Flyers Turn To Youth To Replace Pronger

1 Dec

It certainly is familiar territory. The Flyers will have to deal with life without Chris Pronger once again. The 37-year-old captain had surgery on Tuesday to remove loose bodies in his left knee and will miss a month of action. It is his fifth documented surgery in 16 months.

Last year, the Flyers had to deal with his absence twice. The first time, they went 9-4-0 without him from Dec. 18 to Jan. 18. Then, down the stretch when the wheels started coming off, they were 6-4-6 to finish the regular season. Then they found themselves down 3-2 in a playoff series before he came back and played all of 4:33 against the Buffalo Sabres in Game 6 — but the Flyers won.

This time around, the fate of the season isn’t in question just yet, but his absence is still troubling. The Flyers are also without Erik Gustafsson and Andreas Lilja; both are on long-term injured reserve along with Pronger.

Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall are currently filling one-third of the Flyers’ defensive corps. They have between them a whopping six games of NHL experience. While they’ve done well in relief, that is still somewhat concerning. The Flyers could use some extra help from another defenseman.

“It’s not like they grow on trees,” said Paul Holmgren on Tuesday. “I’m not sure if anybody has an excess of defensemen right now. People I that I talk to, it seems like everybody is looking for a defenseman now, not looking to trade one.”

The general manager admitted that he’s at least getting on the phone and seeing what is out there. The Flyers have 49 contracts, one shy of the league-mandated limit.

“We’re talking about a lot of things here,” said Holmgren on Monday, when the Flyers announced that Pronger would need the surgery.

It’s unsure exactly what direction they’re going in, but if they make a move it’s almost certainly going to come on the blue line. Despite Internet rumors, the Flyers are probably not in on Cherry Hill, N.J. native Bobby Ryan. The Flyers’ need is on the blue line, not the offensive forefront. Also, Ryan makes $5.1 million. Sure, the Flyers would fit that with whatever package they moved back to Anaheim, but what about when Pronger returns from long-term injured reserve? His $4.91 million cap hit will come back too. Then what?

Even though the Flyers may have some artificial cap relief right now, when Pronger, Gustafsson and Lilja return, money will be a concern once again. If the Flyers opt to go outside the organization for help, it probably won’t be an expensive piece.

Also in the back of Holmgren’s mind is that it’s only December. Yes, Pronger is undoubtedly a huge part of the team and has had trouble staying in the lineup, but the season isn’t even half over yet. It would not be wise to blow up the team just for a potential replacement.

While some bloggers and fans await a blockbuster deal, it is far more likely that the Flyers make a minor move, if any at all. Otherwise, look for Bourdon and Marshall to stay with the team while the Flyers wait it out. After all, it’s not like this is the first time Chris Pronger has been missing in action.

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