We’ve got to talk, gang. The off-season is officially upon us, and the Flyers have some housekeeping to do. They’ve got a roster to fill out, a couple of contracts to sign — or not sign — which means that they have some decisions to make.
Now, it’s also about that time of year when we have to start talking about RFA contracts, and when (some of us, at least) have to do this weird dance around the idea that “well, even though this player has played in the NHL and the team seems to like them at least some, there’s still a chance they may not re-sign them!”, to give that possibility the time of day, and we’re seeing that come out with force with the discussions around Nolan Patrick.
Patrick, now coming off of his entry level contract, is up for a new deal. Having missed the whole of the 2019-20 season with a migraine disorder, his situation is something of a strange one, and his status seems somewhat up in the air. It’s a strange situation in that there isn’t an easy comparable, and with a lot of moving pieces up in the air, making a projection on what that next contract should look like gets pretty difficult. It makes sense to wonder how the Flyers will approach a contract for a player like Patrick who, while he is a former second overall pick and has a tremendous amount of potential still, they haven’t seen play hockey since the 2018-19 season. Add into the mix some rumors kicking around that the relationship between the two parties is a bit fraught and you’ve got a virtual firestorm ready for online takes.
But a step too far, no matter how upset the team could possibly be with him — which, to be clear, they don’t seem to be in the first place — is to suggest that the Flyers aren’t going to even extend Patrick a qualifying offer and would rather just let go of him rights and send him into free agency. This is true for a lot of reasons, but chiefly among them is because, no matter how “over” Patrick the Flyers could possibly be, letting him go for free is pretty antithetical to Chuck Fletcher’s preferred way to deal with assets.
As a refresher, and for a bit of context, here’s what the Flyers, under Fletcher, have done to clear out players that they don’t see as part of their future at the NHL level:
- Traded Jordan Weal to Arizona for 2019 6th round draft pick and Jacob Graves (assigned to ECHL Reading).
- Traded Taylor Leier to Buffalo for Justin Bailey.
- Placed Jori Lehtera on waivers, assigned to AHL Phantoms.
- Traded Dale Weise to Montreal for Byron Froese and David Schlemko.
- Traded Anthony Stolarz to Edmonton for Cam Talbot.
- Bought out Andrew MacDonald.
- Traded Ryan Hartman to Dallas for Tyler Pitlick.
The trend we’re trying to point to here is that in each of those situations over the past season and a half where Fletcher pinpointed a player they no longer wanted or needed, he made sure to receive some kind of asset in return. Even if the return was just, in the case of Andrew MacDonald, the cap space and roster spot freed up.
And before anyone goes there, no this would not be the same thing with Patrick. These players are not the same. Patrick is only 21, still has plenty of potential upside, and isn’t eating up $5 million in salary per year. Moving on.
Now, it’s fair to wonder what Patrick’s NHL future may look like considering the time he’s missed, and what type of contract he’s going to demand for this next deal. Those are fair, open questions. But to suggest that the Flyers are just going to give up on him and cut him loose, at the very least, would mean they’d be doing some uncharacteristically poor asset management.
Based on Fletcher’s comments in his exit interviews, it seems that the Flyers see Patrick as being part of the team’s future, and they plan on keeping him around. This very well could change, but even if it does, given Fletcher’s history, we would expect that the Flyers would examine the trade route in order to get a fair return.
If it feels like we’re beating this point into the ground, it’s because we have to, so we’ll say it again just one more time before we go:
The Flyers are not going to let Nolan Patrick go for free. To even suggest it, quite frankly, is insane.