The Flyers headed into the offseason after a disappointing 1st round loss to the Penguins in the playoffs, perilously close to the salary cap ceiling and looking to add the pieces neccesary to compete with the Penguins in the years to come. GM Paul Holmgren felt comfortable with his forwards and addressed the goaltending position by adding KHL refugee Ray Emery. The Flyers targeted a big time defenseman as their top offseason priority.
The Flyers were rumored to be one of the interested parties in the Jay Bouwmeester sweepstakes. At one point, there was talk that the Flyers were prepared to move RW Joffrey Lupul and his $4.25 million cap hit to the Panthers for Bouwmeester's rights. Instead, perhaps realizing the monetary demands for Bouwmeester were going to be more than they were willing to pay or that Bouwmeester wasn't interested in playing for the Flyers, Holmgren worked a deal with Anaheim to acquire Chris Pronger.
Pronger is one of those players whom you hate when he plays for the other guy but you love him when he is on your team. He is one of the top blue liners in the game. He is big, nasty and has a tremendous shot from the point. He is the perfect mentor to Braydon Coburn and provides the basis for two solid defensive pairings to match against the Crosby and Malkin lines. When Pronger announced he wanted to leave Edmonton a few years back I wanted Sather to put together a package to bring him to New York. This offseason, with all of the talk surrounding the Ducks need to move salary and that Pronger would be the most likely to be dealt, I again expected/hoped Sather could find a way to bring Pronger to Broadway. As he will for the Flyers and Braydon Coburn, Pronger would have given us the means with which to ice two top notch defensive pairings and would have been an ideal mentor for Marc Staal.
Now instead of patrolling the blue line for the Rangers, Pronger will be facing the Rangers 8 times next season. I'm not looking forward to that. Granted, the cost to acquire Pronger was high. In addition to Joffrey Lupul, who ironically has now been traded for Pronger twice (once he went from the Ducks for Pronger and now he's going to the Ducks for Pronger), the Flyers also sent Defenseman Luca Sbisa and two 1st round draft picks to Anaheim. Sbisa was the Flyers 1st round pick last year and surprisingly made the Flyers out of training camp last year. The Flyers added approximately $1.1 million in salary against their cap and so will likely not be retaining the services of Mike Knuble or Martin Biron and will still be actively looking to trade Danny Briere if they can find a taker. Despite this, I think that this was definitely a move that Holmgren had to make. By adding a player of Pronger's skill and pedigree, he has positioned the Flyers as a definite contender and threat to dislodge the Penguins as Stanley Cup champs.
As an aside, the Ducks did great to add some scoring depth up front in Lupul and a terrific, young defenseman to play with Scott Niedermayer and Ryan Whitney. The two first round picks will be valuable assets as the Ducks continue to re-tool in the West. At the same time the Ducks will save some money against this year's cap. Bob Murray has done a tremendous job since Brian Burke left Anaheim to take the Toronto job.