Chuck Fletcher defends decision not to deal James van Riemsdyk at NHL trade deadline

Fletcher isn’t worried about his job after his latest blunder.

The NHL trade deadline has officially passed, and now the Philadelphia Flyers fan base is demanding answers.

Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher had a deal involving impending free agent James van Riemsdyk fall through with minutes to spare before the deadline. Van Riemsdyk was one of the top forwards available at the trade deadline, and now the Flyers risk the possibility of losing him this summer for nothing.

On Tuesday afternoon, Fletcher told reporters the Flyers would be sellers. But instead of moving their most valuable trade candidate, they shipped off depth forwards Patrick Brown and Zach MacEwen and ended up acquiring a pair of late-round draft picks and an enforcer.

It was yet another baffling failure on a laundry list of gaffes by the Flyers’ GM. And minutes after Friday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline, Fletcher did his best to defend his passivity while speaking with the media.

“I didn’t have any offers at all until about 1:40,” said Fletcher. “I got a call from a team and they had a concept that if they were able to move a forward off of their team then they had interest in acquiring JvR. We talked about the parameters and what the deal would look like, and it made sense from that standpoint, but all along it was conditional on the other trade going through. And eventually the other deal fell through.”

Fletcher claimed he found out the deal fell through about 25 minutes before the deadline.

“We certainly made everybody aware he was available. We made everybody aware we would retain 50%. We made everybody aware that we could even take back a contract if that helped a little bit more on the cap or the cash. We talked about a different range, different ways of getting there, prospects, a pick, multiple picks, whatever it would be — conditional pick — we talked about all kinds of different scenarios. But ultimately again, I can only control my half, and there has to be a willing buyer. And until 1:40 today, we never had any type of offer, and the offer we got was conditional.”

It’s a bit curious that only one team approached the Flyers about acquiring van Riemsdyk. While his numbers have dipped this season, van Riemsdyk remains a solid middle-six point producer on the wing. After all, it was just last season that he led the Flyers in goals.

The 33-year-old has seven seasons with 20-plus goals under his belt and has actually stood out this season (in a good way) in the play-driving department. He’s the only Flyer with a 5-on-5 Corsi For percentage above 50%, and he’s logged solid numbers in numerous other advanced stat categories.

Van Riemsdyk’s services may no longer be needed for a non-playoff team in Philadelphia, but they’d certainly be of use to a team gearing up for a deep run in the postseason. According to Fletcher, though, no team was willing to give up even a fourth-round pick for him.

“That’s exactly what I’d been saying to teams. ‘This guy’s a good player. He can help you. I’ll give him to you at $3.5 million and let’s cut a fair deal.’”

That deal clearly never came.

Now, Fletcher has his sights set on improving the team in the offseason, and he’d like to do that by injecting even more youth into the roster, which he also stated during his media availability on Tuesday.

“Our goal is to get younger. We do want to add more young assets. We are a younger team this year. We do have some pieces in Lehigh Valley and elsewhere that we think could be part of the solution going forward. We do have some veteran players on our team, mid-range aged guys, that we think can be a part of this too as we go forward.

“We’re gonna just continue to look at every opportunity to get better. The trade deadline was one opportunity. There was not fair deals in my opinion to be made. There are some things that potentially could happen in the summer, and as we go forward, we’ll just continue to look at those opportunities.”

But will Fletcher even be around to make moves come the summer? With this latest misstep, there is a legitimate possibility Fletcher could be in serious danger of losing his job. And given the sheer volume of unproductive moves he’s made as general manager of the Flyers, it would be hard for anyone to give him something even loosely resembling a vote of confidence.

But that’s not something Fletcher is thinking about at this point.

“I’m not worried about my job. Whatever happens with me will happen with me. That’s up to Dave Scott,” said Fletcher. “Everything I do is about doing what’s right for the Philadelphia Flyers and not taking shortcuts. And that’s in part why we didn’t make any more deals today. The deals that were presented to me were not good deals for the Philadelphia Flyers.”

The Flyers’ next game comes Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings at Wells Fargo Center, and one can logically assume fans will be voicing their displeasure with the state of the team throughout the evening.