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Flyers on the trade block: Radko Gudas

Why moving the man who just won the Barry Ashbee Trophy makes sense, even if it’s not a slam dunk.

Ottawa Senators v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

As we head into Flyers General Manager Chuck Fletcher’s first offseason at the helm of the club, we’ll take a look at just what he could have up his sleeve in order to put his stamp on the roster.

Fletcher’s predecessor, Ron Hextall, did leave the Flyers’ new boss a pretty well stocked cupboard full of prospects and draft picks, in addition to an intriguing roster of veterans and youngsters at his disposal.

With the above in mind, it’s easy to see that Fletcher’s easiest path to putting his stamp and/or improving the Flyers going into next season will be via the trade market. While there are plenty of players across the league that should be available via trade, and Jason has looked all around the league at those, Fletcher also has some players on his roster that could very well be on the trade block themselves.

First up was Shayne Gostisbehere, next was Jakub Voracek. Now it’s time to return to the defense and take a look at Radko Gudas.

The skinny

Gudas, who turns 29 in a couple of weeks, was acquired as the lone NHL-player piece along with a first and third round pick in the 2015 Braydon Coburn trade. For then-GM Ron Hextall, the trade was just more about those two high picks and shedding a long-term salary as it was taking on Gudas, a younger depth defenseman that Tampa Bay was eager to turn into a more established piece on their blue line for a deep playoff run.

Since landing in Philadelphia, Gudas has turned into a really useful piece on the blue line for the Flyers. While he never profiled as a top-pair defenseman, he’s played the last handful of seasons in Philadelphia like one on a team that has had its fare share of issues on the blue line. He capped his fourth full season in Philly by taking home the Barry Ashbee Trophy, awarded annually to the Flyers’ best defenseman.

It was nice to see Gudas rewarded for what has been a really solid couple of years since that trade. Gudas posted really good metrics in his first three seasons with Corsi For percentages well over 50% (53.2% in 2015-16 and 2016-17, 51.8% in 2017-18). Those rates were usually quite a bit better than his teammates, as he averaged a Corsi Relative of 3.13% above his peers during those three years. Given that he started more than 53% of his shifts in his own zone, that’s really good work.

Despite taking home the Ashbee, the 2018-19 version of Gudas took a bit of a step back in his fourth season by some numbers, though there is room for some explanation for the dip. The Czech national posted a 49.1% Corsi For and just .07% Corsi Relative to his peers in his age-28 season, but also endured a staggering 58.6% of his shifts at even strength starting in his own zone. Given the sheer amount of time that Gudas spent in his own zone, it’s no wonder that the defender would post metrics like we saw this past year. He still posted a point production output in line with his skill level at that end with four goals and 16 assists in 77 games, and provided the Flyers with meaningful work on the penalty kill as easily their best defender in that situation.

With young defenseman like Ivan Provorov, Robert Hagg, and Shayne Gostisbehere struggling, Travis Sanheim and later Philippe Myers not trusted by the coaching staff in certain situations, they leaned on Gudas to take on some tough assignments and situations. And boy did he ever deliver.

Going into his age-29 season, that sure sounds like a player you’d want to keep around and help fill out your defense, right? Sure does, and given the Flyers’ struggles on the blue line a year ago, it’d be hard to part with a guy like Gudas for sure but we’re going to at least explore it here a little bit.

The case for trading Gudas pretty well boils down to just what Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher he has in the young defenders mentioned above. If he thinks that Provorov, Sanheim, Gostisbehere, and Myers are a formidable top four on the blue line, then he’ll likely test the waters to see if he could sell high on Gudas. There’s also a couple guys in the system on the cusp in Samuel Morin (if he’s healthy, of course) and Mark Friedman vying for NHL time. Gudas, while valuable, doesn’t really do one thing that that group above can’t cover for. Sure, he’s great on the penalty kill, but Provorov is more than capable and Myers profiles as a guy who could certainly be an asset there, while that might be where Morin finds his only home at the NHL level.

Besides what the Flyers already have, perhaps Fletcher could look to shed a body — since Andrew MacDonald is probably going nowhere — to make room for a shiny new toy like Erik Karlsson in free agency. The gang talked about the impending free agent on BSH Radio this week, and Karlsson — injuries and all — would certainly add a dynamic element to the Flyers defense. Fletcher could of course choose another route to create a spot for Karlsson, but Gostisbehere still carries a friendly contract at $4.5 million per year while Gudas could be in line for a raise on the $3.35 million that expires at the end of the 2019-20 season while MacDonald and Hagg have little to zero value.

There’s also the trade market, where Fletcher could use Gudas to try and add a forward piece. Perhaps use Gudas and the Flyers’ 11th overall pick as a starting point to try and land a legit No. 2 center behind Sean Couturier. Toronto is still searching for help on defense, and will likely lose Jake Gardiner in free agency; could Fletcher offer up a larger package with Gudas included to try and pry away a forward like William Nylander or Kasperi Kapanen from the cap strapped Leafs?

Also perhaps on the mind of Fletcher with Gudas is the players’ standing with the league as a repeat offender under the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Gudas was suspended for two games in February for bopping Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov on the head, marking the fourth such suspension of his career to go along with 10, six, and three-game suspensions. Discipline has never been a strength in his game, and he draws plenty of attention from referees and the league office whenever something he does comes into question.

The verdict

Gudas is a valuable piece for the Flyers, but with the team hiring both a veteran general manager and head coach, the team is aiming to get better —and fast. Though Gudas has graded out favorably in the past and doesn’t break the bank, it’s easy to see where Fletcher could find a lot of the things that Gudas brings to the table in other players on the roster or close to it already.

His value also plays into Fletcher’s hands as it pertains to a possible trade, as the GM can point to his strong body of work since arriving from Tampa when discussing deals with other clubs. Gudas’ salary won’t be an issue, but he is suddenly on an expiring deal and will need another one that will effectively kick off his age-30 season. That’s around when we start to see decline in most players, and there’s no guarantee that Gudas could be had for at or below his current price tag.

With all this in mind, this is a great time to explore the trade market for Gudas if you’re Chuck Fletcher. By himself Gudas won’t land you a No. 2 center, but as part of a package with another piece or two from the Flyers’ wealth of picks and prospects and you’re talking. Gudas is a fine player, and he’s been great since coming over from the Lightning, but losing him wouldn’t make or break the 2019-20 Flyers.