Wednesday afternoon, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr spoke with the media as they prepare for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. The Flyers currently own the No. 5 overall pick of the draft, but it’s no guarantee they’ll keep their selection — especially after they shipped off last year’s first-round pick (and change) to acquire Rasmus Ristolainen from the Buffalo Sabres.
Fletcher’s plan to “aggressively retool” the Flyers could involve various types of transactions, including swapping the No. 5 pick for a player with high-end talent. But according to Fletcher, the player they’d receive in such a move would have to fit a very specific criteria.
“If we’re gonna trade the pick outright, it needs to be for a player in a certain age group. It’d have to be a player that could help us win now, but also win for several years. I don’t think we’re looking to bring in somebody in their late 20s or early 30s,” said Fletcher.
“I’m speaking to every team in the league, I know we say this every year, but it’s definitely true this year, trying to ascertain what the value of that pick is. And if somebody has designs on it and makes the fair offer, we’ve got to consider everything.”
What kind of players with high-end talent in their early to mid-20s could be available? One that makes sense is Chicago Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat. The 24-year-old is coming off a 78-point season, and while he may be small in stature (5-foot-7, 165 pounds), he’s becoming one of the NHL’s more dynamic offensive talents.
Another interesting name could be Vancouver Canucks forward Conor Garland. Garland was rumored to be on the trade block earlier this year, and even though he didn’t end up being dealt at the trade deadline, it’s possible a trade involving the 26-year-old could be orchestrated as draft day approaches. Garland is coming off his best season as a pro with 52 points in 77 games.
If the Flyers opt to keep their pick, though, they’ll have no shortage of intriguing options at No. 5. And they’re not being picky about the type of player they’re looking for, either — so long as they have high-end skill.
“You’ve heard the old adage, ‘best player available,’ but we’re looking for a player whether it’s — realistically it’s not going gonna be a goaltender this year at five certainly — but a forward or defenseman that has a skillset that can help us for many years. So we’re open to either position. There are some excellent defensemen, some excellent forwards, and certainly we’re looking for talent at the top of the draft.”
Joel Farabee’s injury unrelated to anything he suffered during the season
Last Friday, the Flyers announced forward Joel Farabee would be out between three and four months after undergoing disc replacement surgery in his cervical region.
Many assumed the goal of the surgery was to repair an ailment Farabee suffered during the season, but it turns out this is a new issue that didn’t present itself until very recently.
“It happened two weeks ago,” said Fletcher. “Crazy. I think it was one of his first sort of formal workouts of the summer. He was warming up with light weights on the bench press and he felt, I think he called it a pinch or some kind of pinching sensation in his neck area, so he was able to see a doctor in the Syracuse area, got some imaging done, we got him down here last Monday to see Dr. Yoon, and then we literally got him into surgery four days later.
“I don’t even know what to say. Extremely unfortunate and unlucky for him. But I think we moved as quickly as we could once we knew he had issues.”
Disc replacement surgeries are very new in the NHL. Vegas Golden Knights forward Jack Eichel famously was the first to undergo the operation. Blackhawks forward Tyler Johnson, and now Farabee, are the only other players known to have undergone a similar procedure.
The hope is that Farabee will be ready to roll come the regular season, but that’s not a guarantee. And it’s not the priority, either.
“I’m not even sure that’s important to me. Just looking at some of the schedule drafts we have coming out, I think we have eight games in the month of October, so to me it’s about getting him right,” said Fletcher.
“I’m not 100 percent sure yet how quickly he can get into getting stronger and really working on, not just his upper body but his lower body as well and building some strength to help him become a little bit more durable. He plays hard, he’s a fearless kid, and this is gonna be a big summer for him from a strength and development scenario. That’s certainly an important part of the rehab. It’s not just getting him healthy, but it’s how can we get him stronger?
“For me, whether it’s three months or four months, at the end of the day, if he’s ready for Game 1, great. If he misses five, six, seven games and we can push him a little bit further, that might make sense too. We’ll make every decision with him based on his long-term health, welfare and development.”
Flyers unsure if Ryan Ellis will be ready for training camp
Ryan Ellis is still recovering from his “multilayered” injury that kept him out of commission for much of the 2021-22 season.
Will he be ready for training camp? It’s too early to tell. But the Flyers are hopeful.
“I don’t know how anybody can predict that right now,” said Fletcher. “That’s certainly the hope and the goal, but we’ll have to see. Starting to ramp up the rehab, which is great that he’s at that point where he can ramp it up, but we’ll just have to see how everything responds.”