The Philadelphia Flyers have added young, big-time talent at two positions of need, defenseman and right wing, this offseason.

They also have added two guys whose previous teams let them go unceremoniously because of questions about their character.

Defenseman Andrej Meszaros and right wing Nikolai Zherdev are both extremely talented. They're both former first-round picks, and both have put together above-average seasons in the NHL.

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But both are with their third teams in the league due to inconsistency. Meszaros was drafted by Ottawa and traded to Tampa Bay before being dealt to the Flyers last week. Zherdev was drafted by Columbus before being traded to the New York Rangers and spending a year in Russia before signing with the Flyers on Friday. Zherdev, in particular, has been dogged by character questions.

The moves could turn out to make general manager Paul Holmgren look like a genius. Who knows? Maybe the combination of growing up - Meszaros is 24 and Zherdev 25 - joining a team with strong leadership, and realizing they are running out of chances will be enough for both players to reach their vast potential. If that happens, then a Stanley Cup runner-up likely would get significantly better.

But the flip side is that there's a possibility the Flyers are dumping a key piece from their Cup finals run - winger Simon Gagne, widely rumored to be on his way out to clear cap space - for two guys who could put a serious dent in their famous never-quit attitude and could join Alexander Daigle and Pavel Brendl among the all-time Flyers busts.

Obviously, it's not that simple. Holmgren didn't have the cap space to get guys of that talent level with proven track records. If he wanted to improve the team's talent this offseason, he was going to have to take some risks character-wise, and he chose to do that.

But the two moves seem to completely counteract what got the Flyers to the Cup finals, as they persevered to make it out of the Eastern Conference over more talented teams such as Washington and Pittsburgh.

Even if Zherdev and Meszaros pan out, the Flyers are, at best, even talent-wise with Washington and Pittsburgh. And they no longer have Gagne, a high-character guy who scored two game-winning goals in the comeback from a 3-0 series deficit against Boston in the second round.

One other interesting thing to consider is that the Flyers and Blackhawks had two of the most North American-heavy rosters in the league. Flyers veteran forward Ian Laperriere, a Canadian, said at the time that that was no coincidence in a sport in which the will to win is perhaps more important than in any other.

"We grew up dreaming about winning the Stanley Cup," Laperriere said of North Americans. "We didn't grow up dreaming about winning the World Championships or the Olympic (gold) medal, which is good for those guys who have won it. If that's their goal, good for you. But Canadian and American boys, we grew up watching the Stanley Cup. That's a dream of mine since I was a little boy."

I've never met Andrej Meszaros or Nikolai Zherdev. I can't say how much they want to win the Stanley Cup. Laperriere's theory obviously is not without exceptions, such as Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen, one of the toughest and hardest-working players on the team.

But it does add to a disturbing pattern: Meszaros and Zherdev seem like polar opposites of the players who got the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals.

That said, I'm sure Paul Holmgren has done more research on these guys than anyone else, and he's proven to be pretty shrewd in just three-plus years as GM, turning a last-place team into a Cup finalist.

Time will tell whether Holmgren finally has pushed his luck too much.

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