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Flyers trade prospect Cooper Marody to Edmonton for 2019 third-round pick

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The 2015 draft pick is in the middle of a great season at Michigan. Let’s talk about the Flyers’ decision to trade him.

2015 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7
From humble beginnings.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

No better way to spice up a playoff-race off-day than some trade news! The Flyers have sent the rights to Cooper Marody, a winger currently at the University of Michigan, to the Edmonton Oilers for a third-round pick in the 2019 draft.

Marody, a sixth-rounder in the 2015 draft, is in the middle of a great season for Michigan. His 46 points (14 goals, 32 assists) lead the Big 10, and he and the Wolverines begin play in the NCAA tournament later this week.

The third-round pick that the Flyers received from Edmonton belongs to the New Jersey Devils, who traded it to the Oilers at the deadline for Pat Maroon.

So why did the Flyers trade a productive young forward for a future pick? Let’s discuss, in question and answer form.

Wait, how did the Flyers make a trade? Wasn’t the trade deadline last month?

It was! However, trades can be made at any time. The February 26 “trade deadline” marks the point at which teams’ playoff rosters are essentially set. No player that joins a team’s reserve list after that date is eligible for that team in the upcoming postseason, assuming said team makes it. (In a similar vein, you may vaguely remember Ray Emery joining the Flyers for the final week-ish of the season back in 2016; he was not eligible for the playoff roster that year.)

With a trade like this — in which the pieces involved are an NCAA player who hasn’t signed a contract yet and a draft pick two summers from now — immediate concerns about the NHL postseason are nonexistent, which is how a trade like this can feasibly happen.

Got it. So tell me about Cooper Marody.

He’s a sixth-round pick from the Flyers’ 2015 draft class. He was an intriguing pick at the time, coming off of a strong draft year in the USHL. His first two years at Michigan were an up-and-down experience. Marody started out pretty well in his freshman year, but missed some time mid-season due to mononucleosis, and unsurprisingly slowed down a bit over the rest of his freshman year. Then, he missed roughly the first half of his sophomore year after being declared academically ineligible, though he performed fairly well when he returned to the ice.

This season, though, things have come together for him in a way that you’d think the Flyers had been hoping for. As mentioned, his 46 points (14 goals, 32 assists) in 37 games led not just his Michigan team but the entire Big 10 conference in the regular season. An absolutely torrid stretch in October and November saw him post eight straight games with multiple points, and while he predictably cooled down from that pace, he’s been a dynamic offensive player all season. He was named to the initial Hobey Baker Award watch list (that’s the award that goes to the top player in college hockey) though he did not make the finalist list that was released last week.

Marody was ranked No. 22 this past January in our 25 Under 25 series.

So ... if this was a breakout year of sorts, why are the Flyers trading him?

Good question! One that’s difficult for us to answer with certainty, though we can throw out a few possible explanations that’d make some degree of sense.

For one, it’s possible that despite the big step forward the team just wasn’t that high on Marody coming through as an NHL player. Two Flyers writers — the Courier-Post’s Dave Isaac and Flyers.com’s Bill Meltzer — suggested today that they’ve heard some talent evaluators (not necessarily in the organization) state that they didn’t think a ton of him at this point.

Meltzer also mentions that he didn’t think Marody, who would only have had one year left of college eligibility, likely wouldn’t have signed an entry-level deal with the Flyers this coming offseason.

Which brings us to our next point. Could this have been a case of team and player heading for a split, and the Flyers trying to find value in doing so?

Based just on Meltzer’s second tweet above, it’s unclear which party would have been moving away from a potential deal here. It’s possible that Marody didn’t want to sign, either because he wanted to finish out his four years in college or because he decided he didn’t want to join the Flyers once he did reach the pro ranks and was willing to wait another year to essentially pick his own team. It’s also possible that the Flyers decided they weren’t going to sign him; as we discussed, they may just not have been that high on him, and a team that’s going to find itself crammed up against the roster limit pretty soon (more on this in a minute) may decide to punt on giving a guy a contract that could go to someone they like more.

If either of those was the case (which, to be clear, we don’t know for certain), then you may as well get some value for him. A third-round pick for a mid-level forward prospect — one who’s probably somewhere in the 10-15 range of the team’s top prospects at the moment — is reasonable enough, particularly if they thought the alternative was getting nothing in a year.

But if there’s any chance he turns into anything, they should’ve made a strong effort to sign him, right? I mean, they may not have been that high on him, but given the chance, they weren’t not going to sign the guy leading his conference in scoring.

I get this, and it’s why I don’t love the move. I’m fine with it, but I don’t love it. I like betting on guys who’ve shown they can score, so this is a little disappointing. But one other aspect of this that has to be taken into account is how much room the Flyers may or may not have to bring him — or any prospect — in over another one.

The Flyers are reaching a point where — and I can’t believe this organization is actually at this point — they have so many decent-or-better prospects that they’re going to have to make at least a few decisions when it comes to contracts. NHL teams are only allowed to have 50 active contracts at a time, and the Flyers are slowly sneaking up on that amount. Courtesy of CapFriendly, the Flyers have 35 NHL contracts on the books for next season (that’s not including the contracts of 2017 draft picks Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe, Matthew Strome, or Maksim Sushko; all of them will likely spend next season in the CHL and will see the start of their contracts tolled another season).

The team has 18 free agents, restricted or unrestricted, and while probably a majority of them won’t be back, several of them likely will. Robert Hagg and Samuel Morin are locks, Danick Martel probably is as well, Tyrell Goulbourne could after getting his NHL debut this year, at least one if not both of Alex Lyon and Anthony Stolarz figures to, and who knows where the Flyers stand on Brandon Manning and Valtteri Filppula? And beyond free agents, some players in the college ranks or in leagues outside of North America could get contracts. Wade Allison seems like he could after a fantastic (albeit shortened due to injury) sophomore season at Western Michigan, and Tanner Laczynski (who was second in the Big 10 in scoring behind Marody) also may get a look from the Flyers.

All in all, I expect that the Flyers, just accounting for guys currently in the organization, will enter thisoffseason with somewhere around 42 to 43 NHL contracts on their books. When you figure that the Flyers are probably going to try and add some talent from outside the organization during that time, that’s not a ton of flexibility, to the point where just because the Flyers like a prospect doesn’t mean they’d necessarily find it prudent to bring them in on contracts.

Which is how someone like Marody ends up getting dealt. Is the return kind of boring? Sure, though it’s a pretty reasonable return and it essentially replenishes what the Flyers dealt in the Petr Mrazek trade (albeit delayed by a year). Could they maybe have tried to deal him at the deadline if they knew that this situation may be coming and tried to get some immediate help instead? Maybe, though who knows how high other teams are on him.

In any case, the Flyers made a move. Best of luck to Marody in an Edmonton organization that could use some skill.