The busiest day of the NHL regular season is finally here. The NHL’s trade deadline is today — Monday, February 26 — at 3:00 p.m. ET, as teams around the league attempt to stock up for a playoff run, sell off pieces for future assets, or some in-between area. Follow along with us here, while we chime in with some thoughts on the big rumors of the day.
12:57 p.m. ET
Two hours out, still waiting for big moves
The morning didn’t come and go without some mildly noteworthy Flyers news. The Flyers essentially executed a waiver swap of seventh defensemen, losing Mark Alt to the Colorado Avalanche but picking up Johnny Oduya from the Ottawa Senators. Meanwhile, as we expected, they’ve signed John Muse to an NHL contract for the rest of the season, giving them another fill-in option in net.
That’s about as exciting as things may get on deadline day for the Flyers, though there’s theoretically still time for things to change. Of the names mentioned below that the Flyers have been at least loosely linked to, only Ryan Hartman has moved teams, as he was sent from Chicago to Nashville.
Deal is Hartman + 5th in 2018 for 1st in 2018 + Victor Edjsell + Nashville 4th in 2018— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) February 26, 2018
That’s, in essence, a first-round pick and a mid-level prospect. If that’s the cost for a 23-year old third-liner, I’d have preferred the Flyers held off of it, since ideally a first-round pick will net you, at worst, a third-liner.
The other names mentioned below are largely still available. We’ll see how things go in the last two hours before the deadline. The NHL as a whole hasn’t made many big moves yet — the biggest may have been the Blues surprisingly trading Paul Stastny to the Predators — but there’s time for that to change.
8:54 a.m. ET
Speculation: Flyers possibly interested in Thomas Vanek?
We got another name to add to the pile! This one is Canucks winger Thomas Vanek, and the source of the rumor here is The Athletic’s James Mirtle, who dropped this nugget into the comments of his site’s trade deadline open thread at 3 in the morning.
Vanek has long been a good goal-scoring winger in the NHL, and though his best days are clearly behind him, he’s performed respectably for himself this year at age 34, with 17 goals in 61 games on a wretched Canucks team. That said, it’s tough to call Vanek anything more than “one-dimensional” at this point in time, even if that dimension (goal-scoring) is an important one: Vanek is very slow and is brutal defensively, to the point where he’s been a possession drag relative to his teammates even on a bad Canucks team.
Mirtle’s speculation above seems to be just that: speculation. But Vanek — an unrestricted free agent this summer — is going to get traded today, and it’s interesting to see that at least one fairly plugged-in national reporter thinks that the Flyers will be in play there.
8:00 a.m. ET
The Flyers, of course, made their “expected” move last week, trading a pair of conditional picks to Detroit for goaltender Petr Mrazek. The trade shored up the goalie position for the Flyers, who lost both of their regular goalies to injuries earlier this month.
There hasn’t been a ton of other smoke emanating out of south Philadelphia as it pertains to the Flyers and rumors, but when you find yourself in the chase to win a division title — the way the Flyers currently do — you’ll find your name in some rumors. Let’s briefly run through those here.
Flyers checking in on Evander Kane, but to a “lesser extent”
Sabres winger Evander Kane, who has very seriously been linked to the Flyers in trade rumors in the past, is about as much of a lock as there is to get dealt today. He’s a talented goal-scoring winger whose contract runs out this summer and he plays on a team that’s terrible. He likely won’t come cheap for whoever gets him.
Which is why “whoever gets him” likely won’t be the Flyers, but it sounds like they’re at least checking. Courtesy of the godfather of all trade rumors, TSN’s Bob McKenzie:
I don’t get the sense the teams who are interested in E Kane in BUF are same teams who were/are chasing Nash with NYR but Kane suitors will no doubt want to see what is potential yield on any Nash deal. SJ, ANA and, to lesser extent PHI, reportedly looking at E Kane.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 25, 2018
Because PHI is playing so well, GM Ron Hextall may want to enhance his team’s chances of getting into playoffs/doing well, but he’s been hesitant to pay premium prices on a rental. Some of other teams (not PHI) eyeing E Kane may be considering him possibly more than a rental.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 25, 2018
McKenzie’s tweets make it seem fairly clear that the Flyers aren’t exactly the favorites to land Kane, as he mentions that their interest in him is of a “lesser extent” than that of San Jose and Anaheim, and that the Flyers would not be particularly interested in Kane as anything more than a rental.
Still, McKenzie does mention that Hextall hasn’t totally closed the door on buying at the deadline, though he qualifies that statement by saying that Hextall has been “hesitant” to pay a ton for rentals. On the one hand, every GM is “hesitant” to pay a ton at the trade deadline at first; on the other hand, this does fit with the idea that this may not be an “all-in” trade deadline for the Flyers. I definitely wouldn’t count on Evander Kane being a Flyer at 3:00 today, but we’ll keep an eye on where he ends up.
Chicago’s Ryan Hartman a potential option, but price may be too high
One of the more surprising (and welcome) developments of this NHL season has been the Chicago Blackhawks’ fall from grace, as they are essentially guaranteed to miss the playoffs after a decade or so atop the league. This has led to them being on the sellers’ side of the fence, and they already made one near-deadline trade when they sent defenseman Michael Kempny to the Capitals for a late pick.
It’s tough to say how hard Chicago is going to sell, as they may be hesitant to totally blow things up after a bad year (and they’re also hamstrung by some bad contracts and no-move clauses). But they’re certainly going to be looking around, and apparently they’ve put at least one player out there that has piqued the Flyers’ interest: 2013 first-round pick Ryan Hartman. Courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus on Sunday afternoon:
The Jets, Flyers and Hurricanes have been sniffing around Ryan Hartman. But I get the sense the Blackhawks' asking price is too high.— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) February 25, 2018
Hartman, a 23-year old right wing, will be a restricted free agent this summer after he wraps up his entry-level contract. He’s posted eight goals and 17 assists in 57 games this season, a point pace slightly ahead of that of his rookie year, and he’s been a positive possession player at 5-on-5 for most of his young career. Just how willing Chicago is to deal Hartman is unclear; Lazerus does suggest that the price may be too high for someone else to get interested, and our friends over at Second City Hockey responded to this rumor by saying that there’s “little reason for the Blackhawks to move him unless they’re offered a good package.”
In some ways (but on a smaller scale, since he’s a lesser player), this is similar to the Sam Reinhart speculation that we discussed last week. Hartman wouldn’t be a true “rental” since he’d be a young player that would be under team control for at least four more seasons after this one. But of course, that means that his price will be higher than it would be for a standard rental. My guess is there’s probably not a deal to be had here, but if the Flyers do make a deal today, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it be one for a guy like this.
Flyers waive two players, likely to set up some paper transactions
Today is the first day of the season in which there is no roster limit for NHL teams. After being restricted to 23 players for most of the year, teams can hold any number of players starting on the day of the trade deadline, subject to the league’s rules regarding call-ups after the deadline.
Another rule that comes into play today is that any player who is on an NHL roster at the time of the deadline is not eligible for the AHL postseason. This can lead to a number of “paper transactions”, where players are temporarily demoted from their NHL teams so they can be eligible to play in the Calder Cup playoffs, only to be called up after the deadline ends.
It would not be surprising to see the Flyers make a couple of moves like that today. For one, Mark Alt, the Flyers’ seventh defenseman for the past month, was waived yesterday. It’s theoretically possible that he was demoted to make space for another player, be that a trade acquisition or a call-up, but it also could just be a move for the Flyers to get an AHL veteran eligible for the Phantoms’ postseason. If that’s the case, Alt will likely get called up after the deadline, though potentially not right away. (Each team only gets four non-emergency call-ups after the deadline, so the Flyers might not call Alt or his replacement up until/unless they absolutely need to.)
It also wouldn’t be surprising to see Oskar Lindblom optioned to the Phantoms at some point today, though if that happens it’s much likely to be a pure paper transaction than Alt’s would be, since Lindblom is currently playing a second-line role for the Flyers and is much less readily replaceable than Alt is. Lindblom has, of course, been with the Phantoms all year long until last week, so it’d make sense if the Flyers want to give themselves the chance to send him back there for the AHL playoffs. With that said, if Lindblom is not optioned down today, it could be something of a tell by the Flyers that they think he’s going to be with the NHL team for good. So keep your eyes peeled there.
Finally, we could see another goalie move by the Flyers today. John Muse, a goaltender currently with the Phantoms, was also waived by the Flyers yesterday, which is interesting for one particular reason: Muse doesn’t currently have an NHL contract, and has been playing for the Phantoms (and, before that, the ECHL’s Reading Royals) on an AHL-only contract. This would suggest that, assuming Muse clears waivers, the Flyers are planning to offer Muse an NHL contract today.
Muse was excellent for the Royals in the early part of the year, and since Alex Lyon was called up to the Flyers in light of Brian Elliott’s (and Michal Neuvirth’s) injuries, Muse has been similarly fantastic in eight games for the Phantoms, posting a .934 save percentage with Lehigh Valley. In moving to quickly sign him to an NHL deal, the Flyers are indicating that Muse — and not Dustin Tokarski, the Phantoms’ other goalie who is currently on an NHL contract — would be the likely call-up if something happens to either Lyon or Mrazek in the time between now and whenever one of Elliott or Neuvirth returns. Hopefully it never comes to that, but in any case it’s a cool reward for a guy who started the year in the ECHL and has been great at multiple levels since then.
Those are (for now) the biggest Flyers-related deadline storylines heading into the day. But there are plenty of others to watch around the league today. Are the Senators really going to trade Erik Karlsson? How many Rangers end up getting sold off? Do we get any big surprises?
Feel free to use the comments here to discuss today’s NHL happenings. We’ll update this post today with our thoughts on various rumors throughout the day up through the deadline at 3:00 p.m. ET.