THE FLYERS HAVE lacked punch in front of their net since Derian Hatcher's knees gave out.
And while they moved to a more mobile, puck-moving, defense, it was clear all last season that no opposing forward paid a price for camping on the Flyers' doorstep.
That problem was solved last night.
Just before the NHL entry draft began in Montreal, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren picked up Chris Pronger from Anaheim in exchange for top young defensive prospect Luca Sbisa, forward Joffrey Lupul, and two first round draft picks, this year's and next.
The 34-year-old, 6-6, 221-pound Pronger is a skilled puck handler and determined leader, but he is also one of the toughest defenseman in the league.
The Flyers had been one of the teams chasing the rights to Florida free-agent defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, but they landed Pronger instead.
The Flyers also got 25-year-old minor league center Ryan Dingle in the deal.
"I made it sort of clear myself, I wanted to get a hammer, a guy who makes life miserable for the other team. Chris is one of those guys," Holmgren said. "I think we've made some strides in terms of revamping our defense over the last few years. You put Chris in our mix, and it makes our defense a good group of defensemen."
"No disrespect for Joffrey Lupul, I think the world of Joffrey as a person and as a player. And no disrespect to Luca Sbisa, I think he's a tremendous young player who's on the rise. But the Flyers are a better team today."
Getting the 15-year veteran is a deal the Flyers have wanted to make in the past, but were never able to pull off. It is a move geared as much to dealing with the Penguins as anything else. Sidney Crosby hated playing against Hatcher, and Pronger is a meaner, more talented, version of Hatcher.
It gives the Flyers the ability to be tough on the talented Penguins' forwards and also enables them to have a shutdown pair for both the Crosby and Evengi Malkin lines.
It's a role that Pronger recognizes.
"I think with Pittsburgh, you need to have two solid groups of defensemen, especially on the road, one who can play against the Crosby line and one who can play against the Malkin line, and either one of those two pairs should be able to play against either line, so that you're not constantly mixing and matching and doing all the things that teams try to do," Pronger said.
"You can't just have one shutdown set of defensemen that most teams have because many teams have two quality scoring lines.
"I'm very excited. It's obviously a city that's very passionate for the sport of hockey. The style of the play that the Flyers have been known to play certainly fits my game.
"They've got some great young talent and I hope to help not only develop the team into being regarded as one of the top teams in the league, but winning a Stanley Cup. I think that's why we all play the game, is to win, and certainly the Stanley Cup is the pinnacle for our sport."
A Norris Trophy and Hart Trophy winner in 2000, a three-time Canadian Olympian and gold medal winner in 2002, Pronger led the Edmonton Oliers to the Stanley Cup finals in 2000, and captained the Ducks' 2007 title.
Pronger, of Dryden, Ontario, was drafted second overall by the Hartford Whalers in 1993, but traded 2 years later to the St. Louis Blues for Brendan Shanahan.
He played nine season with the Blues, became their captain and developed into a top NHL defenseman with a deadly shot, a nasty edge, and an ability to lead.
He was traded to Edmonton after the 2004-05 lockout, signed a long-term deal but asked to be traded after one season, in which he led the Oliers to the Stanley Cup finals.
He was traded to the Ducks, oddly enough in a deal that included Lupul, and spent three seasons in Anaheim, winning the Stanley Cup in 2006-07.
Lupul played two seasons with Philadelphia and his contract kicked his salary up to $4.25 million this coming year. That money is cleared from the Flyers cap and allows them to absorb Pronger's $6.25 million salary.
Pronger said he was not surprised to have been traded since he has been the subject of trade rumors since the March trade deadline.
"I wouldn't say I'm surprised, but when you hear it once, you kind of brush it off, when you hear it twice you brush it off, but when you hear it persistently over and over again, you begin to think that it's probably going to be a reality, and you've got to start planning and preparing yourself and your family that you're probably going to be moving on."
Because Pronger is in the final year of his contract, Holmgren's work is not done. This is a trade that cost the Flyers significant assets and if they want to get him singed into the future.
"We haven't had the opportunity to talk to Pat Morris, Chris' agent," Holmgren said. "I've talked to him a few times over the past few days. He represents a couple guys on our team and a couple guys we we're looking at in this draft.
"When we get back to Philadelphia, we'll sit down and see where we're at, and see what we can do. He's certainly a guy we've invested a lot in, and we realize we have our work to do to get him tied up for more than one year."
With the only first round pick the Flyers had in this draft dealt, Holmgren and his staff will wait until the third round and the 81st pick to make their selection.
It would make sense that this is the only big free agent move the Flyers will make, but Holmgren did not close the door on more moves come July 1 and the start of the free agent period.
"I wouldn't rule it out," Holmgren said. "We're dealing with the draft obviously [last night] and tomorrow, and sometimes you're able to make deals at the draft like we did. When we get back, we have a couple days to kind of plan our strategy with a little bit different look to our team, and see where we're at with the salary cap, and see what we need to do moving forward.
"We have a couple holes now on our team obviously, and I do believe we have some young players in our system that deserve the opportunity to see what they can do in those spots. But we'll see. We still have some time prior to free agency period to think about things."
Holmgren said Anaheim had to trade one more player to get under the league minimum 50 contracts and that Dingle was the player he wanted out of several possibilities.