By Chris DiMaria
With all the buzz around Philadelphia surrounding the pending trade of Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, the noise of the team making trades across the street has been muffled. Despite the lack of publicity, the Philadelphia Flyers have set themselves up for a successful draft and 2015-16 campaign by making a couple surprise moves of their own.
The Flyers currently sit five points out of a playoff spot, with the disadvantage of having played the second-most games in the Eastern Conference. The Broad Street Bullies became sellers at this year’s trade deadline, and made some investments in their future.
Philadelphia’s needs are on the blue line. The Flyers are twenty-third in the league in goals against (2.8), and twenty-eighth in penalty kill percentage (76.6%), according to ESPN.com. They needed to make adjustments to their defense, and they did so by acquiring a young, roughneck defenseman and three picks in this year’s deep draft.
But why did they trade away two of their most reputable defensemen to do so?Embed from Getty Images
Many Philadelphia fans will have obsolete jerseys after the Flyers dealt veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen. Timonen played 519 games in orange and black over seven seasons, according to Bleacher Report. However, his time in the city of Brotherly Love was already coming to a close.
The blueliner will turn 40 on March 18, and hadn’t played a minute in the 2014-15 season when the Flyers traded him away. Timonen had been out with blood clots in his lung and leg, and was considering ending his career either at the end of this season or next, according to Rotoworld.
Yet the Flyers still received a second-round pick in this year’s draft along with a 2016 conditional fourth-round pick from the Chicago Blackhawks, according to Bleacher Report. While Timonen will prove to be a great addition to the Blackhawks’ defense for a 2015 playoff push, the Flyers’ return for him will make for a well-rounded roster with a couple of wise draft selections.
Braydon Coburn came as even more of a shock to some. Coburn, a large defenseman with a good amount of experience, had never fully lived up to the hype that surrounded him when he started out in Philadelphia in 2006-07. In his entire time with the Flyers, Coburn failed to once eclipse the 40-point mark in any season (ESPN.com). Still, Philadelphia received a massive payload for him from the Tampa Bay Lightning.Embed from Getty Images
In exchange, the Flyers received Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas, along with first and third-round picks in this year’s draft, according to Bleacher Report. Gudas, a bully himself, will fit in well on Broad Street.
Not known as much for his offense, Gudas is a physical defenseman that will be an immediate presence when he joins the blue line next season. He had played 31 games, totalling 115 hits and 63 blocks, with only five points before bowing out due to an arthroscopic right knee surgery, according to Rotoworld.
Gudas last played on December 29, and isn’t expected to return before the end of the 2014-15 season, according to Rotoworld. However, when he does make his debut, he will not be in a completely unfamiliar situation. Flyers right winger Jakub Voracek has played in several international events with Gudas, a fellow Czech Republic-native.Embed from Getty Images
In a CSN Philly article, Voracek praised Gudas’ playing style: “He’s a gritty player and very tough to play against,” Voracek said. “Fans are gonna love him here. He’s a kind of player who is hard to play against.”
Sounds like the perfect man for the job in Philly. As an added bonus, Gudas becomes just the second right-handed blueliner on the Flyers. Luke Schenn is the only other non-southpaw on the Flyers’ defense.
In all, the Flyers make out with first, second and third round picks in this year’s historically deep draft. Additionally, they will have a fresh young face on the blue line next year in Radko Gudas, as well as a fourth-round pick that could become a third-round pick in the 2016 draft. All this for an aging Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn, who will be a hit to the Flyers’ talent on the blue line but will open up significant salary cap room.