clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

When was the last time the Flyers made a trade that made them better?

Asking for an (old) friend.

Philadelphia Flyers v Winnipeg Jets
It has been a while.
Photo by Travis Golby/NHLI via Getty Images

As of my beginning to write this article on Thursday evening, the Philadelphia Flyers have made one (1) trade in the week leading up to an unusually active and eventful trade deadline, that being the sending of 2017 second-round pick Isaac Ratcliffe to Nashville for (/does a quick Google search for “future considerations”) effectively nothing. It feels unlikely that we will hit 3:00 p.m. today with this still being the case, as James van Riemsdyk feels all but assured to be dealt and who knows what else may happen, but so far the Flyers have probably been one of the quietest teams of the week to date.

The one thing we know for relative certain? The Flyers aren’t buying. They’re not making a big move to add a player that’s going to make them better tomorrow than they were yesterday. That’s not in the cards.

This, of course, stands in stark contrast to many NHL teams out there. Teams at the very top of the standings, such as Boston or New Jersey or Carolina, have all made moves in the past week to load up for a playoff run. But others further down the standings have made their moves as well. Such as, say, the Ottawa Senators, who traded three draft picks for NHL Money Laundering Operation Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun on Wednesday.

Why is that noteworthy here on this Flyers website? Well, here’s Senators GM Pierre Dorion, who was asked on Thursday morning if he made the trade for Chychrun in part because of his team coming on strong in recent games (most notably with a back-to-back pair of beatdowns laid upon the Red Wings earlier this week) and putting themselves back in the playoff race. Emphasis mine:

I think we owe it to the players. Anyone who’s watched us play for the last little while cant not be impressed with how they’ve played, how hard they’ve worked, y’know? They’ve sent me, and our group, an indirect message. Some said it publicly [laughter], but ... for us, it was a message from them, y’know? ‘Please, guys, do something.’ We believe in this team. And ... [beat] y’know what? The other thing, I probably shouldn’t say this, but I made a promise to Claude Giroux that I would get a D before the end of the year, and we got him a D.

I made a promise to Claude Giroux that I would get him a good player.


Without further context, the guess here is that Dorion is saying he promised this last summer as part of his pitch to bring Giroux (who was and is, of course, from “nearby” Hearst) to Ottawa. Fascinating to see a team prioritize making a star player happy, huh?

Now, some of you may be reading this and asking why we can’t move on from Claude Giroux, who has now not been a Flyer for close to a calendar year. (Thanks for reading!) But honestly, Claude Giroux himself is only kind of the point here. More than the man himself, think for a second about The Claude Giroux Era, which effectively began on June 23, 2011, when Paul Holmgren sent the Flyers’ two best forwards to Columbus and Los Angeles. Think about everything that’s happened since then.

(We don’t need to give you much time to think about it. Really, not much has happened.)

With that era, which ended last March after 11 years, in mind, I posit a simple question: did Claude Giroux’s new team get a bigger boost via trade with Wednesday’s trade of Jakob Chychrun than it did at any point during his 11-year run as the best player on the Philadelphia Flyers?

Think about it for a bit. If you need a refresher, here’s a link to a list of every single trade the Flyers have made since the Mike Richards and Jeff Carter deals. Take a second and really bask in the glory of that list, then come back here and think about that question there.

Let’s really consider that list. Here are, in my opinion, the five trades made by the Flyers in that time — in the last 12 years — that came closest to making the Flyers a better hockey team immediately, i.e. right then and there:

  • April 3, 2013: Steve Mason for Michael Leighton and a 2015 third-round pick. This one is pushing it, because it was not immediately clear that Mason was good — in fact, there were a lot of reasons at the time to think Mason was going to be bad, primary among them being that he had been bad for about 90% of his career prior to that trade. But he was good for the rest of that shortened season, was solid the following year, and was at least solid if not better for most of his Flyers tenure. Considering the bar Ilya Bryzgalov had set before him, tough to say this wasn’t an improvement for the Flyers.
  • June 12, 2013: Mark Streit’s UFA rights for a 2014 fourth-round pick and Shane Harper. Was Streit worth the four-year, $21 million deal the Flyers gave him at that point in his career? Probably not. But he was a respectable player and a clear upgrade from what the Flyers had been trotting out on defense the prior year.
  • June 27, 2015: Sam Gagner and a 2016 fourth-round pick for Nicklas Grossmann and Chris Pronger(’s contract): Probably an addition-by-subtraction deal here, but removing a barely-playable defenseman (who the Flyers, to be clear, did play a lot) and adding a solid top-9 forward was a clear win.
  • June 3, 2019: Kevin Hayes’ UFA rights for a fifth-round pick. Like the Streit deal above, the fact that Hayes is almost certainly not worth the contract the Flyers signed him to doesn’t change the reality that he was (and is) a clear upgrade on what the Flyers had in his spot before, especially knowing in hindsight that Nolan Patrick was effectively done as an NHL player at that point.
  • July 8, 2022: Tony DeAngelo for a second-round pick, a third-round pick, and a fourth-round pick: Listen, I’m not thrilled that this is on the list, and the fact that a guy that’s already been scratched less than a year into his Flyers tenure is one of the closest things to a win-now player they’ve added made in the last 12 years speaks to how deeply sad a list this is.

If you’re reading that list and wondering “oh my God that is the saddest list I’ve ever read, but hey, what about (other very sad trade the Flyers have made in this timeframe)?”, there’s a bit of a post-script at the bottom of this piece addressing all of them. (Please read it, I suffered a lot writing it so you should have to suffer through reading it.) You could probably swap a couple of those in for a couple of the ones mentioned above, because these are all very, very big reaches when it comes to classifying any of them as “successful win-now moves”.

Which is the point here, isn’t it? The last time the Flyers made a move that told their fans and their own players “we’re going for something big, and here’s a big trade to prove it” and that move even a little bit worked out as planned was ... probably the Chris Pronger trade in 2009? (Which, for whatever happened in and after October 2011, still helped get the Flyers within two wins of a Stanley Cup?)

2009. 14 years ago. It has been 14 years since the Flyers pushed the chips in and got something back for it.

Yeah, real tough to wonder why Claude Giroux wanted that promise from Dorion that they’d make a big move.

The Flyers are hopefully going to sell some pieces today. They are not going to be making a big move that will make this team better tomorrow, or this year. It is probably going to be a while until we see them actually make a move as exciting as the one that the team that now employs their captain of the previous decade made on Wednesday.

But, eh. We’ve been waiting 14 years for one. What’s a few more?

And now, the Extremely Sad List Of Trades Made By The Flyers Since June 2011 That Did Not, For Varying Reasons, Make The Top-5 List Above (note that this is not an exhaustive list and does not include trades that were clearly not upgrades, i.e. trading Brayden Schenn for Jori Lehtera):

  • 2011: Jakub Voracek, a first-round pick, and a third-round pick for Jeff Carter: Mentioning this here because even if this trade worked out about as well as one could reasonably have expected for the Flyers, it feels difficult to call it a real win-now move given that they traded a 40-goal scorer to make it happen and then the guy who made the trade (Paul Holmgren) famously came out an hour after making it and said (paraphrasing) “I don’t know if we’re better, but we’re different.”
  • 2011: Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, and a second-round pick for Mike Richards and Rob Bordson: See above, replacing “40-goal scorer” with “top-line center”. Also, Rob Bordson being a part of this trade is a great trivia bit.
  • 2012: Nicklas Grossmann for a second-round pick and a third-round pick: No.
  • 2012: Pavel Kubina for a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick: Somehow, even more no.
  • 2013: Simon Gagne for a fourth-round pick: A fun move to try and mend fences, but Simon was what he was at that point in his career (and then ... then the fences got un-mended that following offseason anyway).
  • 2013: Steve Downie for Maxime Talbot: Probably an upgrade, but seems tough to say it was a clear one.
  • 2014: Andrew MacDonald for a second-round pick and a third-round pick: Don’t make me rehash this.
  • 2014: R.J. Umberger and a fourth-round pick for Scott Hartnell: Even if you think this one was a logical trade in the long-run (and that’s debatable), clearly a downgrade in the short-term.
  • 2015: Radko Gudas, a first-round pick, and a third-round pick for Braydon Coburn: Clearly a good trade. But not a win-now one by any stretch.
  • 2015: A third-round pick for Zac Rinaldo: This could probably be on the top section by way of extreme addition by subtraction, but we’ll keep it here.
  • 2016: Jordan Weal and a third-round pick for Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn: Even if you like Weal and don’t care for the two guys the Flyers traded, hard to call this a particularly big win.
  • 2017: Valtteri Filppula, a fourth-round pick, and a seventh-round pick for Mark Streit: Absolutely not.
  • 2018: Petr Mrazek for a third-round pick: This could have been a big upgrade, but turned out Petr Mrazek was really bad. Who knew!
  • 2019: Cam Talbot for Anthony Stolarz: Someday we’re going to learn why the Flyers traded for Cam Talbot and then basically didn’t play him for the entire rest of the season.
  • 2019: Matt Niskanen for Radko Gudas: In hindsight, a clear upgrade (for one season). But Niskanen was coming off of a pretty bad year and it wasn’t clear how much he had in the tank.
  • 2019: Justin Braun for a second- and third-round pick: Again, trade worked out for the Flyers on-ice (if you set aside what feels like a high cost for a guy who was never really more than a No. 4 defenseman for this team), but Braun was also coming off of a bad year in 2018-19 and it wasn’t obvious he was an upgrade on what the Flyers had.
  • 2021: Ryan Ellis for Nolan Patrick and Phil Myers: This one hurts to write out. Because, well ... this should be it! It should be the one we’re talking about as a big, chips-in move that showed that the Flyers were trying to go for something. But that, of course, is not what happened.
  • 2021: Rasmus Ristolainen for Robert Hagg, a first-round pick, and a second-round pick: Ristolainen is probably better than Hagg but calling this a clear and significant upgrade feels like a reach.
  • 2021: Cam Atkinson for Jakub Voracek: A worthwhile trade, and one of Chuck Fletcher’s only truly creative moves. But not clear at the time it was an upgrade as much as it was a shake-up.