With Sean O'Donnell's departure, Andreas Lilja's signing at $737,500 sounds good at first sight to round out the defense, with Oskars Bartulis ready as a 7th defender or possibly taking his spot at training camp. There are a few problems I see with this signing:
1. Andreas Lilja hasn't played a 70 game season since 2007-2008.
This concerns me a lot. He has only played one full season in his career, and over the last 2 years he has played 74 games. He is a good shot blocker, which is useful for the P.K., but I just wish the Flyers invested more money in defense.
2. Is Oskars Bartulis ready to be a full-time NHL defender?
I really don't think so. They should start him off in Adirondack and see if he excels there. Yes, he would have to clear waivers and the Flyers may not want to risk that (if there is any risk).
If Pronger goes down at all during the season, you are losing two defenders. The reason I say that is because Matt Carle seems be underrated when playing with Pronger, and looked overrated when Pronger went down last year. Andreas Lilja/Oskars Bartulis (which ever doesn't play) cannot replace even remotely close to what Pronger puts out on the ice. I think that this could stagger the ice time to the top 2 pairs a little more, which we saw in 2010 lost the Flyers the Stanley Cup. Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen will be too old to be getting 25-30 minutes of ice time per game in the playoffs this year, and a weak bottom pair cannot get too much time without some damage on the scoreboard.
I think the Flyers should have found someone better than those two. And they still can. I realize Lilja's signing was also to get more people from Jagr's neck of the woods in to make him happy, but the team is not based around a 39-year-old former phenom. The front office doesn't want to move too far away from the Stanley Cup.
Now that we know Simmonds has a cap hit of $1.75 million, and assuming Talbot's contract isn't restructured where he has a higher cap hit, he will have a $1.8 million cap hit. All this leaves the Flyers with roughly $1.5 million in cap space.
Now, if Jody Shelley is replaced with Tom Sestito as some suspect he may be, take $550,000 from the cap, and another $1.16 million from Ian Laperriere's almost certain LTIR status for all of next year. The Flyers now have about $3.2 million in cap space to work with.
There are a few defenders out on the UFA market, most in their early or late 30s such as Scott Hannan, Brian McCabe, Craig Rivet, Steve Staios, Brent Sopel, and for a guy in the mid-20s, Steve Eminger. Those are all possibilities, but the Flyers could wait on the arbitration cases for RFAs to decide how to spend the rest of their cap money.
Or the Flyers may feel I am wrong and that Andreas Lilja/Oskars Bartulis are fine as the 6th and the extra defencemen, and keep the cap space for the trade deadline or continue to try and upgrade their forwards, as well as keeping next years raises in mind.