Putting On The Foil with @jsaquella: Can The Flyers Trade Andrej Meszaros?
Editors’ Note: Noted Philadelphia Flyers fan John Saquella is going beyond 140 characters. The man most of you probably know from social media as @jsaquella will bring you his wide-ranging opinion and commentary on the Orange and Black in his column Putting On The Foil.
By John Saquella (@jsaquella)
The Flyers have too many defensemen.
Looking at Capgeek, they have ten defensemen that would have to clear waivers in order to be sent to the AHL. Those ten are Kimmo Timonen, Mark Streit, Braydon Coburn, Luke Schenn, Nicklas Grossmann, Erik Gustafsson, Andrej Meszaros, Bruno Gervais, Marc-Andre Bourdon and Chris Pronger. They will likely carry seven defensemen, so that means there will have to be some pruning.
Pronger will be the first one to be eliminated from contention. He’s seemingly made progress towards being able to live a normal life, which is fantastic, but handling the rigors of being a NHL defenseman isn’t in the cards for the future Hall of Famer. He’s almost certainly going to land on LTIR when the season begins and provide little more than cap relief.
Still, that’s 9 players to fill 7 spots. It’s probably safe to assume that Timonen, Streit, Schenn, Coburn and Grossmann are going to stick. Timonen is still the team’s best all around defenseman in what is set to be his swan song season. Streit was just added via a trade & sign with the New York Islanders. Schenn is coming off a very solid season where he played mostly as Timonen’s partner. Coburn had a rough year, struggling with inconsistency and injury. He’s very solid when not overburdened, as he was last season. Grossmann is a typical tough, stay at home defender, with injury concerns of his own. He’s coming off a concussion and has had knee issues in the past.
That leaves us 2 spots to fill and 4 names to fill them. I’d think that Gustafsson is probably the safest bet among those left to stick. He played very well after being recalled from the AHL last season and was a big minutes defenseman for Sweden in this springs World Championship tourney. He’s the youngest of the ten, and just signed a new deal with a very modest cap hit, which helps the Flyers in their annual battle with the salary cap. Gustafsson would almost certainly be claimed on waivers if he was sent to the AHL.
Gervais is a capable 7th defenseman, who like former Flyer Randy Jones is prone to being exposed as a liability if over used. He carries a small cap hit, which can be buried in the AHL without any cap penalties to the Flyers. It’s very possible he sticks as the 7th guy, because unlike Bourdon or Meszaros, there’s no injury concern with him.
Bourdon showed flashes of being a solid depth defenseman during the 2011-12 season, when he was recalled after injuries decimated the the blue line corps. Unfortunately, Bourdon sustained a concussion, which he admitted he hid from the Flyers staff. The result was that Bourdon was sidelined for the 2012 playoffs and all of last season. Having not played in over a year, combined with the concussion history and his being more unproven than any of the other defensemen, Bourdon is a safe risk to pass waivers an play for the Phantoms, and be available as a call up later in the season, now that recall waivers are a thing of the past.
That leaves us to consider Andrej Meszaros. On skill and ability alone, he’s easily among the top 4 defensemen on the roster. But he’s had a horrible run of injury luck the last couple years. He’s had back surgery, an achillies tear and a couple of serious shoulder injuries, which seem to have the Flyers looking hard at their options. The problem is, Meszaros may well be untradeable.
The injuries are a factor. At this writing, Meszaros hasn’t been officially cleared by the Flyers. He’s had three shoulder injuries over the course of his career with the two last year, and that will be a concern for teams that might be interested in him. Of course, a guy like Carlo Coliacovo manages to sign a new deal every year despite being as fragile as fine china. But Coliacovo wouldn’t cost a team assets to land.
Those expecting a normal return for a player of Meszaros’ caliber will be disappointed. A solid 4th/5th defenseman, who can play on the PP and PK is usually a fairly valuable trade chip. I’d be stunned if Meszaros was worth much more than a late round pick. In fact, I think if he does get traded, it will likely be a case of the Flyers adding a sweetener to the deal, just to get another team to take Meszaros.
That’s because his contract is odious. Sometimes, a team with a low budget will be willing to trade for a player with a sizeable cap hit and low salary. An example from last year is the Islanders trading for Tim Thomas, who was sitting out and not costing them anything in terms of money, but carried a $5mm cap hit, keeping them well above the floor. Unfortunately, Meszaros is not likely an option for a budget team that needs to reach the floor, because his salary of $5.5mm is $1.5mm above his cap hit of $4mm. The $4mm cap hit will probably scare off higher spending teams, especially this year with the artificially reduced cap.
What we might see is the Flyers waiving Gervais, Bourdon and a forward, such as Jay Rosehill and sending them-on paper to the AHL-and getting under the salary cap. They could them place Pronger on LTIR, recall the forward and be cap compliant with the $4.91mm LTIR relief from Pronger. That would allow them to carry Meszaros among the 7 defensemen, and sort of showcase him to show he is healthy and still capable of playing a top 4 role and possibly make a deal in season.
Besides that, as I mentioned before, I think we could see the Flyers trade Meszaros and another asset, such as a prospect or draft pick, to entice another team to take on Meszaros and his contract. If I was a rival GM, and had some cap room, I’d be willing to take a flier on Meszaros for a season, especially if I could add a second or third round pick in the bargain. If he stays healthy, he’s a very capable player. If he gets hurt, he can be placed on the LTIR and provide some degree of cap relief. Not exactly ideal for the Flyers, but neither is the third option.
That would be simply waiving Meszaros. He’s not a viable option to go to the AHL, because under the new CBA contracts with a cap hit over $900K will still count for every dollar above that amount towards the cap. Meszaros in the AHL would give the Flyers $3,1mm in dead space, which is obviously untenable in a reduced cap season.