The Flyers need a defenseman to join Ivan Provorov on their top pairing. You know it. I know it. General manager Chuck Fletcher knows it.
Some fans want a defensive defenseman — an Ed Van Impe type for those who remember that golden age of Flyers hockey.
Some want a marquee defenseman who will play here for a long time, such as Dougie Hamilton or Seth Jones.
Some think that spending $8 or $9 million per season on Hamilton or Jones would put too much strain on the team’s salary cap, and that an under-the-radar guy (Adam Larsson? Travis Harmonic? Cody Ceci?) would be a better move because it would leave the Flyers money to address other needs.
In any event, here are some defensemen on the Flyers’ radar. They would be an improvement over the revolving defensemen who played alongside Provorov this season.
Age 28, 6-foot-6, 227 pounds, shoots right
2021 stats with Carolina Hurricanes: 10 goals, 42 points, plus-20 in 55 games
He is a pending unrestricted free agent and checks all the boxes but might be too expensive in both assets dealt if a trade-and-sign is completed and money spent for his contract. Carolina has given him permission to talk to other teams before free agency arrives July 28. That could create a trade-and-sign situation before he reaches free agency. Hamilton’s analytics and traditional numbers are off the charts. But signing him might cause the Flyers to neglect other areas that need an upgrade.
Age 26, 6-4, 213, shoots right
2021 stats with Columbus Blue Jackets: 5 goals, 28 points, minus-18 in 56 games
Jones has one year left on his contract, which has a $5.4 million cap hit. Jones’ defensive analytics aren’t close to Hamilton’s, but he passes the eye test, and his offensive numbers are always very good. Don’t get hung up on his plus-minus rating because he played for woeful Columbus. The Flyers would acquire him only if they had an agreement that he would sign a long-term deal.
Age 26, 6-foot, 185, shoots right
2021 stats with Minnesota Wild: 6 goals, 21 points, plus-1 in 51 games
Dumba is available because the Wild probably won’t protect him in the July 21 expansion draft and don’t want to lose him and get nothing in return. He has two years left on a contract that has an annual $6 million cap hit. Because he was with Minnesota when Chuck Fletcher was the GM, there is speculation he is on the Flyers’ radar. He was drafted by Fletcher in the first round (seventh overall) in 2012. Fletcher’s problem: He figures to protect Provorov, Travis Sanheim, and Phil Myers in the expansion draft, so it would be tricky to acquire Dumba.
Age 31, 6-4, 215, shoots left
2021 stats with Nashville Predators: 6 goals, 23 points, plus-18 in 48 games.
He has one year left on his deal, and Nashville will undoubtedly protect him in the expansion draft. But if the Preds feel they can’t sign him to an extension, they will probably listen to offers. Acquiring him before last season seemed possible before Nashville went on a run and made the playoffs. Now it’s a long shot he will land in Philly.
Age 30, 5-10, 180, shoots right
2021 stats with Nashville Predators: 5 goals, 18 points, plus-1 in 35 games
He is a difference maker in several areas. Think Kimmo Timonen. Ellis has six years left on his contract (annual cap hit: $6.25 million), and he would become the Flyers’ best defender. Nashville reportedly dangled him last year in trade talks, but the cost would be high. So is the Flyers’ upside with Ellis paired with Provorov.
Age 30, 6-2, 233, shoots right
2021 stats with Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning: 1 goal, 6 points, minus-27 in 54 games
An unrestricted free agent who had a $4.25 million cap hit this season with Columbus and Tampa Bay, Savard is a rugged, stay-at-home defenseman who does a lot of the dirty work — clearing bodies, blocking shots — that the Flyers desperately need. But is he capable of playing on the top pairing? That, in my opinion, is a stretch. He’s valuable for a defense but doesn’t have the all-around game that Matt Niskanen had before retiring prior to last season.
Age 28, 6-6, 230, shoots right
2021 stats with St. Louis Blues: 2 goals, 12 points, minus-2 in 32 games
A back injury hindered him until late this season, and he struggled. If healthy, he would be a great partner for Provorov. He is in the final season of his contract ($5.5 million cap hit). St. Louis was unwilling to pay for Alex Pietrangelo and let him take the free-agent route (to Vegas), so you have to wonder if the Blues will do the same with Parayko and put him on the trade market.
Age 28, 6-7, 255, shoots left
2021 stats with Dallas Stars: 6 goals, 14 points, minus-3 in 56 games
An unrestricted free agent, Oleksiak would improve the Flyers’ defense but, like Savard, isn’t best suited for the top pairing. Oh, and he’s left-handed, another strike against him as far as the Flyers are concerned. That makes it unlikely he will be the Flyers’ choice unless they whiff on several other players.
Age 30, 6-2, 205, shoots right
2021 stats with Vancouver Canucks: 3 goals, 10 points, minus-3 in 38 games
He is an unrestricted free agent for the second straight year. Fletcher tried hard to sign him last year, but Hamonic went to Vancouver because he wanted to play in Western Canada. Maybe he has a change of heart this time. He is defensively responsible and could help an awful penalty kill. Oh, and the price tag won’t be high. He was on the second pairing this season, alongside Quinn Hughes.
Age 27, 6-2, 210, shoots right
2021 stats with Pittsburgh Penguins: 4 goals, 17 points, plus-18 in 53 games
An unrestricted free agent, Ceci is a solid defender who plays with physicality, blocks shots, and chips in offensively. He was a second-pairing defenseman with Pittsburgh this year, and signing him would be payback for Penguins GM Ron Hextall’s pilfering Mark Friedman off waivers from the Flyers. He’d be a good addition to the PK as he led the Penguins with an average of 2:35 of shorthanded ice time.
Age 29, 5-11, 197, shoots right
2021 stats with Edmonton Oilers: 8 goals, 48 points, plus-4 in 56 games
Playing for high-powered Edmonton on its top pairing, Barrie had terrific offensive numbers. But his defensive game had flaws, and he doesn’t seem to be the right fit for Provorov. The son of Tampa Bay co-owner Len Barrie, he is an unrestricted free agent.
Age 33, 6-1, 209, shoots left
2021 stats with Vegas Golden Knights: 9 goals, 32 points, plus-26 in 53 games
The unrestricted free agent is risky because of his age, but if you can get him for two or three years and if he can switch to the right side … That’s a lot of ifs. Truth is, his right-handed partner on Vegas’ top pairing, Pietrangelo, would have been a much better fit. But that ship sailed last year when Pietrangelo signed a seven-year, $61 million deal ($8.8 million annual cap hit) with the Golden Knights.
Age 26, 6-4, 218, shoots right
2021 stats with Buffalo Sabres: 4 goals, 18 points, minus-18 in 49 games.
He has one year left on a contract that carries a $5.4 million cap hit with Buffalo, and the Devils are reportedly making a strong bid in trade talks. The Flyers should not get in a bidding war. Ristolainen’s defense has too many holes, but he’s strong on the power play and provides solid offense and physicality. He was slowed this year by a coronavirus battle.
Age 28, 6-3, 208, shoots right.
2021 stats with Edmonton Oilers: 4 goals, 10 points, plus-2 in 56 games.
Larsson, drafted by New Jersey in the first round (fourth overall) in 2011, is a defensive defenseman who was on Edmonton’s No. 2 pairing this year and was an alternate captain. Once traded for Taylor Hall, Larsson isn’t flashy. He plays with a calmness and physicality, traits the Flyers need greatly. The Sweden native had a $4.2 million cap hit this season, and he is an unrestricted free agent.
Age 27, 6-foot, 194, shoots right
2021 stats with Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers: 7 goals, 18 points, minus-5 in 50 games
The unrestricted free agent is a two-time AHL All-Star who provides offense and is a good shot blocker and puck mover. He’s a decent player, but the Flyers should add someone with a better defensive pedigree.