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Fletcher focusing on ‘aggressive retool’ instead of potential rebuild

The Flyers GM doesn’t want this to be a long process.

2021 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Carlee Calfee/NHLI via Getty Images

The Philadelphia Flyers are going to try to not be one of the worst teams in the league beyond this season.

There is a certain word in that statement that is key, but the message was extremely clear when Flyers General Manager Chuck Fletcher and Governor Dave Scott met with the media on Wednesday: Retool, patch it up, fix what’s broken, but do not even think about this team heading into a rebuild scenario.

“Everything is on the table, we’re going to try to aggressively retool here,” Fletcher said. “The trade deadline; typically, as you all know, the teams that are clearly going to make the playoffs are often looking to add guys on expiring contracts — the teams that aren’t making the playoffs, have a chance to maybe add some future assets, whether they be draft picks or prospects.

“We’re at the 43-game mark. Right now, we’re really focused on trying to win some games and get better. The math is daunting, so in view of that, if this continues, then we’re going to look to do what we can at the trade deadline to improve this team going forward.”

Aside from the current season and the context that at this point of the season, to call it done and simply pack up as you prepare to trade away all of your good players, is a little bit backward. There is no way any team is making a definitive statement on their season just over halfway. But beyond that, Fletcher made it clear that if they are not in a position to even ponder about the potential of a post-season, then they will be looking to gather what they can to make this team better going forward.

When posed with a question regarding a lack of true elite talent on the roster, Fletcher made sure that it’s a long process to get that kind of player, and that they’re working on it.

“I don’t think there’s any question that we need more top-end talent,” he said. “Claude Giroux is our best offensive hockey player — he’s 34 years old and he was drafted 16 years ago. We have some good young players, and some of those young players, their career arc is still going to play out, but we do need more top-end talent. There’s no question.

“I think we’ve tried to address that in the last few years, adding some players with some skill sets that we need. We just have to continue to chip away at that. I do believe there’s a group of players here that can be part of a winning core, but we definitely need to add more pieces and that will be the focus moving forward.”

The notion of “chipping away” at acquiring more talent was extremely prominent in everything that the Flyers GM said. He knows that the best way to automatically have that kind of player on your team is by drafting them and lucking out in development, but there could be other avenues.

“The easiest way to get top-end talent is through the draft,” Fletcher said. “Historically, that’s been proven year after year. Bottoming out, I don’t think that’s what we feel we need to do. I do believe we have good pieces and realistically, players like Couturier and Ellis are going to come back at some point, and when they come back, we’re a significantly better hockey team. But we need to take advantage of the opportunities we do have in the draft, we have to look at trades, and obviously, you can always supplement your roster through free agency. Look, we need more top-end talent and through the draft is the easiest way, but we’re not going to trade all 20 of our players and try to get 15 picks every year. I don’t think that’s the right approach.”

There is no rebuild coming, so you all can settle down about that.

As Fletcher repeated often enough, there are good players on this roster and all they need to do is somehow find a way to get more talent, develop more young players, and build on a foundation of success to eventually earn a championship. Easy!

While it all depends on what moves they make in the coming months, there is no way that they want to envision a long process that will take years to gather back some of the talent they will sell-off, if that was the case.

“I don’t really see this as a three, four, five-year rebuild at all, and I don’t think Chuck does either,” Flyers Governor, and CEO of Comcast Spectacor, Dave Scott said. “We have a pretty good core. I think it really starts with a healthy [Couturier] and Hayes, Farabee, would love to have Ellis back. We’ve got a core group to build on. I think if you look at the reality of it, two, three pieces would be great, maybe more. But the core is good, we just have to get healthy.

“My job is to make sure Chuck has all the resources he needs to make this a success, and he does. I can tell you everything is on the table. We’re looking at the front office, we’re looking at the coaching staff, which we have been, our players, investment — whatever we need to do to improve this team. ... We should get this thing right and we should be in it next year.”

With the number of players that they have tied up to multi-year contracts with huge chunks of salaries, there really isn’t any other option besides trying again next year. Depending on how you view the players they are on the Flyers, they could theoretically turn it around enough this summer with getting enough assets for their rentals, getting lucky on some trades, and having the young players make the proper jump into the NHL.

This entire process, of course, begins with the decision whether or not to trade one of your best players in franchise history.

“Claude has a no-move clause, so ultimately it will be his decision,” Fletcher said after praising the Flyers captain. “We’re at the halfway point; we’re two months until the trade deadline, so I guess the best way to put it is that we’re going to continue to have conversations, and ultimately, a decision will have to be made one way or another, but it will be Claude’s decision.”

We can’t believe there are still two months until the trade deadline, but here we are. With Giroux’s name absent from the list of core players, or no mention of him really being a future part of this team, the writing is on the wall for an eventual trade. And it will be as close to the deadline as possible. With every day that passes, his cap hit on the season decreases and opens up more possibilities for teams to acquire the player with minimal financial impact.

Fletcher said he spoke with Giroux’s agent Pat Brisson on Tuesday, so they are at least in conversation about whether or not the player will waive his no-move clause for a certain contender.

It is going to be an interesting few months in Philadelphia, no matter what happens.