This morning, the Flyers announced that defenseman Andrej Meszaros tore his achilles and had surgery. Meszaros was injured while training in Slovakia. He’ll likely miss most of the upcoming season, leaving a big hole on the blueline. Meszaros was hampered last season by a back injury, which he had surgery on this summer. The injury visibly affected his play.
While the Flyers were looking at a pretty solid top five with Meszaros, Kimmo Timonen, Luke Schenn, Braydon Coburn and Nicklas Grossmann going into the season. The depth could have let Timonen play a little less to keep him fresh, but that idea seems out the window now. It also means that Erik Gustafsson may get a shot at a full time top six, while new signee Bruno Gervais and veteran Andreas Lilja still battle for the other slot. Marc-Andre Bourdon should also be in the mix, if he ever re-signs.
What does Paul Holmgren do now? He was looking to upgrade the defense, even before the Meszaros injury. He chased after Ryan Suter and Shea Weber and came up empty. There are a few free agency options, like Carlo Colaiacovo, who played the last four seasons with the Blues. It might also bring back those pesky Jay Bouwmeester rumors. Maybe he tries to jump the gun on 2013′s free agency market and trades for a pending UFA, such as San Jose’s Doug Murray. There some upcoming RFAs as well, like Zach Bogosian, but it’s hard to believe that their teams will give up on these young players.
It’s been noted that Holmgren does not want to trade youngsters Sean Couturier or Brayden Schenn. This injury might have Holmgren think twice about dealing the two. It also would assume that the Flyers would back out of the Bobby Ryan sweepstakes (if they were ever really involved), as Anaheim was looking for defense and the Flyers don’t really have any to spare.
Holmgren could always just wait during the season to make a deal, when teams see where they are standings-wise. Maybe he can get a deal on a player that’s struggling or a bad team looking to unload. With Chris Pronger and Meszaros on LTIR, the Flyers will have plenty of money (~9 million) to spend.
For a Cup contending team, it’s a huge blow with no equal replacement in sight. Maybe Gustafsson surprises and earns his job. But, if he, or any of the third pair struggle, it’s going to be a long year for the top four. It’s easy to think of the worst case scenario, Timonen can’t handle the grind and wears down again, the third pair is awful and Schenn is still the inconsistent defenseman he was in Toronto.
It’s possible everything goes right for the Flyers, but fans know it rarely does.