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Philadelphia's blueline concerns

Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen will lead a thinning-out Philadelphia blueline. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen will lead a thinning-out Philadelphia blueline. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Philadelphia Flyers are often listed among the leading suitors in trade rumors regarding Anaheim Ducks right winger Bobby Ryan, but one Philadelphia pundit doesn’t believe Ryan is the type of player they need.

Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com noted Flyers fans are pining for GM Paul Holmgren to pursue Ryan, especially in the aftermath of his failed attempt to sign Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber away via offer sheet.

Panaccio, however, believes the Flyers don’t need a scoring winger like Ryan, but rather a top defenseman like Weber, or his former defense partner Ryan Suter, who signed with the Minnesota Wild in early July.

The same logic can be applied to their rumored interest in Phoenix Coyotes right winger Shane Doan. Like Ryan, his offensive play won’t cover for the lack of skilled talent on the Flyers’ blueline next season.

Panaccio feels the reason Holmgren tried so hard to land Weber and Suter is because Chris Pronger - sidelined indefinitely by post-concussion symptoms - won’t be coming back, further weakening a blueline that lost Matt Carle this summer via free agency to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It’s a valid point. Kimmo Timonen is 37, has a bad back and is at the end of his career. Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossmann, Andrej Meszaros and Luke Schenn are good defensemen, but not the caliber of Weber, Suter or a healthy Pronger.

Sophomore defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon has some promise, but no one expects him to become a top-pairing blueliner next season, while Andreas Lilja and recently signed Bruno Gervais are third-pairing material.

As previously noted in this column, if Holmgren hopes to bolster his blueline before training camp, he’ll have to tap into the unrestricted free agent market, target another restricted free agent defenseman with an offer sheet or make a trade.

There certainly aren’t any star defensemen remaining in the UFA market and the odds of Holmgren signing away an RFA blueliner such as Montreal’s P.K. Subban, Washington’s John Carlson or the New York Rangers’ Michael Del Zotto appear slim, especially after the Predators matched Holmgren’s hefty offer sheet for Weber.

That leaves the trade market, but it’s not as though teams are actively shopping a top defenseman.

Phoenix Coyotes blueliner Keith Yandle continues to be cited as a trade candidate by rumor bloggers but, while the Coyotes were fielding offers for Yandle during draft weekend, they’ve since decided to hang on to him. Even if a top-pairing blueliner were available, Holmgren would be forced to part with at least one of his promising forwards (Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn or Wayne Simmonds) as part of the return.

As Panaccio pointed out, tying up salary by signing Doan or trading away assets for yet another scoring winger won’t resolve the Flyers’ blueline problems.

Unless Holmgren can somehow pull off a bold late-summer move for a top defenseman, he’ll have little choice but to start next season with his current blueline and evaluate things from there.

SHARKS NEED DEPTH ON THE BLUELINE?

The Flyers aren’t the only club that could use additional defensive depth.

Kevin Kurz of CSNBayArea.com believes the San Jose Sharks need another experienced defenseman and expressed concern over the performance last season of Douglas Murray and Jason Demers.

Kurz suggested the Sharks dip into the remaining pool of free agent defensemen, citing Michal Rozsival, Carlo Colaiacovo and former Shark Jim Vandermeer as options.

It remains to be seen if Sharks GM Doug Wilson shares Kurz’s concern. The GM could evaluate some of the young defensemen in his system during training camp before deciding if he needs to bring in another veteran.

AFTER BIG MOVES, HURRICANES LOOK TO BEEF UP

The Carolina Hurricanes made their share of headlines this summer, acquiring center Jordan Staal from Pittsburgh in a multi-player trade at the draft in June and inking right winger Alexander Semin to a one-year contract in late July.

According to ESPN.com’s Craig Custance, Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford isn’t done making additions and is seeking a physical fourth-line forward to add what Custance called “grit and protection for Carolina’s star forwards.”

Custance believes that’s a move Rutherford could wait to make until training camp starts in September.

He might have to consider a trade, as the UFA market for that sort of player is thin. Options include left wingers Brad Winchester and Jay Rosehill and right wingers Eric Godard and Zach Stortini.

 

Rumor Roundup appears Monday-Friday only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News, Kukla's Korner and The Guardian, Charlottetown.

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