There are reports that Nashville’s P.K. Subban is available. If so, he checks all the boxes surrounding one of the Flyers’ important needs.
Someone who is righthanded, plays with an edge, and would complement Ivan Provorov on the Flyers’ top defensive pairing? Check.
Someone who is a proven veteran — a former winner of the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league’s top defenseman — who would anchor the Flyers’ young group of blue-liners? Check.
An outspoken guy who would instantly become a leader in the Flyers’ laid-back locker room? Check.
Subban would give the Flyers a legitimate No. 1 defenseman for the first time since Chris Pronger was healthy.
Just because Subban fits all the boxes, however, doesn’t mean it will be easy for Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher to bring him to Philadelphia. If Subban is shopped, and Nashville is expected to deal one of its defensemen for a much-needed scorer, there will be other interested teams.
That said, Fletcher does have a close relationship with Nashville GM David Poile. They have known each other for 47 years, and Poile got his big break in 1972, when Fletcher’s father, Cliff, hired him as a 22-year-old administrative assistant with the expansion Atlanta Flames. Five years later, he made Poile an assistant general manager.
Chuck Fletcher and Poile made a deal at the trade deadline this year, as the Flyers sent Wayne Simmonds to the Predators for right winger Ryan Hartman and a fourth-round draft pick.
In addition, Nashville happens to be coached by Peter Laviolette, who has firsthand knowledge of some of the players he had with the Flyers.
One of those is right winger Jake Voracek, who had some productive years under Laviolette with the Flyers and would fit nicely in Nashville.
Subban, who will turn 30 on May 13, has three years left on a contract that has an annual $9 million cap hit, which might scare away lots of teams. Voracek, who will turn 30 on Aug. 15, has five years remaining on his pact, which has an annual $8.25 million cap hit.
The teams seem like a good match. The Flyers have the cap space and need to upgrade a defense that allowed the third-most goals (3.41 per game) in the NHL this season. The Predators need to improve an offense that scored just 2.88 goals per game (19th in the league) and a power play that was dead last, clicking at just 12.9 percent during the season and going 0-for-15 in their first-round playoff loss to Dallas.
The Preds might also seek a defenseman in the deal, and Robert Hagg is available.
If the Flyers deal Voracek — who has been the league’s fourth-highest-scoring right winger (505 points) since he joined Philadelphia in 2011-12 — they could try to sign a free-agent winger to fill his void.
Artemi Panarin (probably going to Florida and perhaps too costly), Jeff Skinner, Anders Lee, Gustav Nyquist, and Jordan Eberle are among the options for the Flyers, who also need to add a productive second-line center and might pursue Toronto’s feisty Nazem Kadri. (Some of the above wingers play the left side, but the Flyers could juggle some players to make it work.)
As for Subban, new Flyers coach Alain Vigneault is a big admirer. But to put his comments in the right context, he was talking just about what Subban brings to a team — and Voracek as a potential trading chip was not part of the conversation.
“He’s a dynamic player,” Vigneault said of Subban on Wednesday. “He’s got a great skill set and a lot of energy. He’s shown he’s one of the best defensemen in the NHL, and he competes so hard.”
Subban is coming off a career-worst 31-point season, one in which he played just 63 games because of a suspected back injury. He said the injury won’t affect his long-term play.
If he is indeed 100 percent healthy, the Flyers should try to strike a deal. Besides his obvious talent, Subban would help give this team some personality, provide a great on-ice presence, and be the ideal mentor for a defense that is long on promise but short on experience.