Lilja’s Injury Makes Philadelphia Blue-Line Move More Likely
The Philadelphia Flyers missed out on their big summer acquisition when the Nashville Predators matched their huge offer sheet for blue-liner Shea Weber. They also lost Matt Carle to free agency, have Chris Pronger as a long-term injury and Andrej Meszaros also currently sidelined. Add veteran defenseman Andreas Lilja to that list after it was announced on Sunday that the Swede would need hip surgery and would therefore be out until after December at least.
Lilja isn’t a big-time defenseman, but has rightfully earned the reputation as a solid, third pairing veteran player. He really earned that reputation while playing solid minutes for the Detroit Red Wings.
The Flyers did acquire Luke Schenn earlier in the summer in exchange for James Van Riemsdyk, but the losses to the blue-line are severe nonetheless. Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Schenn and Nik Grossman are expected to form a serviceable top four, but there isn’t a whole lot of certain depth at this point. Bruno Gervais was brought onto the team during the offseason, while youngsters Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson now look set to simply walk into the opening night line-up.
A major or minor move on the blue-line seems very likely as GM Paul Holmgren must still be thinking that his team has cup competing potential. It is quite possible that the lack of top quality free agents or top end defensive trade targets will mean that Holmgren holds fire on the big big move, but surely he will not at least sign a solid veteran defenseman like a Pavel Kubina or Brett Clark to a one year deal. He will want players who are reasonably versatile and have experience playing bigger minutes in the NHL. Coach Peter Laviolette already looks like he will need to spread his minutes about, and if he does, then he will obviously feel more confident doing so if he has some quality veteran experience in the line-up.