It’s starting to become really apparent that the Flyers will never do what is expected of them.
In his most recent 32 Thoughts column, NHL insider Elliotte Friedman had a few interesting updates on the Flyers as they prepare for the NHL trade deadline. And there was a bit of a twist at the end of his analysis.
First off, it’s been pretty widely known that Kevin Hayes and James van Riemsdyk have been on the trading block for quite a while now. However, there haven’t been any developments regarding those two, and it seems like the chatter surrounding them might be quieting down for the time being.
In addition, Friedman mentions that the likelihood of a Travis Konecny trade was always low, and that the Flyers’ attempt to find a trade partner for Felix Sandstrom has been difficult. None of this is exactly news; Konecny is highly valued by the organization, and Sandstrom, after being displaced by Samuel Ersson as the backup goalie, has become surplus goods in an organization full of young goaltenders.
But the end of Friedman’s update on the Flyers’ deadline plans was the most interesting and potentially, alarming: “The Flyers are looking for centers. Very hard to find.”
Now let’s just establish that yes, the Flyers need centers. They need at least one bona-fide top six center, and depending on if/when Sean Couturier returns to full health, you could need another one, too.
However, there is no justifiable reason to acquire one at this trade deadline.
First off, the prices will never be higher than they are right now. With competitive teams all bidding for impact players to assist in their respective playoff pushes, acquiring someone like Bo Horvat or Ryan O’Reilly would cost a pretty penny. Now you would assume the Flyers’ front office would have enough sense to not go and acquire rentals during a lost season, so imagine the cost for players like that, but with substantial term left.
Multiple picks, roster players, and prospects would have to be involved in such a trade, and it would gut a large portion of whatever future assets the team has left. And for what? Getting a worse draft pick?
The alternative here is that the Flyers are looking for some veteran depth options through the middle, maybe something similar to the Valtteri Filppula/Derrick Brassard acquisitions seen in the past.
There’s no problem with Chuck Fletcher wanting to get a veteran middle-six center. It wouldn’t really change the fact that the team is simply not good, and it would be somewhat redundant with Kevin Hayes and Scott Laughton still being on the team, but if there are plans to move Hayes soon, acquiring someone at a lower cost that could fill the same role makes enough sense not to criticize.
But again, the issue is... why would you do this now? Veteran players are aplenty in the offseason, and the rush to make a move at a crowded deadline when your season is effectively over is completely nonsensical.
Sean Monahan, Alex Killorn, and J.T. Compher are all eligible UFAs this offseason. Just wait until July and sign one of them then if it’s still such an evident need. There’s no reason to do it now.
The fact that the Flyers are even entertaining bringing players in is concerning in itself. This trade deadline’s main focus should be clearing out players who have value to other teams that aren’t the Flyers. Players like van Riemsdyk, Hayes, and Tony DeAngelo do not have any use to a rebuilding team, but they could be good peripheral pieces for a playoff squad. If you don’t want to retain salary, which would probably be necessary to trade one of the first two, then someone like Nick Seeler could interest teams as a 6th/7th defenseman.
The final possibility that could explain this interest is the most worrying: the front office doesn’t still think... that the team is still competing... right?
I, for one, cannot imagine anyone looking at the Flyers current position in the standings, then looking at their current roster, and thinking “we just need Ivan Barbashev and we’re there”. But, I also can’t imagine anyone trading a first round pick for Rasmus Ristolainen so... all benefit of the doubt has been lost at this point.
There is no reason to rush this process, it hasn’t worked up to this point, and the fanbase has lost faith in a re-tool plan that was frankly doomed from the moment the new front office was hired. Building from the ground up and acquiring pieces for the future is the most efficient way to try and turn things around, and any asset that would be included in a trade for a stopgap center is just another step back, in a process that to this point looks like Chuck Fletcher is trying to Moonwalk.