Fresh off losing a key player for Game 5, the Flyers look like they’re getting one back.
That’s the news after the morning skate — Philly.com’s Sam Carchidi reports Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros “appears in” for tonight’s elimination contest against New Jersey. The steady rearguard has yet to play in this postseason after undergoing back surgery in late March.
If that’s the case, it’s a huge boon for a team reeling from the loss of leading scorer Claude Giroux, who is suspended for tonight’s game after delivering headshot to Dainius Zubrus in Game 4.
NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman noted that, with defenseman Andreas Lilja skating with the scratches (Pavel Kubina, Jody Shelley), all signs point to Meszaros playing his first game since Mar. 1. Prior to getting hurt, “Mez” was playing over 20 minutes a night and led all Flyers defensemen in goals, with seven.
As for other debuts, Zac Rinaldo figures to get his first look of the series tonight in place of Giroux. The 21-year-old hasn’t played since Game 4 of the Pittsburgh series — a 10-3 loss in which he saw just 3:39 of action — but sounded determined to make a difference with Philly’s season on the line.
“G’s been our best player all year. We owe him one,” Rinaldo told Philly.com. “This one is for him.”
At the time, it seemed like the Philadelphia Flyers overpaid Jaromir Jagr when they handed him a $3.3 million contract, but the brilliance of that deal was that it was for just one year. Of course, that’s also the problem now that it worked out: they have to re-sign the 40-year-old winger. Sam Carchidi floats an interesting nugget from “a source”: he’s not even their top off-season priority.
Instead, the team reportedly believes that inking defenseman Matt Carle is a bigger deal.
On its face, that might seem weird. After all, Jagr has been a smash-hit alongside Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux while Carle has his occasional defensive lapses. Yet there are a number of reasons why this stance makes a lot of sense.
- Carle is 27 while Jagr is 40-years-old.
- As great as Jagr has been, it’s logical to assume that other (possibly cheaper and younger) forwards could succeed on that line, too.
- With Chris Pronger likely out of the picture, Carle joins Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn as one of Philly’s most valuable defenseman. D is more of a need than offense for Philly.
- Jagr’s increasing age is also bringing about more incidents of injury. That’s unlikely to change as he gets even older (he’ll turn 41 next season).
- Also, from a “fan service” standpoint, Jagr’s not a long-time fixture. It’s not like they’d be the Anaheim Ducks letting Teemu Selanne walk.
That being said, the Flyers already invest a surprising amount of money in their up-and-down D corps. Here’s a look at the contracts they have under contract after this season (Pavel Kubina’s $3.85 million hit mercifully expires this summer).
Timonen: $6.33M (expires after 2012-13)
Pronger (might not count because of LTIR): $4.92M (expires in 2016-17)
Coburn: $4.5M (expires after 2015-16)
Andrej Meszaros: $4M (expires after 2013-14)
Nicklas Grossmann: $3.5 (expires after 2015-16)
Andreas Lilja: $737K (expires after 2012-13)
As you can see, the Flyers invest a lot in … everything, it seems. The thing is, Giroux’s amazing bargain ($3.75M per year through 2013-14) allows them to overpay in other areas.
GM Paul Holmgren might be able to squeeze both under the cap, but if it comes down to one or the other, word is he’ll go with Carle. After looking at all those factors, do you think that would be the right choice?
The Flyers could always stand to get some defensive help in the playoffs and it appears they’ll get just that ahead of tomorrow’s Game 1 against New Jersey.
CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio reports Nicklas Grossmann (concussion) could be ready to go for the Flyers on Sunday afternoon and Grossmann says he’s feeling better since missing Games 5 and 6 against Pittsburgh.
“I don’t know at this point, we’ll see,” he said. “It feels good to be on the ice. I haven’t talked to the doctors yet. I don’t want to make any conclusions yet. I feel better every day and try to take it a day at a time.”
Grossmann was teamed up with Braydon Coburn during Flyers practice this afternoon, providing a good sign that he could be ready to go against the Devils. Fellow injured defenseman Andrej Meszaros practiced on a pairing with Pavel Kubina meaning Meszaros is getting better but not ready to return.
The Flyers could use Grossmann to help defend against Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, and Adam Henrique who have been providing the offensive punch for the Devils all season and into the playoffs.