The Central division was home to two of the top teams in the NHL this season, Nashville and Winnipeg. They also had a few underachievers. St. Louis really took a dive after a strong start and the Stars’ roster just didn’t seem to mesh well with Hitchcock’s defense-first system (shocking when a coach won’t adjust his system to his team’s strengths, isn’t it?).
So with this in mind, are there any players in this division that could be of interest to the Flyers? Let’s find out!
If you’re looking for a 3C this summer, Faksa could be an interesting place to start. The 24 year old is signed through ’19-20 at $2.2M AAV. He’s a big body who skates well and can play a 200 foot game. He’s improved his goal totals each year over his 3 year career and has 20 goal potential. He also plays the penalty kill, something the Flyers obviously need. Faksa may not be a popular or nationally-known name, but he does the hard work and with 15 of his 17 goals coming at even strength this past season (the other two coming short-handed) despite just 33.4 OZ% starts, Faksa could provide some much needed scoring depth along with strong defensive play.
Minnesota is an interesting team to target this summer. They have a lot of players to sign and not a lot of money to do so. One of the players due to break the bank is Jason Zucker. Zucker is an RFA coming off of a 33 goal, 64 point season. He’s fast, dynamic and can play either wing position. The Wild would be crazy to trade him and he obviously wouldn’t come cheap; and the Flyers would then have to pay him on top of giving up valuable assets for him. Of the players I will mention in this article, Zucker is one of if not the biggest stretch. At the very least, it’s something to ponder and as they say, it can’t hurt to ask.
Coyle is a name I’ve seen populate through Twitter and for good reason. He’s big, he forechecks like a demon, he brings it every shift and he produces fairly well on top of it. Better yet, he can also play the wing, so he wouldn’t necessarily be blocking a player like Morgan Frost in the near future. Coyle can also kill penalties, filling an obvious need. If you’re looking for a specific role to be filled – in this case, a 3C that can kill penalties – Coyle fits the bill fairly well.
So far from Minnesota I’ve named a pipe dream and a role player. In my opinion, Nino is the most interesting option. Signed at $5.25M through 2022, the big and speedy winger brings strong play driving ability and even strength scoring to the fold. He wouldn’t come cheap, but at $5.25M over the next 4 seasons, I’d rather pay him that kind of money than re-sign Wayne Simmonds for that or potentially more over more years. Coyle is the name that’s come up the most out of Minnesota and he’d be a solid addition at the right price. But if I’m Hextall, I’d be more interested in finding out what it would take to get Neiderreiter in orange and black.
Earlier I mentioned Zucker as one of the stretches in this article as a possible trade option. Ryan Ellis is the other stretch. Ellis is a phenomenal defenseman due for a big raise on his next contract, which happens to be at the end of the ’18-19 season. Ellis has said he would like to stay in Nashville and I’m sure the Predators would love to have him back, but it’s possible they could move him if they feel they can’t afford him. Ellis can bring it in all three phases of the game, and if the Flyers are looking to be bold, this would be a bold move. It’s not something I’d harp on or spend a ton of time looking into if I was Hextall, but it’s an intriguing option nonetheless.
Hutton is coming off of his best season as a pro, putting up a 2.09 GAA and .931 SV% in 32 games for the Blues. He’s signed to a very reasonable contract of $1.125M through the end of next season. Hutton was actually a member of the Flyers organization back in the ’09-10 season when he started 4 games for the then Adirondack Phantoms. Hutton is no spring chicken (he turns 33 in December) and until last season he had been nothing more than a slightly below average NHL back up, but he could be a cheap option to pair with Brian Elliott should the Flyers decide to move on from Michal Neuvirth.
Barbashev is a young, speedy forward trying to carve out a role in the NHL. Over his first two seasons he has played a total of 83 games and amassed 25 points, none of which coming on the powerplay. He also hasn’t really jumped off the page in terms of his underlying numbers. They’re solid (49.6% adj CF%, -1.47 CF% Rel, 51.65% xGF%, 0.9% xGF% Rel) but by no means outstanding. So why bring him up as a trade target? Potential. His 1.53 P/60 at 5v5 over his first 83 games is solid middle 6 production. Not great, but solid. As a means for comparison, Jordan Weal has a 1.53 P/60 over the past 2 seasons, 92 games in total. Would we want another Jordan Weal? Well, Barbashev is about three and a half years younger so where Weal at 26 years old possibly peaks at around 1.53 P/60, Barbashev at 22 going on 23 years old has potential to improve upon that number, along with his play driving metrics, and maybe even on the powerplay if given the opportunity (he’s played a total of 8:53 on the PP over his first 83 NHL games). He’s also slightly bigger and faster and has played both C and LW in his early career. He’s a young player and a cheap player signed through the end of next season, so it’s not as though I’d expect St. Louis to be openly shopping the young Russian. And I can’t say with any degree of certainty that he’s better than some of the in-house options the Flyers have at their disposal. I’ve just always been a fan of his game from his junior days and it never hurts to acquire as much young talent as possible.
I took a few more home run swings in this article, but again, nothing I feel like is totally far-fetched. In my final article of this series, I’ll take a look through the Pacific, where I feel the options while limited may be a bit more enticing. Stay tuned!