Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren conceded that Chris Pronger's concussion is career-threatening, but he also left the door open, ever so slightly, to the possibility that the star defenseman could return for the playoffs.
On Thursday, Holmgren announced that the Flyers captain would miss the rest of the season and the playoffs because of severe post-concussion syndrome.
Asked hypothetically on Friday what would happen if Pronger was feeling better as the playoffs arrived, Holmgren said: "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. I think right now, Chris is not an option. If he gets better somewhere over the next month [or] months, we'll address that when we get there."
During a news conference at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, Holmgren said Pronger was concussed when he was hit in the right eye by a stick against Toronto on Oct. 24. As it turned out, Pronger unknowingly played five games with a concussion. At the time, the Flyers thought Pronger had a virus.
Holmgren said Pronger was shaken by the news he will be sidelined the rest of the season. "But he's certainly willing to continue to look at therapy and treatment, and we'll see how it goes," the general manager said.
Added Holmgren: "I feel really bad. I go back to the summertime when we approached him about being a captain. He did the right thing and waited. He wanted to see how his back healed up from the surgery. When he jumped on . . . he was excited about the young team. He was excited about being our captain, and to have this happen, I think it was devastating news to him on Wednesday."
Holmgren said he was leaning toward not naming a captain for the rest of the season. Kimmo Timonen and Danny Briere are alternate captains, and the third "A" has been alternated recently.
Does Holmgren consider Pronger's injury to be career-threatening?
"Well, I guess you'd have to say yeah," Holmgren said. "Chris is 37 years old. I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy, so I hope for the best all the time. We'll see how it goes."
The doctors didn't say it was career-threatening, Holmgren added. "Their recommendation now is to shut it down and try to heal."
Holmgren implied that he didn't think a trade was necessary. He said one of the team's "luxuries" was having four quality defensemen: Timonen, Matt Carle, Braydon Coburn, and Andrej Meszaros.
"All four can play in every situation. . . . All are multiple-minute guys that play in the 20s, sometimes pushing 30 minutes a night depending on the game," Holmgren said. "I think that's the luxury we have.
"I do feel comfortable if all four are healthy."
Erik Gustafsson, an impressive rookie defenseman who has been sidelined since having wrist surgery, is about a week away from being ready to play, Holmgren said.
Gustafsson and rookie Marc-Andre Bourdon - who has been paired with Carle - are expected to be part of the defensive rotation.
There is a holiday trade-freeze period that starts Saturday and runs to Dec. 27. The trade deadline is Feb. 27.
"I talk to guys all the time, just to see what's available," Holmgren said. "Obviously, if we have the chance to improve our hockey team, both now and for the future," we do it.
Shea Weber, Nashville's standout defenseman, is reportedly on the block, but his $7.5 million salary would make it difficult for the Flyers to acquire him. The Flyers will have $3.4 million in cap space after Tom Sestito is sent to the minors.
While the news that Pronger would miss the rest of the season was unsettling, "it's not something we haven't been dealing with for the last three weeks, or however long it's been," coach Peter Laviolette said, referring to Pronger's absence. "I don't think there is any panic. We've got a real good hockey team in here."
A team that, despite having three players sidelined with concussions, leads the NHL in scoring and sits atop the Eastern Conference.