The Flyers and Ekholm

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It's no secret that the Flyers are struggling tremendously on the defensive end this season. This was the teams demise last year as well, and it's only been made worse by the retirement of Matt Niskanen over the off-season. As a result of this retirement the Flyers moved to resign Justin Braun and brought in Erik Gustafsson. Braun is solid at times, but far from a game changer on the 3rd pair and Gustafsson has given us mixed results. Both players have positive ratings on the ice and Gustafsson has 9 points to Bruan's 1 this season. The Flyers defensively are giving up 3 goals per game, 12th most in the league and are getting outshot by 5 shots a night. The team is giving up 32 shots a night, 5th most in the league. The real concern has been on the PP and PK. The 72% PK is the 4th worst in the league and the 18% PP is only the 18th best in the league. Niskanen was a massive part of both the PP and PK last season. Every hockey fan knows that if you want to be a contender you must be top 10 in both PP and PK. To improve these things the Flyers need to shore up the back end.

Mattias Ekholm's name has been thrown around quite a bit in relation to the Flyers defensive needs. Mattias is 30 and has played his whole 10 year career in Nashville. He averages around 30 points per year for his career and is a solid 2nd pair defenseman who can play on the 1st pair as well. He also has plenty of playoff experience given Nashville's playoff runs in recent years. His contract isn't too damaging with him earning $3.75M this season and $5M in the final year of his deal next season. $5M is a little steep, but if he contributes on the top defensive pairing or solidifies the back end in anyway it won't be too bad. Averaging 0.5 points a game through 15 games this season, he is on pace for about 20-30 points in this 56 game season, which would be about 30-40 in a regular season, so he is on pace for his normal amount of production.

Making a deal becomes the tricky part in this situation. Up to this point Nashville has shown little desire to move Ekholm. Nashville is entering a rebuild phase, but they don't seem to realize it or want to admit it. They have been bounced out of the playoffs earlier and earlier each of the past few years, and currently sit in the 6th spot in the Central Division, 8 points out of a playoff spot. Not a good place to be when you think of yourself as a contending team. To get a deal done is going to cost a decent penny. Nashville will want prospects and picks. Morgan Frost's name has been thrown around quite a bit here, but his injury may complicate things. The Flyers have tons of forward depth, so losing one won't be too painful here. Nolan Patrick may be a name that gets this deal done with just a pick or two attached. I'm not as worried about departing with forwards and draft picks as I am with a defenseman. Nashville will likely want a Dman in return. Ideally Ghost or Gufstasson would be enough to satisfy Nashville, but the talk is that Myers or Sanheim will be required. At this point I would have to say Myers is the odd man out due to his recent scratches. I believe Sanheim's upside is a bit higher, especially offensively. The consensus is that at least one of this players will be left unprotected in the upcoming expansion draft regardless, so moving one may be wise to do. It would be painful to trade one of them away, but it may be for the best.

Will Ekholm help this team contend? Most likely he will get us closer, but he won't put us over the top. As I see it, the same thing that always holds this team back when it matters will do it again. The core of this team disappears at critical times, especially in the playoffs. Guys like Giroux and Voracek are often no shows in the playoffs. Look at the bubble as an example. Even more worrisome is watching someone like Konecny score 0 goals the whole playoff run as well. Until we get production from the guys that matter, and get paid the big bucks to produce in the big moments, any deal to solidify the back end will just be more wheel spinning.