April 12 is now a day Flyers fans have circled on their calendar as the 2020-21 season continues to slip away.
Through the weekend, the Flyers had fallen four points out of the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division and have played two more games than the fourth-place Boston Bruins, who still have six games remaining against the lowly Buffalo Sabres.
The realistic Flyers’ fan base is now eyeing the trade deadline as a time to look ahead and start shaping the team that badly needs a shakeup for next season. The offseason figures to be the more prominent time for big moves, but April 12 is a good time to get started.
Let’s take a look at a few players on the Flyers’ current roster and rank the level of spice of making a deal involving these groups of players. Who doesn’t like wings?
Keeping it light but also keeping in mind, these players are real people with real lives and family rooted in the area. That being said, the Philadelphia Flyers are a business, and right now it’s a failing business.
Dry: Shayne Gostisbehere, Kevin Hayes, James Van Riemsdyk and Jake Voracek. All have a high-paying contract with multiple years remaining, making them nearly immovable. Hayes, JVR and Voareck all make more than $7 million a year and most teams, including the expansion Seattle Kraken, won’t take on that type of deal without heavy retention by the Flyers, which defeats the purpose of trying to clear cap space. Gostisbehere has two years remaining at $4.5 million but signed a basically buyout-proof, bonus-laden contract with only $1 million each year in actual salary. Nothing is impossible, but the Flyers would likely pay a premium to unload one of these contracts.
Honey BBQ: Justin Braun, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Robert Hagg are inexpensive depth players with one year of term remaining on their contracts. The return on a trade wouldn’t be significant but they could be packaged in a larger deal. Probably won’t move the needle much even if one was dealt.
Garlic Parm: Erik Gustafsson, Michael Raffl, Brian Elliott. All three will be unrestricted free agents this summer. The Gustafsson signing just didn’t work out, and the Flyers will probably try to move him at the deadline, as playoff teams can always use a spare defenseman for the long run. Raffl has been with the Flyers since 2013, which is a long time for a bottom-six forward, especially when they might try to reshape the core. Elliott has been a good backup goaltender but turns 36 on Friday. If the phone rings on March 12, Elliott certainly could be heading somewhere else for a few months.
Mild: Scott Laughton. Also a pending unrestricted free agent, Laughton has more trade value and more risk involved. Laughton is moving up the rankings on trade deadline boards due to his manageable $2.3 million contract and his ability to play anywhere in the bottom 9. The Flyers will need to make a decision quickly on his future, as he will turn 27 next month and would likely seek a raise.
Medium: Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom. They’ve been grouped together often, as both missed significant time over the last calendar year and would probably be viewed as sell-low candidates right now. Patrick’s pedigree is still intriguing to teams as a second-overall pick and probably could benefit most by a change of scenery. Lindblom has proven he can score goals when healthy. These are the types of moves that could backfire in the long run but are worth a discussion.
Hot: Travis Konecny, Philippe Myers, Travis Sanheim. If the Flyers were securely in a playoff spot and not undergoing a complete unraveling, these three guys would probably be untouchable. But things have changed. Konecny led the team in goals last year while Myers and Sanheim were looking like a solid second pairing on defense. You want a big move? It could be right here. Konecny and Myers’ contracts both have team control that small-market teams crave. Sanheim is a restricted free agent but likely won’t break the bank after this season.
Jalepeno: Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. If he remains healthy, next season, Claude Giroux will join Bobby Clarke as just the second Flyer to play 1,000 games with the franchise. Giroux possesses a no-movement clause in his contract, which has just one year remaining at $8.275 million. Would he waive it? Giroux still produces at a 60-plus point pace at the age of 33 and probably plans on playing beyond next season. He could agree to a trade somewhere that could help boost his individual totals in attempting to find a new deal somewhere else. He could also want to compete for a Stanley Cup, which might not happen here in the next few years. If the Flyers bring him back after next season, albeit at a discount, is he still the captain despite the postseason failures? A crossroads is nearing, and the Flyers could expedite it with some tough conversations. Sean Couturier is in a similar position with one year remaining on his $4.333 million deal. It’s crazy, but hear me out: Couturier has been on one of the league’s best bargain contracts for the last five years. A big raise is coming, especially after a Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward last year. Signing Couturier to a high-salary, long-term deal is the kind of move that works great for a couple of years and becomes a bad contract quickly. Does he deserve one? Certainly. But remembering this is a business, the Flyers should approach with caution. They could trade him during the offseason and get a huge return. It’s worth exploring if they don’t think this team can compete for a Stanley Cup in the next two or three years.
Ghost Pepper: Carter Hart, Ivan Provorov, Joel Farabee. No. 1 goalies, top-pairing defensemen and young snipers don’t grow on trees. The Flyers have them and probably should keep them. Despite their struggles, which can be attributed to team failure, these three are building blocks that you would be looking to replace once you trade them. P.K. Subban-for-Shea Weber deals do happen from time to time, but it’s highly unlikely these three will be on the move.
But how spicy do you like your wings? ••