The state of the Philadelphia Flyers defense core remains a troubling issue. They’ve lacked a true top-two defenseman since Chris Pronger’s career was ended by injury nearly three years ago. They attempted to address that issue in July of 2012 by signing Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber to an expensive offer sheet, but the Predators swiftly matched it.
Former GM Paul Holmgren attempted to bolster the overall blueline depth, acquiring Luke Schenn, Mark Streit and Andrew MacDonald via trade and free agency. None of them, however, can fill Pronger’s skates.
The Flyers underwent a front-office shakeup this spring when Ron Hextall took over as GM. Despite Hextall’s stated preference for building from within, rumor-mongers believe the Flyers still seek a stud defenseman, linking them to Winnipeg Jets blueliner Zach Bogosian.
Hextall discussed the possibility of future moves during a Q&A session with NJ.com’s Randy Miller. He declined to address the Bogosian rumors and was vague about making trades before the season began.
“You never know what comes up, but I don’t anticipate anything,” Hextall said. He added that it didn’t necessarily mean nothing would happen.
The Flyers currently carry several promising defense prospects such as Shayne Gostisbehere, Samuel Morin, Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg. One or more of those youngsters could crack the lineup this season. While Hextall told Miller he didn’t rule out trading a top prospect if it could put the Flyers among the top five or six teams, he won’t do anything that jeopardizes the club’s future.
The speed in which Hextall signed free agent Michael Del Zotto earlier this month to replace Kimmo Timonen (blood clots) suggests he’s not planning to upgrade his defense via trade anytime soon.
BRUINS DEFENSE A QUESTION MARK TOO
The Boston Bruins also face questions over their defense. They have nine NHL-ready blueliners and earlier this summer GM Peter Chiarelli said he couldn’t go into the season carrying that many.
CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty, responding to a reader’s question regarding which surplus defensemen the Bruins might shop this season, suggested David Warsofsky and Adam McQuaid as candidates.
Defenseman Johnny Boychuk was also rumored as a trade chip due to his cap hit ($3.66 million) and UFA status next summer. Haggerty, however, believes Chiarelli prefers to retain Boychuk this season and hopes to re-sign him.
Chiarelli still has sufficient time to reach a decision before the season opens in October. He should have a better view of the situation during training camp and pre-season action in September, particularly as rival clubs assess their own blueline needs.
WHO WILL WIN THE KEVIN HAYES SWEEPSTAKES?
A bidding war is brewing for former Chicago Blackhawks prospect Kevin Hayes, who became an unrestricted free agent this past Saturday. Hayes, 22, was a star right winger with Boston College and will attract considerable interest around the NHL.
The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc reports the Blackhawks will receive a second-round pick (54th overall) in next year’s draft as compensation. Kuc speculates Hayes will sign with an NHL club that can provide him a roster spot and regular playing time.
Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times reports a source denied speculation Hayes was angry with the Blackhawks for how they handled his older brother Jimmy prior to trading him last season to the Florida Panthers. Lazerus speculates Hayes could join his brother in Florida.
Another option are the Calgary Flames, who signed his former Boston College linemates Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold.
SI.com’s Allan Muir cited reports listing the Flames, Panthers, San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins and Arizona Coyotes among possible suitors for Hayes’ services. It’s believed the Hayes camp spent Sunday narrowing the field of suitors and would contact those clubs on Monday.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly 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 and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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