It is Friday, January 21st. The Philadelphia Flyers lost their 10th straight game on Thursday night. It’s their second 10-game losing streak of the season in just 40 games played. It’s almost impressive.
The NHL trade deadline is on Monday, March 21st; exactly two months away.
Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers have a lot of decisions to make. The team just lost their 10th straight game for the second time this season and have now lost 21 of their last 26 games. It’s getting late early in Philadelphia.
Last month, when it looked like Fletcher and Co. may try to buy to shake up the roster, we looked at five potential trade targets. Now, with the trade deadline two months away, we have more clarity and it’s almost certain that the Flyers are going to be sellers.
Although some fans may want the Flyers to trade everyone or everyone but a few select players, that’s just not realistic; especially not during the season. The trade market is much more active in the offseason when general managers are piecing their teams together.
However, the Flyers should try to trade a handful of their players, particularly their pending free agents, and listen on others. Not many players –– if any –– should be truly untouchable.
Here are five players that the Flyers should try to trade before the deadline.
$8.275 million cap hit, pending UFA
Claude Giroux has been in trade rumors over the past few weeks, and for good reason. The Flyers captain will be one of the best players available at the deadline and he’ll be hungry to chase a Stanley Cup.
Giroux is the Flyers’ lone All-Star and leads the team with 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) in 37 games. He’s showing no signs of slowing down at 34 years old.
This will be Giroux’s decision to make. With a full no-movement clause, the Flyers would have to get permission from the captain to pursue a trade. It’ll be up to Giroux if he wants to play out his contract (and possibly career) in Philadelphia or allow the team to look for a trade partner.
If the Flyers do get Giroux’s permission to explore the trade market, they should be able to ask for a pretty good return for the captain. A first-round pick, high-level prospect, and possibly another piece would likely be Chuck Fletcher’s ask.
There is the possibility that Giroux wants to stay in Philadelphia, however. He’s a franchise icon and that has to mean something to him. He may want to stay in Philadelphia –– or even be open to signing back with the Flyers in the offseason.
All in all, Giroux is the one key piece to sell that could kickstart the Flyers’ rebuild.
James van Riemsdyk
$7 million cap hit through 2023
The Flyers signed James van Riemsdyk back in the 2018 offseason when it looked like they were ready to take that next step. However, that never came to fruition. Now, as they (hopefully) look to revamp the team, trading JVR just makes sense.
James van Riemsdyk is on pace for 20-goal season with 16 points (10 goals, six assists) in 40 games. He’s a weapon on the power play as well with six of his 10 goals coming on the man advantage.
Unlike Giroux (and the rest of the Flyers’ highly-paid forwards), JVR does not have any sort of no-movement clause. Fletcher will be able to move him if there is a market, and there should be for a team looking to add some punch to their power play.
JVR would definitely have more value to a contender than he does to the Flyers. As stated above, there should be a market for JVR, but it may not be during the season. If there is, the Flyers would likely need to retain up to the 50% maximum of his salary or receive another high-salary player in return.
$5 million cap hit, pending UFA
Rasmus Ristolainen was acquired last offseason to shore up the Flyers defense corps. He’s been fine for the Flyers, but he hasn’t shown a ton of growth out of his bad habits from Buffalo.
Ristolainen has nine points (one goal, eight assists), 61 blocked shots, and a team-high 125 hits while averaging over 21 minutes a game this season. He should be sought after at the deadline by teams looking to add a physical defenseman that can play the “playoff-style” of hockey.
Elliotte Friedman mentioned Ristolainen in his latest 32 Thoughts column:
“14. Another unrestricted defender to watch is Philadelphia’s Rasmus Ristolainen. There was a time this was headed in the direction of the player testing the market. We will see if it changes.”
There was talk of the Flyers potentially looking to extend Ristolainen if things panned out, but it’s safe to say that Fletcher should look into moving the big defenseman.
The Flyers reportedly were one of several teams to offer a first-round pick for Ristolainen in the offseason and there should be a market for him at the deadline as well. If they can get back a high draft pick, prospect, or some combination of both for Ristolainen, the Flyers would be smart to move him.
$2 million cap hit, pending UFA
Martin Jones was a bit of a reclamation project for goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh and the Flyers. The veteran goalie had a save percentage of .896 in three straight seasons heading into this one. The Flyers took a chance on him and he’s playing better than expected.
Jones is 6-6-2 with a 3.31 goals-against average and .908 SV% this season. That’s still not great for a starting goalie, but a team looking to trade for Jones shouldn’t be looking for a starter.
The 32-year-old goalie has playoff experience with a 32-27-0 record, 2.41 GAA, and .916 SV% in 60 games with the Sharks from 2015 to 2019. A team can never have too much goaltending and there are a few teams that could use Jones’ services.
The Flyers shouldn’t expect to get much back for Jones. If they can move him for a mid-to-high round pick or prospect, Felix Sandstrom could finish out the season as the Flyers’ backup.
$1.8 million cap hit, pending UFA
Justin Braun has been one of the Flyers’ unsung heroes since being acquired in 2019. He’s done more than asked of him to fill in on the top pair over the past two seasons and he hasn’t looked completely out of place.
Braun is an aging defenseman that can bring a solid veteran presence to a playoff team. Like Jones, Braun has some playoff experience with the Sharks –– and Flyers. He’s played in 100 playoff games in his career: 84 with the Sharks from 2010 to 2019 and 16 with the Flyers in 2020.
Fletcher likely to get much back for Braun, but it’ll be something and the Flyers need all the future assets they can get to turn this ship around.
It’s not a pretty list, and the Flyers won’t get a lot of assets in return for anyone besides Giroux or maybe JVR/Ristolainen, but this is where they’re at right now.
As mentioned above, the Flyers are much more likely to make core-shattering blockbuster trades in the offseason rather than during the season. When that time comes, we’ll have to take a look at which members of the younger core are worth keeping. But that’s a conversation for another day.
For now, all we can do is sit and wait two months until the trade deadline. Let the rumors commence.