Briere fortifies Flyers’ defense with Johnson trade

Daniel Briere

TAMPA – With the Flyers a bit short of defensemen at the moment, general manager Daniel Briere did something just before Friday’s 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline to address the issue.

   He acquired defenseman Erik Johnson from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a fourth-round pick in this year’s NHL Draft.

   In a separate transaction, the Flyers picked up forward Denis Gurianov in exchange for forward Wade Allison.

   The Flyers needed defense help because defensemen Nick Seeler, Jamie Drysdale and Rasmus Ristolainen are all on the shelf with a variety of injuries and, while rookies Ronnie Attard and Adam Ginning performed well in Thursday night’s 2-1 win over Florida, the Flyers are in the midst of a playoff chase and need some experienced help.

    In addition to the injury corps, defenseman Sean Walker was traded to Colorado on Wednesday in exchange for a 2025 first-round draft pick plus center Ryan Johansen, who was asked to report to Lehigh Valley on Friday after the Flyers couldn’t find a trade destination for him.

      Shortly after the deadline passed, Briere addressed the media at a briefing at the JW Mariott Hotel in downtown Tampa.

      The GM was asked if the acquisition of Johnson might have something to do with all the good work his team has done over the first three-quarters of the season.

      “I think that’s fair to say,” Briere said. “We lost a pretty big piece with Sean Walker and the guys have worked extremely hard to get us to the point that they’ve gotten us this year.

      “I’m not asking Johnson to replace Walker. What we’re looking for from Erik is to bring his experience, the fact that he’s played for a long time and that he’s played a lot of playoff games.”

      Johnson, 35, collected three goals, 24 penalty minutes in 50 games with Buffalo this season. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound native of Bloomington, Minn., led the Sabres in shorthanded time on ice (152:31) and in shorthanded TOI/game (3:03).

       He ranked sixth in hits (93) and blocked shots (68). The right-shot blueliner has 91 goals/340 points in 970 career NHL games in 17 NHL seasons (2007-08, 2009-24) with St. Louis, Colorado and Buffalo.

      Johnson won the 2021-22 Stanley Cup with the Avalanche and served as an alternate captain for six seasons with Colorado and for one season with the Blues.

      “Hopefully he can share a little of that with our group,” Briere said. “And on defense, with all the injuries we have right now. It’s a pretty young group, so we’re hoping he can share a little bit of his experience.”

      Johnson ranks 13th among active NHL defensemen since 2007-08 in blocked shots (1,662), 15th in shots (1,907), tied for-16th in hits (1,586) and 17th in games played. He was originally selected by the Blues, first overall, of the 2006 NHL Draft.

      Internationally, Johnson represented the United States at the 2006 and 2007 IIHF World Junior Championships. He led all defensemen in the 2007 tournament in goals (four), assists (six) and points (11) and was named the best defenseman at the tournament and named to the WJC All-Star Team.

      A Flyers spokesperson said Johnson was enroute to Tampa and might be available to play in Saturday night’s game against the Lightning.

      In his prime, Johnson was one of the league’s top defensemen.

      “Maybe he can bring a bit of stability back there,” said Briere, mindful that the Flyers’ other experienced defenseman, Marc Staal, has been invaluable in that area. “When you have guys who have played as many games as he (Johnson) has, it’s an asset.”

      >Gurianov assessment

      The Flyers picked up Gurianov partly because Allison was no longer a fit in the Flyers organization. Once a highly touted prospect, Allison had his issues with coach John Tortorella, so the front office thought a change of scenery might be a good thing for the player.

      “He (Gurianov) is interesting,” Briere said. “He’s a big 6-foot-3 left winger that can skate,” Briere said. “The fact that he’s had some success in big games. . .he’s had a pretty interesting playoff run a few years ago. It’s been a little tougher for him the last couple years but if he catches fire again, he brings us speed and size.

      “Wade probably needed a change of scenery for his development. We wanted to give him a chance to maybe catch fire on his end, too.”
      The GM pointed out that rookies Tyson Foerster and Bobby Brink played well enough to keep Allison off the Flyers’ roster this season.

      Briere said Gurianov will join the Flyers’ roster.

      >Busy day

      Briere said he had an active final few hours before the 3 p.m. cutoff. “We looked at all possibilities that were out there,” he said. “How could we improve our team? We were bargain-shopping, a little bit. At the end of the day, we had 11 picks going into the draft, we still have 10. We’re excited.”

      >Hanging on to Laughton

      “I was honest with Scott from the beginning,” Briere said. “My job as a GM is to listen to what’s out there. I told him that. We played together, so there’s a bond that forms there.”

      Essentially, the Flyers are getting more value for Laughton than other teams might because of intangibles.

      A lot of teams expressed interest in acquiring Laughton.

     >No offers for Johansen

      Briere tried like heck to unload Johansen but the market was pretty dry. “A few teams danced around but at the end of the day, no one was willing to make the move,” Briere said. “We were willing to retain (salary), too.” The Flyers could have retained up to 50 percent (pro-rated) on what was left of this year’s $8-million paycheck.

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About Wayne Fish 2472 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.