The Philadelphia Flyers placed defenseman Matt Walkers on waivers this afternoon. Walker, acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning in the trade for Simon Gagne, has played in just four games this season and spent the first half nursing injuries to both sides of his hips.
General manager Paul Holmgren told reporters that the move was intended to get Walker playing time with the Adirondack Phantoms to keep him in hockey shape. It was for similar reasons that goaltender Michael Leighton was waived- too many good goalies and not enough ice time for everyone.
While that makes sense, the more critical factor of his waiving is that it frees up $1.7 million in cap space. The Flyers will likely be buyers at this year’s trade deadline (February 28), and any cap space they can bank will give them flexibility on the return salaries.
The move doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise, although you have to wonder about the timing of it. The only trade the Flyers made last year was defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and a 5th round draft pick for Ville Leino, and that came weeks before the deadline.
Although the Flyers have been open to the possibility of upgrading their goaltender position, I doubt they will bring in another netminder unless Sergei Bobrovsky comes back from the All Star break and bombs.
The reality is that this is too good of a team to really part with many of the assets. Nikolay Zherdev was reportedly shopped around earlier in the season, but he has been working hard to get out of coach Peter Laviolette’s doghouse and adds a lot of offensive firepower. Dan Carcillo could be shown the door, but he doesn’t carry much trade value.
As far as what the Flyers will target, it will likely be additional offensive talent with Stanley Cup experience.
The two names thrown around the most in this discussion are Minnesota Wild forward John Madden and Carolina Hurricanes forward Erik Cole.
Madden won the Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 2003 and last year with the Chicago Blackhawks. He has a reasonable $1.25 million cap hit and will be a free agent at the end of the season. The Wild are fighting for a playoff position (the difference between 7th and 12th place in the Western Conference is two points) so it will depend on where their record is by the deadline. The main issues with Madden are that, at 37, he isn’t the playoff producer he used to be and really works best as a fourth line center.
Cole has been touted as the “big fish” by Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly, citing Laviolette as a big reason for the team’s interest. Cole, 32, won the Cup with Lavi in 2006 and is currently on pace for 21 goals and 24 assists this season. They may not be flashy numbers, but another twenty goal scorer on the roster that the coach believes in could help put the Flyers over the top.
The Flyers will probably have to give more up for Cole if the Hurricanes are still fighting for a playoff spot- perhaps Andreas Nodl and a draft pick would make a trade viable.
Even if the organization ends up not making any moves, this team is in a very good place at this point in the season. Any time you’re on pace for 116 points in a season, you’re doing something right.
If it ain’t broke, why fix it?