The Flyers continued to remake their defense Tuesday.
Four days after they acquired Matt Niskanen from Washington, the Flyers traded two draft picks to San Jose for veteran defenseman Justin Braun.
“He is a high-character, quality defender who will bring a steadying presence to our team,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said.
The Flyers sent their second-round pick (41st overall) in this weekend’s draft and a third-round 2020 selection to the Sharks.
It was a deal that countered the strategy used by former GM Ron Hextall, who tried to stockpile draft picks for the future.
Fletcher’s focus is clearly on building for the present.
Braun, 32, a stay-at-home defender who shoots right-handed, has spent his entire nine-year career with San Jose. He had two goals, 14 assists and a career-worst minus-14 rating last season, the sixth straight year he averaged more than 20 minutes per game.
A Minneapolis native, Braun said it was a “little shocking” to be traded “but at the same time, it’s exciting. It’s something new, something different.”
Braun, who is friends with the 32-year-old Niskanen and Flyers left winger James van Riemsdyk, said he was looking forward to playing in front of young goalie Carter Hart, saying "he looks like the real deal.”
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Braun, who played at the University of Massachusetts, has appeared in 84 Stanley Cup playoff games, the second-highest total in San Jose history among defensemen. He helped the Sharks reach the Western Conference finals this season, and played in three conference finals and the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.
Braun’s contract has $3.8 million salary-cap hit, and he is a potential unrestricted free agent after the 2019-20 season.
During his time in San Jose, Braun has been on all three pairings. For a time, he was with Marc-Edouard Vlasic on the Sharks’ shutdown pairing. This season, he was mostly on the third pairing when Erik Karlsson was healthy.
“I always try to play defense first,” Braun said. “Have a good gap and bring pucks up quick. I’m not afraid to go back for pucks and get there first and take a hit every now and again. I think the boys liked to laugh at me about that — going back first and taking too many hits. You just have to do what you have to do to get the puck out."
The Flyers defense now includes Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Niskanen, Braun, Phil Myers, Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, and Samuel Morin. Fletcher might have another deal in the works.
A lot could still happen in the offseason, but the pairings could look like this: Provorov and Braun, Sanheim and Niskanen, and Gostisbehere and Myers. That would make Hagg and Morin battle for the seventh spot if another trade isn’t made.
Braun, regarded as a good penalty killer, slipped from 33 points two years ago to 16 last season, and his plus-minus dipped from plus-7 to minus-14. He had been a “plus” player in his previous five seasons.
“Last year was a bit of a down year offensively. I’m going to try to get that back and get more shots through and create some action around the net,” he said, adding it was a “frustrating year” to be a minus-14 and “giving up that many goals. ... But you can’t dwell on that. I’ve had good years where I’ve been ‘plus’ pretty well, so you just kind of lean back on those and find that game again."