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Shayne Gostisbehere saga shows how Flyers make talent disappear

How the Flyers got nothing for one of Carolina’s top 4 defensemen.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Shayne Gostisbehere was the 78th pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. Coming out of Union College with a sterling pedigree in the NCAA, including three points in the National Championship game that helped Union win the Frozen Four.

He made his debut with the Flyers in 2014-15, and quickly became one of the more exciting defensemen in recent Flyers history by scoring five game winning goals in his rookie year. He continued to be an offensive force with the Flyers in the subsequent years, putting up a career high 65 points in 2017-18, and looking like a future building block of the next generation of Flyers hockey.

However, things went awry sometime in in 2019-20, injuries and falling out of favor with former head coach Dave Hakstol lead to Gostisbehere being scratched multiple times. Hakstol was never a fan of Gostisbehere’s freewheeling offensive style; the two clashed with one another and once the trust was lost, it never returned.

Combined with a handful of injuries, it lead to “Ghost” becoming an afterthought in Philadelphia and being scratched on multiple occasions. By the time Alain Vigneault was named coach in 2020, the writing was on the wall.

This diamond in the rough that was pretty shrewdly uncovered by Paul Holmgren in 2012 was on his way out. But by this point, he had been so good that he earned a six year deal in 2017 that paid him 4.5 million per year, which made him harder to move. Since his value had been depressed so heavily after falling out of favor in Philly, he was placed on waivers, and then cleared, which at the time didn’t seem too unbelievable simply due to his contract and the fact that teams really didn’t know what they were getting.

Gostisbehere was also left unprotected when the Seattle Kraken drafted their inaugural roster, and even then the Kraken decided against taking the defenseman, opting instead for Carsen Twarynski, who never played a game for them.

After that, getting rid of his cap hit was all that mattered, and it led to the Flyers ultimately exiling Gostisbehere to the desert in the 2021 offseason, sending a second and seventh round pick in 2022 along with him to Arizona and receiving... nothing.

Okay well, technically future considerations aren’t exactly nothing, but when you’re trading the guy who amassed the fifth-most points by a defenseman in the franchise’s history, it might as well be.

Gostisbehere was shipped to the Coyotes, where all hope goes to die, and it seemed as if he would be added to the laundry list of salary dumps that went there and disappeared off the face of the Earth.

But, with a change of scenery and more freedom to play his game, Gostisbehere bounced back almost immediately. On bad Arizona teams, he emerged as a bright spot, posting the second highest point total of his career with 51, and playing all 82 games in 2021-22. He continued his strong play into this year, and parlayed that career resurgence into a position where teams fighting for playoff spots were interested in his services.

And at this year’s trade deadline, the Carolina Hurricanes came knocking, and gave up a third round pick to acquire the 29 year-old. Through his first two games with the Hurricanes Gostisbehere has tallied four points, including a goal in his first game with his new team; a power play tally against the Arizona team that traded him just a few days prior. Vintage Ghost.

Now, why is this important? He hasn’t been a Flyer since 2020-21, and realistically keeping him wouldn’t have changed the fact that the team just flat out sucks, but it isn’t about that.

Gostisbehere’s case provides an ideal timeline, from beginning to end, on how the Flyers organization totally devalued and nearly destroyed the career of a promising young talent.

The Flyers were gifted a 22-year old rookie defenseman, with a third round pick, who had the ability to be a game-breaker with his offensive abilities immediately upon entering the league. Dave Hakstol decided that this was not acceptable, and went to work at trying to neutralize his offensive instincts at every turn.

After his confidence was sufficiently deflated to the point that he started regressing just as he should’ve entered his prime years, Hakstol was fired. Vigneault came in and saw a player who had seemingly lost “it”, and at the time the Flyers were still trying to win, so Gostisbehere never found his way back in.

Chuck Fletcher then decided to waive him, even though the odds of a team claiming a player with a 4.5 million dollar cap hit is exceedingly low and rarely happens. That virtually eliminated any chance that the Flyers could get any return in a trade involving him, and that was only enforced after he was exposed to Seattle in the expansion draft. Fletcher lost all leverage in trade talks, and he was forced to treat a talented player like an albatross contract.

Ultimately, it led to the Coyotes rehabilitating Gostisbehere’s value simply through just letting him play hockey the way that brought him to the NHL. They were then able to flip him at this year’s deadline for a pick, sending him to a superior organization with a much more storied recent history of success than the Flyers.

Carolina ended up with a quality offensive defenseman to supplement their defensive core heading into a playoff run, and filling the hole left by the departure of Tony DeAngelo, (who makes $500k per year more than Gostisbehere, by the way).

The Coyotes ended up with three draft picks, a 2nd, 3rd, and 7th to assist in their perpetual rebuild.

The Flyers not only get nothing, but they also had to give up picks to rid themselves of a player that an an Eastern Conference powerhouse deemed good enough to play for them. It is just a microcosm of how wasteful the Flyers asset management has been. It has continued through the James van Riemsdyk trade deadline saga, and it is a major organizational shortcoming that needs to be rectified if the Flyers want to have any chance at success in the near future.