5 takeaways from Chuck Fletcher’s pre-trade deadline media availability
Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher spoke with the media Tuesday to lay out his plans ahead of the NHL trade deadline.
Chuck Fletcher doesn’t talk to the media very often. In fact, it seems head coach John Tortorella has served as the Philadelphia Flyers’ primary liaison of information to both the media and fan base lately, exhibited by the letter he penned to season ticket holders earlier in February.
But with the NHL trade deadline less than three days away, just about all of the league’s general managers have now had some form of media availability to communicate their plans to the paying customers.
And that now includes Fletcher.
Tuesday afternoon following the Flyers’ morning practice, Fletcher spoke with reporters to lay out his plans for the trade deadline and beyond. From the availability of Kevin Hayes to updates on Travis Konecny and Sean Couturier, the Flyers’ president of hockey operations covered pretty much all of the bases.
Here are the key highlights.
The Flyers are absolutely selling
There’s no doubt about it. The Flyers are 11 points out of a playoff spot with just 21 games left to play. Barring an inconceivable run, the Flyers are going to miss the playoffs for the third straight season.
And for the first time all season, Fletcher has flat out admitted the plan at the deadline is to sell. And Tortorella professed the same Monday.
“We’re not getting in the playoffs,” said Tortorella.
“We’re going to sell, right?”
The Flyers have a lot of players to sell, too. The most obvious is James van Riemsdyk, who the team is actively preparing to ship elsewhere. He’s in the final year of his contract, and with other big fish like Timo Meier and Patrick Kane already off the trade board, desperate teams are bound to pick up the phone inquiring about the 33-year-old winger.
But on top of van Riemsdyk, Nick Seeler is drawing interest. It’s even reportedly possible Tony DeAngelo could be moved back to the Carolina Hurricanes, though that’s far from a certainty.
There are moves for the Flyers to make. But how many will they actually make?
Fletcher open to trading Hayes
It’s no secret that Kevin Hayes and John Tortorella just haven’t managed to coexist since Torts was hired. Hayes has been benched multiple times and even reassigned to wing due to his deficiencies away from the puck.
Still, Hayes has logged 17 goals and 48 points in 60 games this season, and he also served as the Flyers’ lone representative at the NHL All-Star Game.
It’s been reported that several teams, including the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche, have expressed interest in Hayes. And while Hayes does have a 12-team no-trade clause, the chances of him being moved closer to the deadline aren’t completely nonexistent.
When asked about Hayes’ availability, Fletcher didn’t shoot down the idea of listening to offers on the 30-year-old.
“Potentially. It’s a fair question,” said Fletcher. “It will depend on market and opportunity and fit, but I’ve expressed to teams we’re open to ideas and we’re willing to listen on lots of different types of scenarios.
“Without addressing Kevin specifically, because I don’t know if it’s fair to single out names, but clearly we’d like to get even younger if we can. And if we can do that, we’re gonna try to do that.”
Speaking of getting younger...
Targeting the young guys
The Flyers are already one of the younger teams in the NHL, and it sounds like they’d like to keep the youth movement going.
With players like van Riemsdyk, Seeler and Hayes possibly (!) being on the move, young players are bound to start earning much larger roles as veterans are depart.
“As of a few days ago I believe we were the seventh-youngest roster in the NHL. Last year at the beginning of the year we were 30th, so clearly we’re getting younger,” said Fletcher.
“Torts and his staff have been working hard on building the standard and trying to reestablish the Flyer identity of being a hard team to play against. Defensively we’re getting better. Clearly we have work to do. It’s gonna be a longer process than maybe what we want, but I think we’re starting to build the right way and integrate a lot of young players into our team.”
We’ve already seen several young players earn full-time roles this season. Noah Cates is arguably the team’s best (healthy) center already. Owen Tippett has developed into a legitimate scoring threat on the wing. Morgan Frost has taken some steps forward and Cam York is looking to be a solid addition to the back end. Plus, Tortorella revealed Monday he plans to play 21-year-old prospect Elliot Desnoyers heavily during his time in the NHL.
But apparently the Flyers are open to adding even more youth to the roster with what they acquire at the deadline.
“Either or in terms of picks or prospects. We want younger assets,” said Fletcher. “Some players realistically it’ll be some kind of pick, but prospects work well too, so some combination of both would be great.”
Trust the process
The Flyers aim to compete every year without any hiccups. That hasn’t changed in recent seasons, despite their horrid on-ice product. But it sounds like Fletcher is beginning to take more of a long-term approach than he has previously.
Adding youth via trade seems to be a significant focus for Fletcher, but he’s already looking toward the draft to start gathering elite talent, which he admitted is currently missing from the roster.
“We’re not looking to take shortcuts right now,” said Fletcher.
“We want to keep getting younger. We’re gonna have an opportunity to draft a real good player this year. Right now I think we’re sitting in the eight slot. Clearly Bedard is at the top of the heap, but there’s another group of seven, eight players after that that we think are very good, so we’re gonna have an opportunity to get a good player. We have two more first-round picks the year after, so I think we have to continue to work to get younger and continue to build around some of the assets we have here.
“I’m not sure on the timeframe. I’ve seen some teams flip it pretty quickly. Probably depends on how well you draft and how well you develop, and that’s gonna be our focus.”
Updates on Konecny and Couturier
Travis Konecny, has been out of the lineup since suffering an upper-body injury against the Calgary Flames last Monday. Fletcher labeled Konecny as week-to-week, but admitted it’s possible Konecny may not be able to return by the end of the season.
“He’ll be in contact with the doctors here over the next two to three weeks. He’s on the bike today, he feels pretty good. I think he’s hopeful he can come back, but whether or not that’s realistic, we’ll see.”
Meanwhile, Sean Couturier was on the ice skating Tuesday, but it’s still unclear when, or if, he’ll be back in the lineup.
“Is there enough runway for him to play this year? I don’t know. The back is feeling great. He’s missed a lot of time. Can we get him into hockey shape with the time remaining? I’m not sure. But I think we’re pleased with the progress and he’s in a pretty good frame of mind. I think he’s excited to be out on the ice and doing more. It’s been a long, long process for him, so I think it’s more enjoyable right now and he’s feeling pretty good.”