Flyers lost again last night. It was ugly, and this team can’t buy a goal to save its life right now. The trade deadline is now six days away, and Philadelphia sits three points out of the postseason — with a game in hand and two teams to climb over.
That’s not an impossible wall to climb, but it’s not going to be easy, with Boston, Florida and both New York teams both playing strong hockey ahead of them right now.
And let’s be honest here: the Flyers are probably not deserving of the postseason. Aside from the 10 game win streak, they haven’t played consistently well at all this season, from the goalies to the defense to the offense to the dudes in suits behind the bench.
So with that context in mind, what should the Flyers do at this trade deadline? There are, of course, several options.
Blow it up! Trust the process! No, this is silly. (Obviously.) The Flyers should not trade Claude Giroux and/or Jakub Voracek and/or and restart completely. Yes, there are serious concerns about whether or not Giroux in particular may be on the decline, and whether or not the prospect pool on defense will line up with any sort of offensive firepower in time to make this team a serious contender. But blowing this thing up and selling off the most valuable parts is crazy, because it essentially means you’re committing to at least five more years of a rebuild. That just isn’t going to fly.
Deal the spare parts off for picks or prospects. You’re (probably) not going to get a lot for guys like Michael Del Zotto or Mark Streit. But they are free agents at the end of the season and are clearly not part of the team’s long term plans. MDZ might not be tradable because he’s been bad or injured most of the year, but Streit definitely has value to a team as a rental defenseman for the stretch run. You could say the same for one of the goaltenders, although the market for goalies probably isn’t too strong and ... well, we’re in this boat in large part because Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth have been bad.
The Flyers are basically admitting defeat for the current season if they trade Streit -- one of their few good defensemen, and an alternate captain on the team -- but like we said, this season is basically done anyway. The best case is a few playoff games. The likely case is no playoff games. The worst case is no playoffs and getting nothing for guys who are leaving anyway.
Stand pat and hope for the postseason. This is basically what Ron Hextall did last year, although the conditions were slightly different. The Flyers were rebounding from a slow start to the year and flying high toward the postseason during the second half of the season, and Hextall told his team that they deserved to see that stretch run through together as a group. It paid off; they made the playoffs. And it was fun!
This year, the playoffs seem less likely. Which makes this approach less smart.
Buy. This seems pretty unlikely, but if Ron Hextall saw the chance to get Matt Duchene or something at this deadline -- a strong offensive piece that could contribute for years to come -- shouldn’t he go for it? It would certainly cost, and this sort of deal is against Hextall’s blueprint to date.
But ... well, remember that little problem of offense that we talked about? Adding some high powered offensive talent might just be worth it, considering the increased readiness of the team’s defensive corps. Not for this year, but for the next year and the next year and the next year.
What do you want Ron Hextall to do?