The 2018 NHL Draft is suddenly just three days away and is —outside of the trade deadline— the best time for teams to wheel and deal on the trade phones.
Flyers GM Ron Hextall was active on the draft floor a year ago, dealing Brayden Schenn for Jori Lehtera and two first-round picks (Morgan Frost, No. 14 overall this year). Hextall said during his most recent press availability that he envisions making both the No. 14 and No. 19 picks in the first round on Friday night, but that he was also keeping an open mind if a deal came along that made sense.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at who the Flyers might have on the trade block heading into the draft this time around.
Simmonds will be 30 by the time the 2018-19 season kicks off, but still has one season remaining on the six-year, $23.85 million extension he signed with the Flyers back in 2012. That deal, which carries a cap hit slightly under $4 million, was a huge steal for the club in terms of overall value. Simmonds has racked up 159 goals and 143 assists for 302 points in 440 games since signing the deal.
The former second-round pick of the Kings has become one of the NHL’s most deadly power play weapons. Since 2012 he ranks second in the NHL with 75 power play goals, second only to Alexander Ovechkin. He also has 127 power play points in that same span, which is good for 17th overall. Simmonds has also been durable as heck despite his rugged style, playing in at least 75 games in every season that hasn’t been lockout shortened in his 10-year career.
Given all that, why in the heck would the Flyers want to make Simmonds available?
Well he’s going to be 30, which isn’t a kind age to power forwards, and his body really went through the gauntlet last season. Then there’s the whole contract situation where he’s due for a large raise on the nearly $4 million he made on his previous deal. With a deep prospect pool and roster players like Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom ready for bigger roles on the power play, now could be the time to get value for Simmonds before having to fork over a ton of money for what essentially will be the downside of his career.
The Flyers’ first-round picks (No. 14 and No. 19 overall)
Hextall said as recently as last week that he plans on making both of these picks, but that all depends on how the board falls and what could be out on the trade market. The Flyers are in a great position with two picks in the first round, a competitive NHL roster and a deep prospect pool.
The Flyers need an upgrade in goal at some point and could really use a more effective third center than Valtteri Filppula was last year. Hextall could use on of these two picks to upgrade at center, grab another defenseman, or pursue a goaltender.
If a player falls that the Flyers have targeted in the pre-draft process, they could use their first-round capital to trade up the draft board and make it happen.
Since being acquired from Tampa Bay in the Braydon Coburn deal Gudas has been a nice fit with the Flyers. He’s posted a 3.3% Corsi relative to his teammates in his three years in Philadelphia, but his expected goals percentages have been below 50% in two of the last three years. His possession stats, though, are often inflated by high shot totals (8th-most on the team last year) and a low shooting percentage (1.4%).
He kills penalties, blocks a ton of shots and gives the Flyers a bit of nasty on the back end but his slew of suspensions has started to take a bit of snarl out of his game. Given the Flyers’ stacked prospect pool on defense and a big contract looming for Ivan Provorov, Gudas could be sent packing to create a space for a youngster on the blue line while saving some cap space for the future.
Though we’ve seen fellow rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim’s name bandied about in some trade talk, there’s no way that Hextall would wait this long for Sanheim to arrive and pull the plug by including him in a deal now for anyone not named Erik Karlsson or Drew Doughty. Sanheim was Hextall’s first draft pick and flashed in his 49 games last season, he’s not going anywhere just yet.
Hagg, on the other hand, can and should be available should Hextall want to swing a move on draft day. The 23-year-old played in 70 games last year, notching three goals and six assists for nine points while averaging 18:08 of ice time per game. He’s never going to post a ton of offensive numbers, but he’s young, physical, kills penalties and doesn’t always treat the puck like a live grenade. The Swede still needs work, but there are tools there to work with.
Given the presence of Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere established as the Flyers’ top pairing, Sanheim and Phil Myers on the way, there might not be room for Hagg before long. If the right deal comes along Hextall can move Hagg as part of a package for a player or a pick and not lose much sleep.
Michal Neuvirth/Brian Elliott
Neither goaltender was much to write home about last season, but both have proven to be effective as crease time shares in their careers and would both be excellent backups.
Elliott is 33 and has one season left on his deal with a cap hit of $2.75 million. His .909 save percentage and 2.66 goals-against average were slightly above his career marks but they were right around the league average nonetheless. He did have core muscle surgery in February and shouldn’t be playing more than 60 games a year anymore but a team looking for a well-priced veteran goalie could do far worse than Elliott.
As for Neuvirth, it’s the same old story it’s always been for the 30-year-old: he just can’t stay healthy enough to be counted on. He fought through injuries again last year, playing in just 22 games but posting a team-best .915 save percentage. Again, he makes $2.5 million against the cap and has one lone season remaining on his deal. With Carter Hart in the wings and the Flyers (likely) growing impatient with the myriad of injuries, Neuvirth could be on move as early as the draft.
Given what Alex Lyon showed Ron Hextall and the Flyers’ brass in emergency last year, losing one of Elliott/Neuvirth wouldn’t be the end of the world by any means.
The Flyers would probably love to see someone take a flier on the 30-year-old, and so would we. Lehtera chipped in just three goals and five assists while playing in 62 games last season after being acquired as a cash dump by Hextall in order to get another first-round pick out of the Blues. Lehtera could be easily replaced and using some of his bloated salary elsewhere on the roster would really help the Flyers in the short-term.
Lehtera carries one more season with a $4.7 million cap hit, which in lies the issue with any deal involving the player. His point production has plummeted from 44 points in 2014-15 to 34 points in 2015-16 all the way down to the eight points he had in Philly this year. That kind of production won’t generate much interest for anyone, let alone what kind of price tag is attached.
Hextall likely won’t be able to move Lehtera in a trade without pairing him with a sweet draft pick, but we’re sure every team that the Flyers’ GM gets in touch with will be reminded that the Fin is available. Hextall also has said that he doesn’t plan on using a buyout on the former third-round pick, either, so there’s that.
Dear NHL general manager named Peter or
Garth, if you’re reading this: trade for Dale Weise. He’s 29, just two years removed from a career-high 14 goals, and would be an instant impact to the bottom-six of your AHL team. Let’s do this, you know you want to.