Flyers Acquire Braun, Announce Preseason Schedule
I think we can now officially call this the busiet Flyers offseason since the days of Paul Holmgren.
Just a few weeks after acquiring the rights of Kevin Hayes, just days after trading Radko Gudas for Matt Niskanen (then buying out Andrew MacDonald), Chuck Fletcher has struck again. The Flyers have acquried defenseman Justin Braun from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for the 41st selection in Friday's draft and a 2020 3rd round pick.
Let's begin with the basics. Braun is entering his tenth season in the NHL - all of the first nine had been with the Sharks. The 32-year old blueliner has one more year left on his deal at a $3.8 million cap hit. He had a bit of disappointing year (not too unlike Niskanen), scoring just 16 points after a career-high of 33 the year prior.
Much like the Niskanen trade, it seems like the Flyers fanbase's reaction hasn't been extremely positive. Braun is a decent defenseman, but perhaps a bit overpaid at his current salary. With the Sharks in cap trouble after re-signing Erik Karlsson, giving up a 2nd and a 3rd seems like a bit of an overpay, even if the Flyers were a position to do based on their cap space and bevy of picks and prospects.
Justin Braun is not a superstar. And he doesn't have as high of a ceiling as a strong puck-mover like Niskanen. However, he is a solid defenseman, and like Niskanen, has solid bounce-back potential, even at 32. His raw Corsi for is a solid 50.2% over his career (49.7% in 2018-19). However, he's a realtive -3.2% compared to teammates in his tenure, and was a -6.9% relative a year ago.
What Braun does provide is a rock steady presence in the defensive zone, although he is there a little more than you'd probably like. He is also a very good penalty-killer, which is something the Flyers needed. He also shoots right-handed, and being a defenseman, that puts him in arguably the most valuable grouping of players in the NHL (at least in the eyes of the guys signing and trading them).
The Flyers defensive core obviously looks different now. It's going to be an uphill battle for Sam Morin or Robert Hagg to get playing time next year, as they're very clearly the 7th and 8th best defenseman on the Flyers blueline.
Where Shayne Gostisbehere fits into this group is also a bit of a condundrum. He figured to have a top-four spot locked down just a few days ago. But with Fletcher saying that he thinks Myers will start at right defense on the third pairing, the chance for Ghost to play higher up in the lineup on his offside is virtually gone, unless Braun and Myers (both righties) made up the bottom pair. Now, the Flyers defense could look like:
That's not to say Ghost couldn't possibly be the fifth defenseman and still be a good player. However, Gostisbehere has been more successful as "the guy," like he was as a rookie and then again in 17-18. His name has been in trade rumors all offseason. Now, you wonder if those talks are might become more serious.
Bottom line: acquiring Braun doesn't change the state of the Flyers that much. A 2nd and a 3rd may have been a bit of an overpay, but the Flyers have the youth to make up for it. Braun is an improvement on Hagg, and will help in the defensive zone and on the PK. But the extent of his help is up for grabs. Like Niskanen, it might not work out, but there are signs that Braun could help the Orange and Black.
Bonus: Flyers 2019 Preseason Schedule Revealed
9/11 Rookie Game vs. Islanders (7 PM, PPL Center - Home of the Phantoms)
9/16 vs. Islanders (7 PM, WFC)
9/17 @ Islanders (7 PM, Barclays Center)
9/19 vs. Bruins (7 PM, WFC)
9/21 vs. Rangers (7 PM, WFC)
9/23 @ Bruins (7 PM, TD Garden)
9/26 @ Rangers (7 PM, MSG)
9/30 @ HC Lausanne (Game in Switzerland, 1 PM EST)