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Trade grades: Flyers add Ellis, Ristolainen, Atkinson

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Taking a look at the moves made by one of the busiest teams in the league.

Philadelphia Flyers v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

As the lights dimmed on the 2020-21 season, sights were set on what was expected to be an extremely active Summer for the Flyers. In short, it’s arrived. Chuck Fletcher, who recently sat down with us for a one-on-one interview, made it known that he won’t hesitate to make big changes to the roster when needed. But change isn’t inherently good, it has to be the right change. So, how do we feel about the trades that he’s made?


IN: Ryan Ellis
OUT: Phil Myers, Nolan Patrick

Brad: I think that Myers still has a very good chance to become an above-average top-four defender in Nashville, but last season certainly opened up the idea of him being a classic “all the tools” defenseman that just can’t reach that next level. Patrick has time to still become an effective forward at the NHL level, but it probably wasn’t going to happen here. It still might not happen in Vegas. For the Flyers, Ellis is exactly the type of player that they needed to add. He’s is a true top defenseman and is locked up long-term with a perfectly fine cap hit. Further, they gave up less than I think almost anyone thought they’d have to for Ellis. It’s hard to think of a realistic trade they could’ve made that bests this one. A+

Maddie: In short, this is an excellent trade. Probably the Flyers’ biggest need heading into this offseason was a top-pair RHD to play next to Ivan Provorov, and that’s exactly what they got here. It’s tough to see two young players shipped out, but it was clear that Patrick wanted a fresh start somewhere outside of Philly, and while Myers might well develop into a very good player, I’m not confident that he’ll end up hitting his ceiling and being as good as Ellis is right now. I have absolutely no complaints here. A+

Steve: When we were all making offseason shopping lists, a right side top pairing defenseman was number one with a bullet. I was skeptical that the Flyers were going to get anyone that I would even be mildly excited about. The fact that Chuck Fletcher went out and got someone as good as Ryan Ellis and gave up only Phil Myers and Nolan Patrick is astonishing. This is the best Flyers trade in years. Ellis is a legitimate top pairing guy and a downright exciting player. Can I give this more than an A+? A+

Mike: This is a tremendous trade by Fletcher no matter how you slice it up. If Myers ever truly reaches his ceiling, he’s still not going to approach the player that Ellis has been or will be in Orange and Black. Adding in the fact that he was able to leverage Patrick to help do so instead of a first-round pick aided Fletcher to make other moves. Given that Patrick was a sunk cost already and Myers’ ceiling, getting a borderline all-star in Ellis was a stroke of genius. A

Kyle: Absolutely incredible trade. The main goal heading into this offseason, much like it was last offseason once Matt Niskanen retired, was finding a partner for Ivan Provorov. This time, Chuck got the job done and got his man. The fact they were able to get him by only giving up Myers and Patrick, two guys who showed promise but never really put it altogether, is an absolute steal. A+

IN: Future Considerations
OUT: Shayne Gostisbehere, 2022 2nd round pick, 2022 7th round pick

Brad: It’s a flat cap world, and cap space is an expensive asset. We’ve seen teams forced to give up more draft capital to get out of contracts before, but I’d also argue most (not all) of those deals involved worse players. If you tie this move with the corresponding one, the grade suffers, but by itself, it’s fine. C+

Maddie: *sigh* this trade is fine. In some ways, this feels like a steep price to pay to get out from under Gostisbehere’s contract and get themselves some more cap space to work with, but if the reports that were circulating are true, that for some other teams the ask was much higher, this doesn’t feel so bad. The Flyers really needed to clear space, and while it’s bittersweet to see Gostisbehere go, it’s something that needed to happen. B-

Steve: Hated it! Look, I know Shayne Gostisbehere has been on the chopping block for a while. I know Shayne is inconsistent and not a coaching staff favorite. But come onnnnn, did the Flyers really have to give up a 2nd round pick just to get someone to take his salary? A Chuck’s gotta do what a Chuck’s gotta do, but this still greatly displeases me. C

Mike: When it happened it certainly seemed like an overpay to have to unload a far-from-bloated contract with a high pick — would have figured moving out a contract like Jakub Voracek’s would be in that cost range and more but not Ghost. Fletcher’s goal was to overhaul his defense and in the planning it was clear that Ghost wasn’t going to be a part of the new unit moving forward, and the general manager clearly valued clearing out the cap for other moves rather than ride the Ghost experience again. C

Kyle: A Shayne Gostisbehere trade was always going to suck, but I’m not sure we expected it to be this bad. Now I agree that Ghost’s time was up here and it was best if both sides just move on, but it would have been nice to see even a late round pick come back our way. Regardless it was a move that needed to be made to shake up the culture here, and for that, I can’t be too hard on the deal. C

IN: Rasmus Ristolainen
OUT: Robert Hagg, 2021 1st round pick (#13), 2023 2nd round pick

Brad: There’s no guarantee that Ristolainen will be as bad as he was with Buffalo, but boy is this trade the dark cloud hanging over an otherwise fantastic off-season. The absolute best-case scenario here is that Ristolainen becomes a serviceable middle pair defender, and even then this feels like a lot to give up. That also doesn’t seem all that likely. It helps that he shouldn’t be playing on the top pair here, and it’s worth noting that his most likely partner, Travis Sanheim, has carried Andrew MacDonald to respectable on-ice results in the past. So, there are reasons to be hopeful for a turnaround beyond just blaming his previous seasons on the Sabres’ organization. However, cap space is more valuable than ever, and the Flyers not only actively chose to use $5,400,000 on Ristolainen this season, but also gave up the 13th overall pick to do it. There’s definitely a chance that this isn’t looked back on as an awful trade, but for now, I can’t go any higher. F

Maddie: I’m not totally willing to call this trade a complete failure until I see how Ristolainen fits in with this Flyers roster and system, but that said, I’m not feeling great about this one. Ristolainen’s never posted very good results at 5-on-5, his cap hit is significant, and the Flyers paid a huge premium to get him. The Flyers are taking a real gamble that this one works out, and even if it does, they still likely overpaid for the player they got. D

Steve: This feels like an overcompensation to appease the old school fanbase. There is definitely a contingent of Flyers fans that have been screaming for the team to get a big body in there to slam dudes into the boards and throw a few sneaky elbows a game. Risto is a big boy for sure, and he can put up some points, but that’s basically where my compliments end. This is a huge overpayment for a 26 year old whose game is already developed. I desperately want to know what Chuck Fletcher and co. see in Ristolainen that made him worth a first round pick and a second round pick. But, much like how many licks it takes to get to the center of that famous lollipop, we’ll never know. D

Mike: Fletcher has had his sights set on the player for years — in his own words — and it shows with the price he paid to acquire him. If Ristolainen was signed for a few more years it would still might have been an overpay, but instead Fletcher gets one of the worst-graded defenders in hockey for the next handful of months with the chance to re-sign him at increased value provided he’s anything other than a dumpster fire! And even in that case, if eight years of Ristolainen being a dumpster fire isn’t enough, it’s not like Fletcher seeing a player he coveted in bad times every day is going to make him change his mind. Would have been better off saving the picks and being creative somewhere else like he did with the Ellis trade. Disappointing. D

Kyle: I am 100% the only one here ok with this trade, and I also concede I might not be ok with it shortly into the season. Ristolainen is, by essentially every metric available, a bad player. So trading a first round pick for him ... not exactly ideal. With that said, Fletcher clearly had a goal this offseason of making the Flyers harder to play against, which I love. This isn’t about face punching, but it’s about bringing in guys who are going to be absolute jerks to play against. It’s an overpayment for sure, but in a weaker draft year, I’m more ok with giving up the first. Risto might suck, but I’m willing to get behind the notion a change of scenery will be huge for him. He seems excited to play here, and for now, I’m excited to see what he’ll bring. C-

IN: Cam Atkinson
OUT: Jakub Voracek

Brad: I’ve been a big Voracek defender over the years, but it’s tough to imagine the Flyers finding a better trade involving him than the one they made with Columbus. Atkinson is a better two-way player and while his contract lasts for one more season than Voracek’s, it frees up just over $2M in cap space in the short term. This point won’t even matter so long as his game doesn’t fall off a cliff, but a potential buyout of his contract down the road hurts the Flyers much less than a Voracek buyout would have. On the ice, Atkinson should prove to be a great addition to the team’s penalty kill, brings a shoot-first mentality that they were lacking, and makes them quicker up front. B+

Maddie: I think there really is a lot to like here. As was the case with Gostisbehere, it does feel a little weird to see a core piece like Voracek shipped out, but the return here is certainly a good one. Atkinson’s still a very good player, I’m happy with the addition for his playdriving and shorthanded impacts, even if it means losing a bit of the scoring punch you would have had with Voracek. We’ve talked already about how much of an asset cap space is right now, and now they have a little bit more to work with. And on top of all of that, one of the underlying threads of this offseason for the Flyers seems to be them looking for a bit of a locker room/culture reset, and shipping out one of the longest tenured members of that core group certainly accomplishes that kind of shakeup. This isn’t a sure thing, checks every box kind of move, but it’s pretty close. B+

Steve: I am going to miss the hell out of Jakub, but if you were looking to shake this team up, he was the obvious candidate. Cam Atkinson is about as close to a trade win as you can get in this scenario. He’s a great locker room presence, he kills penalties, he scores goals. What more could a Flyers fan want in a return for Voracek? We will miss the epic orange beard and point production for sure, but getting cap space and a useful player is huge in this flat cap world. B

Mike: Something had to give with the Flyers’ core, and Voracek always felt like he was the most logical candidate to move on. While still a point producing machine, Voracek’s play driving numbers have dipped in recent years and he’s been inconsistent almost period to period while providing negative value anywhere but the offensive zone. Atkinson brings a high energy player with a willingness to shot and create scoring chances from anywhere — a perfect trade off for the Flyers here. While he might not top Voracek in a straight points production battle, it’ll be damn close — especially if Atkinson finds ample time alongside Sean Couturier and/or Claude Giroux. Great shake up type of trade from Fletcher, and saving a bit on the cap as well in the process. B

Kyle: My twitter handle is literally in honor of Voracek, so this one stung a bit. But, it was absolutely time to move him and truly shake up the core. Voracek and Giroux have been together since the 2011-12 season, and clearly if one was to be traded, it was going to be Jake. We’ve been aching for shoot-first wingers on this team for a long time now, and Atkinson fits that bill. And like Ristolainen, he brings that pain in the ass to play against mentality. He’s a good penalty killer, and continues to score at a good pace even into his 30’s as a smaller winger. I love Jake and will always cherish what he did here, and the incredible displays of talent he put on, but this is a damn good trade by Fletcher. A