As you probably know, the Philadelphia Flyers confirmed fears that Chris Pronger would miss the rest of the season (and the playoffs, for that matter). The natural question is: what’s next for Philly? Let’s take a look at it from multiple angles.
It’s not like playing without Pronger is a foreign idea to the Flyers. After playing in every contest in 2008-09 and 09-10, Pronger missed 32 regular season games and eight playoff matches last season.
While few would argue that they are better without the bruising defenseman, the Flyers are 8-3-2 with him and 12-4-1 when Pronger is out of the lineup, including a 4-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens tonight.
Pressure for Kimmo Timonen
Before Pronger came along, Timonen was the Flyers’ biggest name on defense. Pronger’s absence won’t weigh on Timonen alone – the impact trickles down to other blueliners – but make no doubt that the offensively adept Finn will carry the greatest burden. Ultimately, Timonen will be the “leader” of the Flyers defense now.
Speaking of leadership …
Taking Pronger’s injury and the Mike Richards trade into account, the Flyers have lost two captains since June 23. If you’re a big believer in the importance of having a strong symbolic leader, then Philly could face a serious void.
Considering all the rookies and new faces, there aren’t a ton of obvious options. Will it be Daniel Briere, Timonen or maybe even a first-year veteran like Jaromir Jagr who speaks in those crucial moments?
(Yes, some of those names are on the list for sheer fun.)
At least one person made a Ryan Suter trade joke when the Pronger news surfaced. Considering how aggressive Philly is with splashy moves, a trade isn’t out of the question, although acquiring Suter probably is.
Still, before you start concocting hypothetical trades, it’s probably important to note that the Flyers are still waiting on Claude Giroux concussion updates. Why would Philly part ways with picks and prospects if they’re missing their best forward and defenseman?
The future for Pronger
Many believed that Pronger’s 35+ contract would be a big risk and it’s certainly looking that way right now. The Flyers can get some relief from his $4.92 million cap hit via a trip to the long-term injured reserve, but they cannot bury his deal in the minors and would be on the hook for that cap hit if he retires.
There’s been discussion of a scenario in which the Flyers trade Pronger to low-budget team so he can retire and help that team cheat it’s way to the cap floor, but it’s hard to imagine the NHL accepting that trade. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that anyway.
OK, we’ve discussed the long-term implications, but let’s finish off with a little discussion of the short-term. The Flyers have been successful so far without Pronger, but what about the time when his value increases considerably: the playoffs?
Can they be a legitimate contender without him? Let us know in the comments and this poll.