On Saturday the Flyers announced their plan for the offseason: build a stronger team that has the ability to contend for the Cup yet again through free agency. With no picks in next week’s NHL Draft until the 3rd round the Flyers knew that free agency was going to be key to their success next season.
After the playoffs it was apparent that there were three holes on this team. First and foremost, the Flyers need a solid goaltender that can be a #1. Next, they need to develop James van Reimsdyk and/or bring in another forward who has some scoring potential and who can float between the top three lines. Finally, after relying on the “Core Four” for the playoffs, the Flyers realized that they need another top defenseman.
Well, we can cross one of the three needs off the list. The Flyers traded the injury-plagued Ryan Parent for the rights to 6-year veteran Dan Hamhuis. For the past six seasons, Hamhuis has been the most reliable and consistent defenseman on a Nashville Predators team that has been good, but not good enough in a very skilled Western Conference. At 27 years old, Hamhuis is set to enter his prime, and is ready to win. This season the Predators got ousted from the playoffs by the Blackhawks in six games, so he should fit in with this hockey club perfectly.
Hamhuis, who has played 483 out of a possible 492 games in his career, brings more consistency to the Flyers blueline that, though great, definitely felt the strain of a long season. His 22+ minutes of ice time per game should also help save the legs of Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen, who aren’t getting any younger.
As a Flyers fan the addition of a strong defenseman like Hamhuis has to make you ecstatic for next season. When they sign Hamhuis the Flyers will have three dangerously good defensive pairings. The young and ever improving Matt Carle learned a lot from Chris Pronger this season, and the two of them should continue to put a pounding on top lines across the league. Braydon Coburn, who had a very inconsistent season riddled with mistakes, seemed to have reverted back to his 2008 self when playing with the smart, tactful Kimmo Timonen throughout the playoffs.
Whether these pairings are broken up or not remains a mystery, but the addition of Hamhuis gives the Flyers the flexibility and experience to put any of their defensive lines on the ice against any player in this league. The young Oskars Bartulis definitely benefitted from all of his play this season, whether it was in the Olympics with his native Latvia or during his play throughout the season and playoffs, so even pairing Dan with Oskars could produce high quality results.
The fact is, the Flyers now have, arguably, the best defense in the NHL due to this acquisition. Not only does Hamhuis add a strong defensive presence, he was Nashville’s top penalty killer and he even contributed on the scoreboard every now and again. Now the just need to sign him to a deal. After swapping rights with the Predators the Flyers now have until July 1st to sign Hamhuis to a contract before he becomes a free agent. I’m very confident that the Flyers will be able to do this because for once they actually have room under the cap, and since we just made a run to the Finals I’m sure Hamhuis would be pretty happy to play in Philadelphia.
So, for now, the Flyers have solved question #1 on their three part quiz for the summer. With Jaroslav Halak being traded to the Blues there are less quality goalies on the market, but let’s hope that the Flyers can make a few more big splashes in this already interesting offseason.