Philadelphia Flyers Bolster Defense Corps, Acquire Nicklas Grossman

Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

By Charlie O’Connor (@THG_Charlie)

After a weekend of defensive breakdowns and penalty killing follies, the Philadelphia Flyers’ need for a defensive upgrade became obvious.

Before the puck dropped on Thursday for the Flyers’ contest against the Buffalo Sabres, general manager Paul Holmgren pulled the trigger on one such upgrade.

Defenseman Nicklas Grossman was acquired from the Dallas Stars this afternoon for a 2nd Round Pick in 2012 NHL Entry Draft and a 3rd Round Pick in the 2013 Entry Draft. Speaking with reporters following the announcement of the trade, Holmgren chose to focus on Grossman’s defensive prowess.

“[Grossman] is experienced, he is a bigger body and he is a good solid defensive defenseman. He can kill penalties for us and play regular shifts. He can chew up minutes.”

Not an offensive threat, Grossman currently has zero goals and five assists in 51 regular season games in 2011-12. A true stay-at-home defenseman, Grossman’s value comes from his defensive awareness and positioning, attributes that the Flyers have lacked since a season-ending injury to captain Chris Pronger.

“I would say a lot of our guys are more of containment type of defensemen,” Holmgren said. They have never really been Chris Pronger-ish, where they are whacking somebody. I don’t think Nick [Grossman] is a mean player, but he is a physical competitive player that will help us in that area.”

Grossman, a still-young 27 years of age, will not bring a grizzled veteran presence to the defense corps. But he will bring size, as his 6-3, 227 pound frame trails only Braydon Coburn in height and weight, even though he was not known as a bruising hitter while in Dallas. Holmgren expects the Swedish defenseman to improve the Flyers’ play in their own zone, during even strength and on the penalty kill.

“I think [Grossman] is going to give us a boost here in our own zone and get us out of our end quickly because he makes a good first pass. He is not a guy that is going to put up a lot of points, but he is a good all around defenseman.”

Along with Stephan Robidas, Grossman was used last season in Dallas as a premier shutdown defenseman, taking on the Stars’ toughest assignments in terms of matchups and zone starts, while still producing passable puck possession statistics. This season, however, Grossman has struggled in puck possession metrics while paired mostly with Trevor Daley. Still, his past success as a defensive stalwart bodes well for his future with the Flyers.

Grossman will likely be paired with either the aggressive Andrej Meszaros, or the slick puck-mover Matt Carle. Grossman’s conservative, stay-at-home style could complement either defenseman.

While Grossman will be expected to bring stability to a Flyers team primed for a playoff run, he also will be auditioning for a new contract. Grossman’s current deal expires at the conclusion of the season, and he will become an unrestricted free agent. His contract status drove Dallas’ decision to trade the talented defenseman. Holmgren was non-committal when asked if the Flyers planned to extend Grossman following the season.

“I think that kind of goes both ways. Nick has to see if he likes it here, too. We certainly like him. He has been a guy that we talked about over the past few weeks. We talked to Dallas about him, but they weren’t prepared to move him until just recently. Like I said, we are happy to have him. We will see where it goes from here.”

Regardless of whether Grossman proves to be a key member of the Flyers’ core for years to come, or merely a rental player, he will be expected to help to solidify an occasionally-porous defense for the remainder of this season, and the playoffs.

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