The Philadelphia Flyers have made numerous head-turning moves so far this offseason. Not only did they surprise many people with the Richards, Carter, and Bryzgalov trades (and signing in Bryzgalov's case), but they also made a bit of a splash on July 1 with the signing of Jaromir Jagr and Maxime Talbot. But the Flyers made another signing last Friday that has hardly garnered any attention at all.
The signing was that of Swedish defenseman Andreas Lilja. It is for obvious reasons that there has not been much said about him, but that does not mean that signing Lilja was not important.
The Flyers preached defensive depth last season after the disastrous Parent/Krajicek pairing of the 2010 playoffs. They certainly lived up to the talk with the emergence of defenseman Andrej Meszaros. He turned out to be more than just a depth player.
Sean O'Donnell was the second guy added last summer to give the orange and black more defensive options. O'Donnell impressed early in his tenure with the Flyers. But as the season went on he struggled and his age showed. O'Donnell was not re-signed by the Flyers leaving a hole to fill.
It's no secret how old Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen are. Who's to say that they will be able to play all 82 games. Depth on the back end is all the more important.
Options are open for the 6th man on defense in Philadelphia. Andreas Lilja is a veteran that brings the experience of playing in Detroit for five seasons. He is not going to stand out quite like Andrej Meszaros, but he will make a difference.
Fellow TCL writer Chuck Gaston Jr., who covers the Pittsburgh Penguins said it best:
He is not going to be a superstar, but he is a depth and character guy who never wows, but never disappoints, love those guys.
Now the Flyers have more than just a 6th d-man. They have insurance. Lilja is most likely going to be the sixth man. But like any team, the Flyers need more than just six guys capable of playing back on the blueline. Oskars Bartulis is still a Flyer and is always a great guy for replacing an injured teammate. Guys like Erik Gustafsson and Kevin Marshall are two young guys that may also prove to be valuable.
The bottom line is that signing Andreas Lilja was a necessary move and a great move. Do not expect to see him in nightly highlight reels, but expect to be happy with number 2. He is an honest hockey player that is going to quietly do his job. If you do not notice him so much, it is probably better than actually noticing him.