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NHL trade deadline: No, the Flyers should not trade Claude Giroux

Replacing him would be nearly impossible.

Montreal Canadiens v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

There’s a growing sentiment among Flyers fans that the team should trade Claude Giroux. Yeah, that’s a sentence that I just wrote. I can’t believe it either.

It’s to the point where fake rumors going around (oh my god, if one more person cites I am going to blow a gasket) and people are actively talking about a possible deal on Twitter and Facebook and with their friends. I’ve had three friends message me about the possibility just in the last 36 hours.

This type of stuff is everywhere:

“Start over!”

Are we doing this? Are we really doing this? No, please stop.

Giroux is very productive!

Look -- it’s true that Giroux has been a disappointment this season. 12 goals and 31 assists in 61 games is not what we expect of the top player on the team. He’s been quiet. Way too dang quiet. But it’s not a reason to trade him.

Dating back to 2008, Giroux’s second year in the league, he ranks 15th among all NHL players in points per game. He’s ahead of Jonathan Toews, Zach Parise, Jeff Carter, Joe Pavelski and a bunch of other All-Star caliber players. He is very pretty.

NHL players ranked by points per game, 2008-today

Rk Player Pts / Game Team Games Goals Assists Points
Rk Player Pts / Game Team Games Goals Assists Points
1 Sidney Crosby 1.3 PIT 548 273 438 711
2 Evgeni Malkin 1.17 PIT 537 240 390 630
3 Alex Ovechkin 1.08 WSH 655 389 321 710
4 Patrick Kane 1.03 CHI 638 254 402 656
5 Nicklas Backstrom 1.01 WSH 631 169 467 636
6 Martin St. Louis 1 TBL/NYR 526 183 345 528
7 Steven Stamkos 0.99 TBL 586 321 261 582
8 Pavel Datsyuk 0.97 DET 508 175 318 493
9 Ryan Getzlaf 0.97 ANA 627 169 439 608
10 Henrik Sedin 0.95 VAN 663 147 482 629
11 Daniel Sedin 0.93 VAN 644 220 377 597
12 Joe Thornton 0.93 SJS 674 142 482 624
13 John Tavares 0.92 NYI 571 230 293 523
14 Jamie Benn 0.89 DAL 566 213 292 505
15 Claude Giroux 0.88 PHI 633 178 382 560
16 Corey Perry 0.88 ANA 659 282 301 583
17 Jason Spezza 0.88 OTT/DAL 571 193 307 500
18 Jonathan Toews 0.88 CHI 634 243 313 556
19 Henrik Zetterberg 0.88 DET 623 171 379 550
20 Anze Kopitar 0.87 LAK 666 197 384 581
21 Phil Kessel 0.86 TOR/PIT 658 264 305 569
22 Zach Parise 0.86 NJD/MIN 567 236 252 488
23 Joe Pavelski 0.83 SJS 658 253 295 548
24 Eric Staal 0.82 CAR/NYR/MIN 662 218 326 544
25 Marian Hossa 0.81 TOT 591 221 257 478
26 Erik Karlsson 0.81 OTT 540 110 330 440
27 Jeff Carter 0.8 PHI/LAK 632 271 236 507
28 Rick Nash 0.8 CBJ/NYR 609 257 231 488
29 Mikko Koivu 0.79 MIN 619 141 345 486
30 Patrick Marleau 0.79 SJS 677 265 267 532
via Hockey Reference

Please note that if you run this same report for 2013-14 until today, Giroux also ranks 15th. He’s productive! He was productive as recently as last season, too, when he scored 67 points in 78 games. That’s top line stuff in the NHL, and it does not grow on trees.

How do you replace the production?

You think the team has offensive struggles now? Imagine what they’d be without Giroux, who is a key driver of the power play and the first line center, even while he’s having a down year.

If you’re trading him, can you replace 70ish points of production a year? You obviously cannot come close to doing so with players on the current roster, even in a best case scenario where every single forward improves.

You’re largely depending on whatever the return would be in a trade to help mitigate the loss of a top line center and key power play guy. If you want to trade Giroux, you are not being honest with yourself about how rare these types of players are.

No-trade clause will impact any possible return

Giroux’s no-movement clause means that he needs to approve any trade. That’s going to severely limit the Flyers options, even if they are able to get a team to agree to an unbelievable return for him.

The kind of return Ron Hextall would need to pull off is something like the Flyers did with Jeff Carter and Mike Richards back in 2011. Given the position of the organization today, the Flyers would need to get some mix of draft picks, young NHL players with upside and top-end prospects. (You know, like Jake Voracek, the 8th overall pick and the 68th overall pick. Something like that.)

Unless you want to sit through five more years of mediocre-or-worse hockey, the Flyers would need to use a Giroux trade to re-tool on the fly, not outright rebuild. Just like 2011.

Getting that type of return is hard when you have all options open to you. If he doesn’t want to spend the next six years in Denver, Giroux’s not going to care that the Avalanche offered up Matt Duchene, eight years of first round picks, the deed to the Pepsi Center and a cache of unused 2001 Stanley Cup rings. The NMC makes any deal more difficult, and it will have a cooling effect on what the Flyers are able to get in return. It also impacts what another team is willing to give you because the risk of acquiring a player on a no-movement clause is obviously higher.

Even if you assume that the Flyers could get some sort of unreal return in a deal, you’re also assuming that it works out as well as the Carter and Richards trades worked out for the Flyers. Let’s not overlook the fact that those trades took an extreme amount of luck. We didn’t know Sean Couturier would be there with the pick that came over from Columbus, or that Wayne Simmonds would someday be All-Star MVP.

It’s more likely than not that a trade of Giroux fails to yield you a player of Giroux’s caliber. There’s just so much risk involved, and the downside of that risk is

This doesn’t mean we’re unconcerned about Giroux

We’ve called this season a “valley” and a “down year” for Giroux, but there is always the lingering possibility that at age 29, he’s on the downswing of his career. Part of the “Trade Giroux!” coalition seems to think that this team needs to get something for him before that downswing becomes really obvious.

His contract is rather large as we all know, and there are five more seasons on it after this one. If he’s in the midst of a precipitous decline, that’d be pretty terrible for the Flyers long term.

But while there has been a clear dip in his play — particularly this year — we’re unsure of the causes of that, or what it means for his future. It could be effects of Dave Hakstol’s coaching. It could just be a brief dip. It could turn out to be the first signs of decline, but one that doesn’t preclude him from remaining an effective player for five more seasons.

There are so many variables. The Flyers certainly should be monitoring the signs of Giroux’s decline, and they should be adjusting plans accordingly. But a trade right now, when the risk is so high and the return is uncertain? It’s not a good idea.

Claude Giroux is a very skilled, very good hockey player, and replacing him is more of a dice roll than any kind of certainty. You need to weigh legitimate risks about his decline with the improbability of replacing his talent in a trade. Unless of course you’re willing to watch five more years of terrible hockey.

I’m certainly not. The Flyers need to find other ways to improve their roster around Claude Giroux, not without him.