NHL Trade Deadline: Fletcher needs to get what he can for Flyers’ pending free agents

With Giroux gone and Ristolainen extended, Fletcher needs to get what he can for Braun, Brassard, and Jones.

The NHL trade deadline is here, and the Philadelphia Flyers don’t have much left for sale. They traded their captain Claude Giroux to the Florida Panthers on Saturday, re-signed Rasmus Ristolainen two weeks ago, and don’t have many prized pending UFAs left.

Two months ago, we wrote about five players that the Flyers should look to move this season. Those five players were Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk, Rasmus Ristolainen, Martin Jones, and Justin Braun.

Giroux was the Flyers’ biggest trade chip and he was dealt for Owen Tippett and two draft picks. Ristolainen was signed to a contract extension, a maddening one at that, instead of being traded to help the rebuild/retool. van Riemsdyk is unlikely to be moved, although he could be someone to watch in the offseason.

That leaves two off that list –– Jones and Braun –– as well as a few select others that could be moved at the deadline. Not only could they be moved, but they should be moved.

In a rebuild, retool, or any sort of team reset, accumulating assets is paramount. We saw Ron Hextall unsuccessfully rebuild, but it wasn’t for a lack of assets. He cleared out cap space to accumulate draft picks and young players; it’s just that those picks and players haven’t panned out. In theory, it was the right way to go. In practice, there were some flaws.

Now, with the Flyers facing another similar situation, Fletcher has to do what he can to set himself up for a successful offseason. It looks like the Flyers are in fact going to try to win again starting next season –– or in the next few seasons ––, rather than rebuilding and setting their sights on the mid-2020s. If that’s the case, they need to flip what declining assets –– and expiring contracts –– that they can at the trade deadline.

Let’s take a look at a few of the players that should be shipped out today.

Justin Braun

Braun is the main name to watch. The veteran defenseman was held out of Sunday’s win against the Islanders due to “asset management.”

“There’s been a lot of teams calling on Justin, and we’ll see what that means over the next day, whether we move him or not,” Fletcher said on Sunday afternoon. “He plays really hard. He’s a guy who blocks shots and takes hits. I just thought it would be prudent to at least resolve this over the next 24 hours and just hold him out for today”

He was previously linked to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who traded for Mark Giordano on Sunday, but he could be of use to a playoff team.

In the past few days, similar-caliber defensemen have been traded for a variety of return packages depending on the player and contract situation. For a guy like Braun, who has been one of the Flyers’ most consistent defensemen, he should be able to fetch a mid-round pick or two. He has playoff experience and plays a steady game that can thrive on the third pair for a deeper team.

Braun is the one guy that Fletcher has to trade. He was held out of the lineup on Sunday, so even if he gets a fourth or fifth-round pick for him, that’s better than nothing.

Derick Brassard

All things considered, Brassard has turned out to be one of the Flyers’ best offseason acquisitions. He was signed in late August to a one-year, $825k contract as a depth center option.

When healthy, Brassard has played above that level. Brassard is somehow tied for 11th on the Flyers with 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 30 games. He’s also won 51% of his 196 faceoffs taken.

Brassard has primarily played with Joel Farabee and Cam Atkinson on the Flyers’ “FAB” line, usually seeing second-line minutes.

Like Braun, Brassard plays a responsible game that can add depth to a contender. He also has quite a bit of playoff experience. Brassard played in 117 playoff games for five different teams across eight years, including 18 games in 2020 with the Islanders.

The Flyers will be lucky to get back much more than a fourth- or likely fifth-round pick for Brassard. It’ll be a trade for a contender like the Flyers made two years ago when they acquired Derek Grant and Nate Thompson: veteran insurance for a playoff run.

Martin Jones

The goalie market is going to be interesting. Scott Wedgewood was traded for a conditional fourth-round pick last night, Petr Mrazek was waived yesterday, and there are a handful of teams looking for goalie help. While most of those teams would ideally like a starter, Jones is capable of filling in as a backup for a team with depth or injury issues in the crease.

Jones is 7-12-3 with a 3.36 goals-against average and .902 save percentage this season. It’s certainly not impressive, but it’s an increase over his consistent .896 SV% in the past three seasons. If you put a decent defense in front of him, Jones has the ability to give his team a chance to win.

Two months ago, Elliotte Friedman reported that the Oilers had interest in Jones.

“3. If Philadelphia had been willing to take a late-round pick for Martin Jones, it’s possible he would already be an Edmonton Oiler. But the Flyers wanted something better and felt the market will strengthen as we get closer to the deadline.”

Jones’ name hasn’t been in many rumors recently, but a late-round pick for him would be just fine. The Flyers could call up Felix Sandstrom or pluck a goalie off waivers to back up Carter Hart for the final 20 games of the season.

Keith Yandle

This seems highly unlikely given his play, but some playoff team may want a guy like Yandle in the locker room. He’s the NHL’s ironman although that may not be deserved based on his play. If he’s traded to a contender, it could come to an end.

Yandle will probably not be traded, but a late-round pick of any sort would be another asset for the Flyers to use in their retool.

It’s also possible that Fletcher makes a “hockey trade” to shake things up. There have been whispers about Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim since the Ristolainen extension. However, that would likely be something that comes to fruition in the offseason.

Nevertheless, it’s been talked about by Fletcher. And more importantly, the trade deadline gives the Flyers a chance to gather information and ideas for their rebuild.

“The interesting thing about the last few weeks has been that I’ve been able to speak to a lot of teams about different types of ideas and most of them don’t make a lot of sense right now. I think it’s been really good to get an idea of what may be available in the summer,” Fletcher said. “I remember the trade deadline in 2018-19, my first year here. I had a long talk with Brian MacLellan about Niskanen and Gudas. At the time, it just didn’t make sense for Washington to pull the trigger, but in June, it did. I don’t know how eventful the next 24 hours will be for us, but it’s been a very informative process.”

But back to today.

It’s important for the Flyers to gather what assets they can. Even if it is only a fourth-round pick (or later), those picks can be used in future deals to either buy a rental (if the aggressive retool goes well) or package with another pick or player in a bigger deal. These guys are pending free agents. Get what you can for them and use those assets to rework the team in the summer.

The clock is ticking, Chuck.