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Three additions the Flyers could make as the trade deadline looms

It’s Philadelphia Buyers season.

San Jose Sharks v Vancouver Canucks Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

With the NHL trade deadline less than two weeks away, the Philadelphia Flyers have just a little while longer to decide if there’s a deal out there worth making. With the team set to contend and having few holes in the lineup, Flyers General Manager Chuck Fletcher has the chance to make improvements to an already good squad, without mortgaging the future.

Every year, TSN Hockey’s Trade Bait board gives us a view of who is most likely to find themselves on the move. With that in mind, let us attempt to figure which potential additions make the most sense for the Flyers, and just how much salary they can add to the roster.

Salaries and the trade deadline

Player and team cap hits are calculated daily. Each day that a team is under the salary cap, they bank cap space that can be used later. This is why the Tampa Bay Lightning, whose active roster adds up to $79,643,833 — just under two million shy of the cap ceiling — are projected to have over eight million dollars in deadline cap space. (via)

Teams who have had to make use of long-term injured reserve (LTIR) to remain cap compliant, like the Flyers have, do not get to bank the cap space “cushion” each day that their daily hit surpasses the $81,500,000 ceiling. What these teams can do, however, is use the salary relief that LTIR gives them to make deadline additions — as long as the injured players are not expected back ahead of the playoffs. Once the playoffs start, the salary cap temporarily goes away.

The Flyers currently have $1,219,035 in cap space, and one unused spot on the active roster. If they were to not make any internal roster moves between now and the deadline, they could add a player, or a combination of players, on contracts with average annual values (AAV) that add up to just a hair over $5,650,000. That’s on deadline day, the 24th. Today, that number is down at around $4,400,000. Basically, if most teams were to strike a deal now, they’d be on the hook for more of a player’s salary than they would be if the trade would be made a week from now.

Update 2/17/2019: Teams that exceed the salary cap by using LTIR allowance take on a player’s full cap hit, not just a percentage of their hit. At the time of this post, the Flyers could only add a player with a maximum AAV $1,219,035. Because they are over the salary cap, players’ daily cap hits do not come into play. That number has since moved just above two million following Frost’s loan to the Phantoms. The Flyers can still add the players discussed here without moving salary out themselves through a retained salary transaction. (s/o Charlie O’Connor)

Joe Thornton (#15 on Trade Bait)

Ask just about any Flyers fan what position the Flyers need to add depth to heading into this playoff push and they’ll probably respond “center.” While Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes have been excellent top-six centers, no other full-time center has played in more than 20 games for the Flyers this season. Claude Giroux and Scott Laughton have seen time at center, however both are more effective on the wing, and AHL call-ups haven’t stuck. Connor Bunnaman may be well on his way to locking down the fourth line center spot, however that still leaves the team without a third line center.

There’s still hope that either Morgan Frost can prove to the organization that he’s NHL ready, or that Nolan Patrick will be cleared to return — but at this point neither seem all that likely. A trade for a short-term solution may be the way to go for the Flyers to stabilize the bottom-six.

Acquiring Joe Thornton does that.

The 23-year NHL veteran is still in search of that elusive ring, and while he might not be the fastest skater in the world, he thinks the game at an immensely high level. His offensive production has taken a dip this season, yet his 1.59 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 bests both Giroux and Hayes’ outputs this season. He’s still a productive NHLer.

Further, he’s had a positive impact on the Sharks’ shot share, and his talent as a passer could help the Flyers’ struggling power play. Thornton checks a lot of boxes — both on the ice and off of it — and fills the Flyers’ biggest gap.

A former teammate of Jumbo Joe, Chris Tierney, sits 17th on the Trade Bait board, and could also be the solution to the Flyers’ middle-six needs. On pace for his third straight 40+ point season, Tierney could be a solid add, though it is concerning that he’s had negative shot impacts relative to his teammates every year since entering the league. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the season, and while it feels like he’s been around for a while, he’s still only 25 years old.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau is also likely on the move, but as the widely accepted top talent available at center, the Ottawa Senators’ asking price will probably be a bit much. Pageau is having a career year, and while he’d be a fine addition, his 17.6 shooting percentage likely forces a team into an overpay. That team shouldn’t be the Flyers.

Thornton has a no-movement clause, making it entirely up to him if he would like to chase a Stanley Cup with a team other than San Jose. It’s been said that he’s “conflicted” and nobody, at least publicly, has said which way he’s leaning. And further, would he waive to join the Flyers? Is Philadelphia considered a contender around the league?

It might be unlikely, but the future Hall of Famer seems like the exact type of player that they need right now.

AAV: $2,000,000

Brenden Dillon (#5 on Trade Bait)

Staying with the Sharks, we move our attention to a defenseman — Brenden Dillon. Adding a defenseman to this roster can get tricky. Unless the Flyers would want to keep eight defensemen on the team for the remainder of the season, they’d have to trade somebody. That player would likely be either Shayne Gostisbehere, or Robert Hagg.

Dillon is known as a physical presence on the back end, and similarly to Justin Braun, his “defensively reliable” tag rings true via tangible on-ice results. As a pair last season in San Jose, the two finished with a 55.61 percent Corsi-For and 56.82 percent Expected Goals-for. Without Braun, Dillon has continued to push play in the right direction for the Sharks this season.

The two main questions you have to ask yourself with any potential addition on defense are as follows:

  • Are a handful of good games from Hagg lately enough to make you feel comfortable moving forward with him as a starter if Gostisbehere doesn’t turn things around?
  • Is the draft capital worth the upgrade when you may have internal options — Hagg, a healthy Gostisbehere, and don’t forget about Mark Friedman — who could contribute at a similar or higher level?

If your answer to the first question is no, do you then trade the Flyers’ second round pick for 20+ games of Dillon? It would leave the Flyers without any picks in the second and third round of this year’s draft, although they’d likely recoup some picks by moving a defenseman themselves.

Another left-shot defenseman who may be on the move is Alec Martinez. He’s had a rough season to date, and has another year remaining on his contract with a $4,000,000 AAV — not an ideal situation for the cap-strapped Flyers, who’d be better off re-signing Braun at a similar AAV than making a deal for the Los Angeles defender. Out of all of the defensemen on the trade list, Dillon makes the most sense for the Flyers in terms of where he’d slot into the lineup, combined with his ability and play style.

AAV: $3,270,000

Ondrej Kase (#22 on Trade Bait)

And with that, we arrive at the more longer-term addition at forward in Ondrej Kase. The 24 year old has been a stats darling since his rookie season, and this year has been no different. The biggest problem? The amount of games that he’s missed due to injury, including season-ending shoulder surgery a year ago.

Despite only being drafted in the 7th round of the 2014 entry draft, Kase made NHL debut just days prior to his 21st birthday, and has been a mainstay with the Ducks since. Not many 7th round draft picks play in the NHL at 20 years of age, but Kase was clearly a late round gem with 96 points in his first 198 games.

Over at TSN, Travis Yost wrote a great piece about why Kase is one of most intriguing names out there this deadline season. He has not only been one of the Anaheim’s most productive scorers, but is also a good all-around forward at both ends of the ice. The difference in the Ducks’ on-ice results — both shot metrics and actual goals — with Kase versus without Kase are staggering.

The injuries are a real concern, however if he can stay healthy he’s a a young top-six forward, and quite possibly a first line talent. He has one year remaining on his very team friendly contract, and is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2021.

Other than injury concerns, the question with Kase is simple — do the Flyers need another top-six forward? They already have James van Riemsdyk on the third line, all while both Patrick and Oskar Lindblom remain out of the lineup. With Frost on the way and a number of young prospects vying for NHL time, it’s fair to question if it makes sense for the Flyers to go after Kase.

With that being said, he would be, at the very least, one of the Flyers’ best six forwards for years to come. Even with the amount of talent that they already have up front; he’s that good. There aren’t many opportunities to add such a young, productive forward on a team-friendly deal to your roster, and if the Ducks really are looking to move him, a ton of teams should be interested, including the Flyers.

And now, this isn’t a real reason to go out and acquire Kase, but if David Kase can play his way into a regular role with the Flyers next year, I for one would find it fun to have another set of brothers suit up together in the City of Brotherly Love. But his play is the real story here, that’s just a nice bonus.

AAV: $2,600,000

Salary cap data via both CapFriendly and PuckPedia. On-ice data via Evolving-Hockey.