Paul Holmgren has a week to decide if he wants to keep the Flyers roster as it is, or trade for any defensive upgrades. (Photo Courtesy of skoodsports.com)
With the NHL starting back up after its Olympic hiatus and the trade deadline looming next week, the question on Flyers fans' minds is what the team will do with the roster. Will they bolster it, or will they look to stand pat going into the playoffs?
It's no secret that defense has been a weak spot over the course of the season. While Steve Mason has flourished and bailed the defense out nightly, he can't do everything by himself. This week's Flyers Five takes a look at defensemen -- particularly unrestricted free agents -- that the Orange and Black ought to consider, whether they pursue via trade or free agency in July.
5. Andrei Markov: Markov has been a stalwart defenseman throughtout his career with Montreal, though looming cap issues mean his days in Le Bleu, Blanc et Rouge could very well be numbered. Given his age (35) and recent injury history, Markov is by no means the long-term answer to the team's defensive woes. His steady demeanor and offensive production -- 31 points in 59 games -- would help over the stretch run. While the team has a steady offensive pointman in Mark Streit, Markov could serve as an effective supplement.
4. Mark Stuart: Last month, it was easy for Winnipeg to consider a trade to shake things up. Then they fired Claude Noel and replaced him with Paul Maurice, and have been soaring ever since. Stuart may log bottom-six minutes with the Jets, but makes those minutes count. He plays physical -- his 149 hits are second-most on the team, and his 108 blocked shots lead the team. Despite their 9-2 run under Maurice, the Jets still hold sixth place in the Central Division. A trade could work for both parties, and Stuart's the type of defenseman Flyers fans can get behind.
3. Raphael Diaz: Considering he was just traded at the beginning of the month, don't expect Diaz to appear in the Orange and Black before the deadline (unless things get ugly in Vancouver, which you have to watch out for with John Tortorella as coach). He's not a top-pairing defenseman by any means, but he can still move the puck and play very smart defensively. His age sticks out as well -- at age 28, he can still be affordable on a mid-range contract.
2. Andrew MacDonald: If there's one bright spot that can be shone on an otherwise dark New York Islanders season, it's Andrew MacDonald. He leads the team in ice time per game, throws the body when he can, and is fearless when it comes to blocking shots. His game also has an offensive touch, as he has 24 points, also leading the Isles. He's also 27, meaning he still has some time to become a feared defenseman in the NHL. It's also not out of the realm of possibility that he'd like to play for a contender, and the Flyers would give him a good chance to do so. If he's available come July 1, he'd be a prototypical Flyers defenseman.
1. Ron Hainsey: Hainsey may go down as one of the most reluctant signings in the history of NHL free agency -- it's widely believed his outspokenness during the 2012-13 lockout jeopardized his chances at another pro contract. Carolina picked him up after ex-Flyer Joni Pitkanen's chances of playing this season were grim, and he turned out to be a steal. While his -11 plus/minus rating leaves much to be desired, he's proven he can log big-time minutes, especially on the penalty kill. While it's unlikely the 'Canes would ship him to a division rival, Ron Hainsey's still a solid, two-way defender who could bolster the defense.