Top 5: Cost Effective Defensemen at the Trade Deadline

The NHL trade deadline and a flat salary cap go together like, well, whatever the opposite of peanut butter and jelly is. Thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic the NHL salary cap has and will continue to be flat at $81.5 million, thus throwing most team’s approach to the yearly trade deadline into limbo. For a team like the Flyers, who are close to the ceiling but have a bit of breathing room, there will be room to add, but Chuck Fletcher and co. will have to be smart about any additions they make. In desperate need of defensive help and on a budget, who are some low-cost players the Flyers should be targeting at April’s trade deadline?

Number 5- David Savard 1 year x $4.25 million

David Savard is in the midst of an underwhelming season and is in desperate need of a change of scenery from the Blue Jackets, the only team he’s known since 2011. If his name officially starts making its rounds, expect many teams to be in on the 30-year-old defenseman. Unlike Mattias Ekhlom, who has been linked to the Flyers, Savard is a right-handed defenseman and would be a better fit on the Flyers roster as currently constructed. Obviously the main risk with a player like Savard would be that his lackluster run continues with his new squad, so the Flyers would have to be cautious to not overpay on any trade, but the risk-reward factor could be high if a cheap trade can be worked out.

Number 4- Josh Manson 2 years x $4.1 million

Manson has been a player who has flown under the radar for years in Anaheim, but would be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Flyers. The Ducks are at the bottom of the West Division and will surely look to add a few more assets to their continuing rebuild process and could look to deal 29-year-old defenseman Josh Manson. The biggest issue with a player like Manson is his extra year on his contract, meaning he’d throw a wrench in the Flyers’ expansion draft plans, but that shouldn’t stop Fletcher from chasing a player given how desperate the Flyers are for an improvement on defense. Manson brings a solid stay-at-home mentality and a much needed physical presence that the blue line is dearly lacking. He may not be the top guy the Flyers are looking for, but he averaged a shade over 20 minutes of ice time last season and sees time on the penalty kill as well. Manson checks many boxes the Flyers need, so time will tell if Anaheim has interest in moving on from their long-time blue liner.

Number 3- Brandon Montour 1 year x $3.8 million

The Sabres are on the brink of a fire sale and the Flyers may be able to cash in in the form of a cheap defenseman. The soon-to-be-27-year-old has been buried by the lackluster Sabres team not only this season, but since he was traded there at the 2019 trade deadline. He really hasn’t been the same player since he was dealt away from the Ducks, but if he can re-find his form from his days in Anaheim he could be a sneaky good addition by the Flyers. He may not fit the top defenseman role, but he’d certainly be an improvement over many of the warm bodies they currently have patrolling the blue line.

Number 2- Mattias Ekhlom 2 years x $3.75 million

This is obviously been the player the Flyers have been linked to the most as the trade deadline draws near and has been talked about ad nauseam, but there is a reason for that, he is the closest thing to a top defenseman available and makes too much sense for the Flyers not to pursue. Much like Manson, the biggest issue becomes the extra year on his deal, but we’ve already dissected how the Flyers can work around that. The real hurdle is Ekholm is mainly deployed as a left defenseman, but the Flyers main need would be a right defenseman. It is something they could work around, but it may be enough to question whether or not a deal will happen.

Number 1- Vince Dunn 1 year x $1.8 million

Vince Dunn’s name was all over the trade rumor mill earlier in the season, and while it has cooled off a bit, where there’s smoke there’s fire. The 24-year-old has three goals and eight points in 23 contests this season and is in the last season of a deal that pays him $1.8 million. He will be a restricted free agent this summer. The Blues are still in the thick of things in the West Division, so they may not be keen on dealing away one of their blueliners, but they may also try and get an asset or two for a player they may not be able to re-sign this summer. This may a be a deal that ends up happening during the offseason for St. Louis, but if a young defenseman who can do a little bit of everything does indeed hit the market at his cheap price tag, the Flyers should be all over it.

Honorable mentions

Victor Mete 1 year x $735,000

Another player whose name was flying around the rumor mill earlier in the season until Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin shut them down about a month ago is Victor Mete. Since then, the Habs have fired their head coach and are struggling to keep their heads above water in the North Division and may look to shake things up further and if they do, a 22-year-old defenseman making less than a million dollars will be a hot commodity on the trade block. There are some major negatives though, he only has five NHL games under his belt this season, and just 176 overall, he’s only 5’9 and doesn’t exactly command attention when he’s on the ice. He may be a name the Flyers are interested in for potential depth now and in the future, but the organization needs to be big game hunting and Mete simply doesn’t fill any needs right now.

Nick Hjalmarsson 1 year x $5 million or Jason Demers 1 year x $4.5 million

The Arizona Coyotes just haven’t been able to gain any solid footing in the West Division this season and considering five of their top seven defenseman are in need of a contract this summer, they could look to deal a player or two away to continue their ever-continuing rebuild. Hjalmarsson is now 33 and while he may not be what he once was, he isn’t a hinderance to his team either. He may be of interest if the Flyers strike out on the more enticing options. Ditto for Hjalmersson’s Coyotes teammate Jason Demers. He was another one of the very early names linked to the Flyers this season, but at this point he probably wouldn’t be the best fit as he’s essentially a Justin Braun 2.0.

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: NHL.com / nbcsports.com / arizonasports.com

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