Jul 5, 2012, 3:58 AM EDT
Obviously the Flyers didn’t land Ryan Suter, but it wasn’t really the end of the world. After all, there are other fish in the sea… just not so many this summer.
Less than 12 hours later, it turned out the team would not retain Matt Carle, either — and strangely enough, getting over number 25 could prove far more difficult. The Flyers were unwilling to give their free agent defenseman the commitment he desired, not at six years, $33 million. That’s the size of the contract the Tampa Bay Lighting handed Carle on Wednesday night, and thin as the Orange and Black are on the back end, management simply did not feel he warranted that.
GM Paul Holmgren was said to already be hard at work replacing Carle even before the news came down. Coincidentally, it’s Tampa’s Bruno Gervais that is reportedly on the Flyers’ radar, and from the sound of things, he might be signed as early as Thursday.
However, around the league Gervais is not seen as Carle’s equal, not by a long shot. Therein lies the problem for Philadelphia. Carle probably isn’t worth the $5.5 million per the Lightning forked over, but as we’ve been over again and again, blue-line depth isn’t exactly considered a position of strength at the moment.
Of course, there is some debate as to exactly how good Matt Carle really is, but clearly good enough to command a hefty price on the open market. With respect to both ends of the discussion, Carle suffers from lapses in judgment at his own end, is not the shutdown defender the club desperately needs, and his reputation arguably benefited from his one-time pairing with Chris Pronger. Then again, Carle is excellent at moving the puck, which leads to plenty of helpers and makes the offense go in general, in addition to his role on the power play.
In other words, after four tours of duty in Philly, the soon-to-be 28 year old was imperfect, and drew the ire of some fans for qualities he was never supposed to have. The Flyers will certainly miss aspects of Carle’s game though, including the 81 games and 38 points he averaged over the past three seasons.
The question is what, if anything, the Flyers will do next. With a limited free agent pool to wade into, Gervais could be the biggest name the Flyers sign. It seems more likely the front office will try to fill their hole via a trade — either Shea Weber, Nashville’s other (and possibly better) D-man who may not re-sign there, or the inevitable Rick Nash or Bobby Ryan deal that does nothing for defense, but instead places the onus on scoring even more goals.
Weber’s name keeps coming up, and after Suter turned down what was apparently a competitive offer from the Predators, the assumption is the organization may stand little chance keeping the restricted free agent beyond this season. Meanwhile, Nash and Ryan continue to be shopped around, and while the Flyers are listening, the front office appears determined to hang on to valuable chips such as Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier.
And if they should go into the upcoming season with their defense the way it is? You can sense the panic from those who follow the team closest. It means further reliance on youngsters Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson, as well as nondescript vets Andrej Meszaros and Andreas Lilja.
Admittedly, I’m not the world’s biggest Matt Carle fan. While I tended to stick up for him in 10-11, it seemed the mistakes outweighed the good last season, even though some statistics tell a different story. If the price were right, I would have preferred to have him back with the understanding what his skill set is, but for the money the Lightning gave, I would take my chances too as the Flyers’ chief exec.
Regardless, I can’t help but feel I’m missing some specific irony here. The last time the Flyers went head-to-head with Tampa Bay, Carle slipped one in his own net behind Ilya Bryzgalov. While clearly an accident, and not the first guy to make a bonehead play on the ice, it was the type of event a professional athlete could never live down. Odds are he was never a double agent, but whether it was deserved or not, you got the sense some fans almost felt that way about Matt Carle.
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