The Flyers are on the hunt for an impactful star player, one who can become the centerpiece of this upcoming generation after the former crown jewels (Nolan Patrick, Ivan Provorov, and Carter Hart) all regressed this past year. In particular, the team has reason for concern at forward. Outside of single season performances from Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, and Joel Farabee, the Orange & Black are devoid of young talent up front that looks remotely capable of supplanting the aging star trio of Giroux, Voracek, and Couturier. Recent reports have put the Flyers in play for Jack Eichel, but his enormous contract and coveted status across the league will likely impose a heavy toll on an already flimsy roster. There doesn’t seem to be a cost-efficient method of acquiring a stud player to lead the team into the next generation.
Or is there?
There are a number of teams slammed against the cap around the league, with some of them offering very few enticing, high salary players that would provide a means of relief via the expansion draft. One of these teams is the Vancouver Canucks, who also happen to be in a pretty tricky situation from an organizational standpoint. Travis Green was on the hot seat throughout the year as the team floundered before getting extended at an odd time. Jim Benning was brought back again, but he doesn’t exactly inspire confidence as the right man to bring Vancouver a championship. Most importantly, the Canucks butchered the team’s COVID outbreak and mishandled the players, something that they’re reportedly not too pleased with. In the midst of all of this instability lies the hidden gem of the offseason: Elias Pettersson.
The Canucks have 12 expiring contracts on their active roster alone to renew this offseason, not to mention their prospect pool and minor league players in need of extensions. The team is currently up against the cap ceiling and will only have two major deals expiring in Alex Edler ($6 million AAV) and Brandon Sutter (just over $4 million AAV). The team will also need to pay Quinn Hughes, who is projected for a six year, $7 million AAV contract via Evolving-Hockey.com’s model. Due to his status as a 10.2C restricted free agent, Hughes will probably receive a smaller contract with less term (10.2C RFAs can only receive a qualifying offer from their team and cannot be offer sheeted), but the 21-year-old Calder runner-up will likely command an extension in line with Boston’s Charlie McAvoy. Let’s say Hughes gets three years at $5.5 million AAV; that leaves Vancouver with barely any remaining cap space, setting the scene for the Flyers and Chuck Fletcher.
If I’m Fletcher, I offer sheet Pettersson to a five year, $8,726,188 million AAV contract. The Canucks will at best be able to scrape together draft picks and prospects in order to jettison a hefty contract, and at worst hand over Pettersson to the Flyers in exchange for a relatively paltry collection of draft selections. There’s not much risk present in either scenario for Philly, outside of garnering the eternal hatred of Benning and the Vancouver front office. It’s a move that’s worth making and would prove that Chuck Fletcher is serious about pursuing big pieces in a shrewd manner.
The biggest obstacle to my evil plan here is whether Pettersson would want to leave Vancouver for Philadelphia, but it’s not hard to see the reasoning behind why they might. An unstable organization, discontented players, and a cap situation ushering in a painful future of shedding salary and bad contracts instead of competing are all collectively reason enough. The Flyers are by no means a model team, but the pieces are present here to sell a pitch to EP40; a promising goaltender, experienced stars to play with, and a market desperate for an electrifying, goal-scoring savior.
It would be difficult to successfully pull this transaction off, but it present no real downside for the Flyers and plenty of opportunity. A Pettersson extension would leave the team without a true solution on the blue line for their defensive woes, barring some more creative moves by the front office or significant internal improvement. In order to make an offer sheet for Petey possible, Philadelphia would need to jettison one of their bigger contracts (James van Riemsdyk or Jakub Voracek, perhaps) to free up cap space. The aforementioned salary dump would also need to be accomplished without using up draft picks, in order to preserve eligibility for the offer sheet. Despite all of the aforementioned problems, I don’t see a great reason for why Fletcher shouldn’t at least consider levying an offer sheet towards the spectacular Swede, barring an Eichel trade prior to the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. He’s a star player, was in MVP consideration during the 2019-20 season, and at just 22 years old has been a borderline point-per game scorer. He’s worth moving heaven and earth for. It’s time to get chaotic again.