The Flyers are in a unique position this off-season with respect to seasons past in their organization’s history. Known as a team that spends to the cap ceiling, the Flyers will enter the off-season with at least $20 million in available space and only three RFAs – Robert Hagg, Taylor Leier and Samuel Morin – likely to put a small dent in that number. One would surmise from this statement that the Flyers could and should be major players in free agency this summer with names like John Tavares, John Carlson, and James van Riemsdyk potentially being available on the open market.
Unfortunately, the market thins out fairly quickly after that; it’s not what you would consider a real strong market. Because of that, I’ve decided to break down the potential trade market for the Flyers. I will be writing a series of articles, broken down by division, of names that have peaked my interest throughout my research. Please note: these are all opinions. I am not pretending to be a source or have sources in the NHL feeding me information on potentially available players. This is simply an exercise in which I went from team to team, scoured their rosters and farm systems and came up with names that I felt were both realistic to acquire and could potentially help this team both in the short term and long term.
Now that we (hopefully) understand each other, let’s get down to the nitty gritty! With my first article of this series, I’ve decided to start within the Flyers’ division, the Metropolitan.
Jeff Skinner has long been a favorite player of mine. He’s also long been a player rumored to be moved by Carolina. The left winger has just one year remaining on his current contract, carrying a $5.725M cap hit. Skinner has struggled with minor injuries in his past but has played at least 70 games every year since 2013-14. After a strong ’16-17 campaign in which he amassed a career high 37 goals and 63 points, Skinner struggled to produce this past season, managing just 24 goals and 49 points in 82 games. That said, he was still a 0.85 CF% Rel and 3.44 xGF% Rel despite a -7.95 GF% Rel, indicating he still drove play and was on the ice for quality chances; his team simply wasn’t putting the puck in the net while he was on the ice this year. Skinner will likely once again be a popular name this off-season, and given the Flyers’ need for scoring wingers with speed, I wouldn’t mind Hextall calling up the Hurricanes front office (whomever may be running it this off-season) and trying to strike a deal.
Ho-Sang has been a rather polarizing figure for a young man who’s played a grand total of 43 NHL games since turning pro in ’16-17. The 22 year old RW has been unable to pin down a permanent roster spot for the Islanders over the past 2 seasons despite displaying flashes of offensive creativity and potential. As frustrating as it must be for him, it may also be just as frustrating if not more so for the organization that drafted him with the 28th overall pick in the 2014 Draft. Could the team be frustrated enough to trade the young speedster? I wouldn’t bet money on it, but if they are, he is the type of player on which you may be able to buy low and hit big. You may just need to get him a better alarm clock.
John Tavares (sign-and-trade)
Yes, I realize Tavares is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. However, there may be extenuating circumstances. Maybe, for example, Tavares doesn’t want to stay with the Isles but wants to maximize his contract. In order to do that, he would have to sign with his current team, as only they can give him an 8 year deal. Hence, the sign-and-trade idea. The Islanders would not be getting full value for Tavares, but he wouldn’t come cheap; and you’d have him on your books for a year longer than if you were to wait for free agency and sign him during that period. On the other hand, you wouldn’t be battling 29 other teams for his services. It’s just an option, and to be honest it’s not one I would heavily explore or focus a ton of time an energy on, but it is an option nonetheless should Tavares decide he no longer wants to play for the Islanders.
Buchnevich is another somewhat polarizing young player who has had his share of healthy scratches. The 23 year old Russian plays both wing positions and brings plenty of speed and offensive flare to the equation. With the Rangers looking at a rebuild-on-the-fly, it’s unlikely they’d be looking to deal a young player who they can potentially rely upon moving forward. And a new coach behind the bench may look at Buchnevich differently than Vignault has the past two seasons. Still, he’s a player that hasn’t quite found a permanent role in the lineup and with the number of assets Hextall has at his disposal combined with a very shallow prospect pool, maybe the Rangers would take a quantity over quality approach and look to turn Buchnevich into multiple picks or prospects.
2018 #8 Overall Pick
As I pointed out above, the Rangers prospect pool is fairly shallow. Young players like Filip Chytil, Liass Andersson, Brett Howden and Libor Hajek are solid but the drop off after those youths is significant. So as I mentioned above, it’s possible the Rangers could take a quantity over quality approach as they attempt to rebuild the organization. The Flyers could offer multiple picks and/or prospects to move up and select a player that could help them more immediately while the Rangers could strengthen their system depth.
Grubauer is coming off of a strong season, so strong that he actually started Round 1 of the playoffs this year over All-Star goalie Braden Holtby. He is an RFA, so you’d be acquiring his rights and would have to sign him, but the cost to acquire and sign him isn’t likely to be prohibitive. A small but not insignificant factor, Grubauer being a Metro goalie means he has a familiarity with the teams the Flyers will play the most, so an adjustment period like the one we experienced with Elliott early should not occur. In addition, he could easily be signed to a short term deal so as to not block potential young goalies such as Carter Hart and/or Felix Sandstrom while also giving them time in the AHL should they need it.
This is much more of a swing-for-the-fences type move, but I wouldn’t say it is totally out of the realm of possibility. Holtby will have 2 more years remaining on his current deal at a $6.1M AAV. That’s a lot of money to invest in a goalie, but Holtby has a strong track record and would not be blocking the young goalies in the system given those remaining two years. As with Grubauer, being a Metro goalie doesn’t hurt. As an aside, he’s also worked with the same personal goalie coach and sports psychologist as Carter Hart. I’m not suggesting that means much, if anything at all, but it certainly couldn’t hurt for the young phenom to learn from a strong goalie like Holtby who play a similar style and share a similar mindset. This is move is largely dependent, in my opinion, on the success of the Capitals this postseason. If they are finally able to break through and reach the Cup Finals for the first time in the Ovechkin era, I doubt they look to move on from their #1 goaltender. However, if they fail yet again, Washington could certainly look to shake things up; and with their star goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov reportedly ready to sign his ELC this summer, it’s not as if they don’t have a replacement waiting in the wings. Holtby would give the Flyers a true #1 goalie for the next 2 years. It wouldn’t be cheap, but it could be something worth picking up the phone and inquiring about should the Caps fall short of their aspirations.
Trades within the division are thought to be more difficult to complete, but at the end of the day, if two teams share interest an agreement is possible. And while the options I listed may not be plentiful, I do feel they are worth a look and could help the Flyers improve, particularly in the areas of scoring depth and goaltending.
My next article will take a look at potential trade targets in the other Eastern Conference division, the Atlantic.