphia, but the Flyers could find themselves in a pickle trying to figure out the right value for No. 93. Considering some recent signings, Voracek and his camp could price himself out of a deal in Philadelphia. Finally, depending on the pick the Flyers want to get to, another option to shop is goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.

There are a handful of options for the Flyers if they attempt to move up in a significant draft day trade, including Matt Dumba, Griffin Reinhart, or Ryan Murray. Even offensive prospects including Teuvo Teravainen, Mikhail Grigorenko, Filip Forsberg, or Sebastian Collberg, could be options if the Flyers are looking for an impact choice.

It’s no secret the Flyers are looking for an impact selection – someone who they don’t need to sit around and wait on for more than a year or so. They’ve been down that road before, and developing young defenseman hasn’t exactly been fair to the Flyers. Philly’s troubles with developing defensemen make me think this is a great draft to move up and select one of the more-ready elite guys available.

But even if the Flyers move up, and the player the Flyers feel is most NHL-ready as a defenseman isn’t there, don’t be surprised if it’s an impact forward the organization takes.

The offseason is always a fun time for writers and fans alike. And while it makes your heart flutter for your team to be associated with the big UFA and trade target names, in my opinion there are simpler and smarter options out there for the Flyers.

Stay tuned, because the ride has just begun.

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