Chuck Fletcher likes the Flyers' defense.
"In saying our defense corps is young, I do believe it's the strength of our team going forward," the Flyers' general manager said last Saturday.
With the addition of Matt Niskanen and the door opening for another prospect, it looks strong on paper.
But can it be better and do the Flyers have a legitimate No. 1 defenseman/first pair?
"If we can find a guy that can play in our top four that we have the ability to acquire, we'll certainly look at it," Fletcher said.
"You're always looking to upgrade if you can, but it will certainly depend on whether we can acquire that player and whether even that player is available."
One of the most notable blueliners on the trade market is now unavailable. The Jets sent Jacob Trouba to the Rangers Monday night in exchange for Neal Pionk and the 20th overall pick in this weekend's NHL draft.
So one of the Flyers' division rivals will add Trouba and highly likely consensus No. 2 overall pick Kaapo Kakko in the same week. Not bad.
It's unknown if the Flyers were interested in or pursuing Trouba. The 25-year-old is arguably a No. 1 defenseman and wants to be paid like one. He is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason and should eventually get a nice raise from his $5.5 million salary in 2018-19.
For the Flyers, landing Trouba would have come in no small deal. Seeing what the Jets acquired (which looks like it should have been more), you'd think the Flyers would have had to give up the 11th overall pick and a promising young player — and then there's paying Trouba.
The Flyers' defense is already young and much more formidable now with the acquisition of Niskanen. Fletcher and company should absolutely like what they already have in place and the offseason has hardly begun. Don't expect Fletcher to sit back. He's been aggressive and there's still plenty of time and other avenues to improve the defense.
A name to keep an eye on via the trade market is Jared Spurgeon, who we wrote about earlier this month. The price to acquire the 29-year-old wouldn't be as steep compared to acquiring Trouba. The righty-shot Spurgeon is a career plus-51 and got his NHL start in Minnesota because of Fletcher, who signed him in 2010. He's under contract through 2019-20, so the Flyers wouldn't be committed long term unless they want to be after the season.
"He has the ability to play in every situation: up a goal, down a goal, both specialty teams," Fletcher said in 2015, via the Associated Press. "He just does everything right. Just a great system player."
Fletcher liked the look of his defense last weekend and that hasn't changed.
What has changed is the Flyers will have to see Trouba more than twice a season. How their defense stacks up against the Rangers and the rest, time will tell.
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