In the history of the NHL, there have been enough bad, one-sided trades that if you sat down and wrote them on a legal pad, you can make your own little desk fort full of misery.
When the Vegas Golden Knights came into the league back in 2017 — damn, that seems forever ago — the other 30 teams that were in such a bind in terms of protecting their players from the clutches of then-General Manager George McPhee, that they went into a panic and made horrendous trades that would accumulate as at least one pillar of your desk fort.
Whether it was the Florida Panthers paying Vegas to not take defenseman Alex Petrovic (who isn’t even in the NHL anymore) by ways of winger Reilly Smith (who is still scoring goals for the Golden Knights), or even the Minnesota Wild handing them Alex Tuch to protect their other guys. Teams were willing to part with young talent that they viewed as expendable, to keep some semblance of their current core in tact.
Now, so much has been made of these horrific trades — mostly due to the Golden Knights taking those players and going all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in their first year — that insiders and analysts and commenters from around the continent are saying that there is no way that any team would make the same mistake.
Except: it’s the NHL and we see teams repeatedly punching themselves in the gut and pass it as a learning experience.
We have been privy to so many mistakes from general managers around the league, and somehow they just get to keep on rolling along with their job in hand and some guarantee of sticking around. If horrible trades around a modern expansion draft has happened once, it can certainly happen again, and maybe the Philadelphia Flyers should be on the other end of it.
With all the additions that the Seattle Kraken made to their front office and the general acceptance that very intelligent people are going to have a major influence on the expansion draft, thinking that they can be tricked into some scheme to grab a good defenseman isn’t the most straight forward approach. It might be just public consensus, but it’s that for a reason.
Looking around the NHL though, there are plenty of teams that are constricted in their own bind of who to protect and who to expose for the Kraken to wrap their slimy tentacles around and bring to the northwest. Especially with the choice between seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie, or eight skaters total and one goalie—things can get really complicated, especially when it comes to defensemen.
Top-heavy teams with plenty of forward talent will want to keep that core, while potentially leaving a top-four defenseman exposed. Maybe it is exposed for Seattle, but GM Chuck Fletcher should certainly have a look at it, and see if he can grab them off their hands for cheap.
From the other team’s point-of-view, why not get an asset back for someone that would be exposed to Seattle?
For Philadelphia, it can certainly cause some trouble of their own, but considering the state of the blue line, having to go with eight total skaters and potentially losing Oskar Lindblom (or someone of that ilk) to the Kraken, might be worth it.
Mind you, these are just totally hypothetical and dream scenarios, so please don’t yell at me about how there is no way that Team X is trading away Player Y because of some expansion draft trouble.
Matt Dumba, MIN
The Minnesota Wild’s blue line is one of the best in the entire NHL and with that, comes excess players. With the resurgence of Matt Dumba this season and some mid-season drop off from forward Jordan Greenway, it is likely that GM Bill Guerin opts to protect eight skaters.
Even if Greenway is young, Dumba has been more valuable to a team that wants to turn it around quickly.
Therefore, this is only if some weird shit goes down and Dumba is left floating in the wind for Fletcher to come up and grab. He has been a phenomenal offensively-minded blueliner this season and would fit so well within this roster.
Trade rumors have always swirled around Dumba, so it’s not out of the question that Guerin makes this move—especially considering Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala needing new contracts—but it would be too good for the Flyers to make this work.
Erik Johnson, COL
Despite Erik Johnson having a No-Move Clause in his contract, the Colorado Avalanche are completely stacked on the blue line. Devon Toews, Cale Makar, and Samuel Girard are no doubt going to be the three defenseman protected, while Colorado has too many good forwards to leave someone like Andre Burakovsky exposed if they don’t get Johnson to waive it.
Would Johnson theoretically prefer a move to Seattle than Philadelphia? Maybe. Can he block this trade and just waltz over to the Kraken? Yes. Can you leave me alone and let me dream of a quasi Matt Niskanen-esque stabilizing force next to Ivan Provorov? Please.
Ethan Bear, EDM
Another defenseman that I’m crossing my fingers for prior trade rumors to pop up again. Edmonton Oilers’ Ethan Bear drives play well from the blue line and being right-handed (although handedness is overrated) just makes him a great fit for Philadelphia.
This scenario only happens if Oilers GM Ken Holland decides to protect either Tyson Barrie, Adam Larsson, or Kris Russell over Bear. With Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom certainly taking up the other two spots, and the need to protect Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto—as well as their big three offensive threats—there is certainly a case where the effects trickle down to Holland trying to get something back for a young defenseman.
If the Flyers want to make a big move, and acquire someone that won’t affect your cap significantly and can be on the blue line of the future, this would be a great option.
Vince Dunn, STL
I have previously sung the praises of St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn on this website, so it’s not a new topic. Trade rumors have been popping up for the last couple of years as he is an analytics darling that hasn’t been getting the opportunity to play with the big dogs in St. Louis.
Torey Krug, Colton Parayko and Justin Faulk have earned their protection, and with Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas needing those extra forward spots, Dunn is almost a guarantee to be exposed.
He can play on both sides of the blue line and has been racking up the points. I am completely not aware of what he will cost—as other teams are no doubt looking into him as well—but giving up a top prospect and a decent pick to help the Flyers’ overall situation while they still have Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux on their current contracts, isn’t a large price to pay.
Just look at that shit.
Nick Jensen or Brendan Dillon, WSH
This is a move that would spell out similarly to the Niskanen trade a couple years ago. Jensen and Dillon are older dudes that have some term left on their contracts, but are extremely serviceable players that have taken advantage of the high-flying Capitals offense.
The counteracting duo have been able to shut down opponents while their teammates do the heavy lifting. Especially with Dimitry Orlov and John Carlson more than earning protection and the acquisition of Anthony Mantha adding a fifth forward worthy of the same, someone will be up for grabs.
For those that love graphs, these are two similar players. Not contributing too much on the offense, but have been more than above-average defensively for the last few seasons. There is a track record with them—even when Jensen was with the horrific Detroit Red Wings—and they can contribute to winning.
Both of these players would positively impact a Flyers blue line that just needs stability. This is a short-term move and to throw a couple future assets to — again — gain some peace of mind, is well worth it in Philadelphia’s current situation.
All in all, these trades are only possible if the other front office values their forwards more than their defenders. Some are in more difficult situations and we can almost guarantee it is going to play out similarly to this hypothetical scenarios, but sometimes the move just isn’t there.
We all know that Chuck Fletcher is going to try and make a splash. Maybe he will wait until after the expansion draft has its doom and gloom clouding everyone’s mind and we can freely acquire dudes without the thought of them being snatched away by Seattle. Or maybe he can take advantage of that thought process and get someone for much cheaper than normal and just simply risk a good middle-six winger being taken instead.
It’s all possible, but we know something will be changed.