Flyers Should Still Sell At Deadline Despite Their Recent Hot Play
So, you’re on board with the Flyers getting back in this playoff race, eh?
I understand why. The team is 11-2-1 in their last 14 games. They shrugged off a pivotal home loss to Pittsburgh and a terrible first period the next night in Minnesota to come back and beat the Wild.
They are once again just six points behind Pittsburgh for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with just 25 games to go. Pretty remarkable since a month ago they were the worst team in hockey.
But the odds of making the playoffs remain long.
Don’t believe me? See for yourself:
Odds of the Flyers making the playoffs as of 2/13/19
- HockeyReference.com – 3.4%
- SportsClubStats.com – 1.5%
- The Athletic – 9.0%
- PlayoffStatus.com – 8.0%
- MoneyPuck.com – 5.1%
So, unless your name is Lloyd Christmas, your focus should be on the 2019-2020 season already.
The reason being, it’s really hard to expect the Flyers to maintain the level of the Tampa Bay Lightning (they’d have to finish the season roughly 14-7-4 in those last 25 games, making it 25-9-5 over the final 39 games of the season) AND have three of four teams falter to the tune of .500 records or worse the rest of the way (Columbus, Pittsburgh, Carolina and/or Buffalo).
It’s really asking a lot. That’s why their odds are so long no matter where you look.
So, with the trade deadline now less than two weeks away, General Manager Chuck Fletcher needs to concentrate on next season.
This Flyers team is close. You are seeing what kind of a difference a consistent goaltender can make. You are seeing what kind of a difference good team defense can make. Fletcher doesn’t need to tear it down, he just needs to fine-tune it.
Which is why he wasn’t lying when he said the Flyers will be both buyers and sellers at the trade deadline.
Fletcher could move players on expiring contracts. He could move players that may have term left but could bring valuable return. And he could put the Flyers in a great position heading into the draft and free agency with extra picks, a stocked cupboard of prospects and plenty of cap room.
So, who could go? I’ve been sniffing around as best I can and I’m hearing some things that are interesting some things that are not a surprise and am being left to speculate in other areas. So let’s tackle this after the jump:
1. Wayne Simmonds
Everyone in the NHL is talking about Wayne Simmonds, and his case is certainly an interesting one. There’s no doubt Chuck Fletcher has put him out there for trade discussion, but will he find a deal that makes sense? My inkling is he will, but the Flyers are making it tough on him right now.
That’s because to a man, everyone in the Flyers locker room loves Simmonds and what he brings to the team. Yes, his point production is down and yes, there have been times this year where he’s looked like a shell of himself. But the guy plays the game with his balls to the wall. He’s got one of the great motors in the sport in the past decade and he definitely can be a difference maker on a Cup-contending team.
I’ve been told that each of the following teams has expressed interest: Tampa Bay, Calgary, Nashville, Vegas, Boston, Winnipeg and Toronto.
Considering the Predators had to trade a second round pick for depth forward Brian Boyle last week, the Flyers are poised to do much better than that with Wayne. He’s going to net them at least a first rounder. I say “at least” because if Fletcher is able to get desperate teams into a bidding war, he might be able to procure another prospect or even NHL player in return as well.
I think this price tag will be too rich for Toronto, Calgary and Nashville, who are already limited by what they can trade, but I’m thinking Simmonds can be the missing piece for Tampa as they try to net their second Cup.
And the other bit of tea leaf reading on Simmonds is this – because he means so much to the organization, and the players in the Flyers locker room, he could certainly be a candidate to be moved at the deadline, make a run somewhere else, and then come back to the Flyers as a free agent in the offseason if he’s willing to sign a shorter-term deal.
That could well be the best play for Fletcher and I wouldn’t be surprised if that conversation has come up with Simmonds and his agent.
2. Michael Raffl
Another unrestricted free agent, the Flyers could look to get something for Raffl who could be a valuable depth piece for a playoff team who needs to add to their penalty kill.
Raffl is mostly a fourth liner these days for the Flyers, but has shown the versatility to play any forward position and anywhere in the lineup. Not to mention he’s hard to knock off the puck, making him desirable to teams who need a little size and possession skill.
Pure speculation here, but St. Louis would be a nice fit for Raffl now that they have worked their way back into a playoff spot.
3. Brian Elliott
He hasn’t played in three months, but the Flyers might want to get Elliott a game or two of action before the deadline as he is the kind of veteran goalie with playoff experience that can come in handy for a team down the stretch and as insurance in the postseason.
Because he’s also an unrestricted free agent, Elliott could be of interest to a team like Dallas, who is dealing with an injury to Ben Bishop, or Vegas, who might want a reliable backup for Marc-Andre Fleury.
But, it’s important to prove he’s healthy first. So, don’t be shocked if he gets a couple starts instead of Carter Hart. Hart is the future for the Flyers. Elliott can bring a return to add to that future.
4. Radko Gudas
He has been the Flyers’ most consistent defenseman all season – and I’m sure that’s noticeable around the league.
What’s also notable around the league is, he’s a stay-at-home defenseman, he’s a right-hand shot, he plays heavy, he blocks shots and he kills penalties – all desirable traits at the trade deadline.
He’s signed for one-more season at a $3.35 million cap hit, which is certainly manageable for the team acquiring him, and it increases his value.
Think Tampa would like him back as a third pair defenseman, especially with Anton Stralman, Braydon Coburn and Dan Girardi all set to hit the free agent market at season’s end?
Or how about Winnipeg as an upgrade to Ben Chiarot or Joe Morrow? The Jets are willing to trade their first round pick, could they put together a nice package for both Simmonds and Gudas?
The Flyers have depth on defense going into next season, so this is a place where they can trade from to improve elsewhere – namely scoring depth. Which brings us to the biggest debate:
5. Shayne Gostisbehere
There is certainly a polarizing argument going on about Ghost on Flyers Twitter. Should the Flyers trade him, or not?
Those saying hell no will point out that he was runner up for the Calder Trophy four seasons ago and that he garnered some Norris Trophy votes last season.
They argue that you don’t just bail out on a young, highly-skilled defenseman because of one bad season.
It’s a salient argument.
But so is this:
Gostisbehere is almost 26. It’s not like he’s 21 or 22 like Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim, both of whom are ahead of Gostisbehere on the Flyers depth chart.
And it’s not like he’s a rookie or in his second season and still feeling his way. He’s approaching 250 games played in the NHL. He shouldn’t be having an “off year” at this point in his career.
Yes, guys go through rough stretches at any age, but good players find a way through them. Gostisbehere was not a fan of Gord Murphy, who was the Flyers assistant coach in charge of defense during Ron Hextall’s regime as GM.
So, the Flyers made a change there, brought in defenseman whisperer Rick Wilson and have watched Provorov re-find his game and Sanheim flourish. Yet, Gostisbehere is still floundering.
He had a solid game Monday against Pittsburgh and after a brutal turnover against the Wild on Tuesday he was able to get two shots through to the net on the power play that resulted in a pair of Flyers goals, including the game-winner.
It’s those things that he hasn’t been able to do with any consistency this season but has flashed in the last two games.
Still, not being a top pair guy, the Flyers having a guy in Sanheim who could replace him on the power play, and with some depth coming behind him (Phil Myers for sure, and maybe a couple others), Gostisbehere is more expendable than one would think.
Another fallacy is the Flyers would be selling low, but that’s not true. He has a team-friendly contract for any team in the NHL and because of that, not just contenders would be interested – a rebuilding team would likely give up some value for him to see if he can re-find his game in the less-pressurized atmosphere of a rebuild.
Finally, I have been told from a few places in the organization that there is a concern about Ghost’s game internally and that the concern stretches beyond just one bad year. Also, if he didn’t like the old coaching staff and it affected his game, why can’t he get going with a new coaching staff?
I’m just not sure he’s giving Fletcher a good impression.
Yet, as I said on the Press Row Show, I think Gostisbehere can be moved in the offseason – when all 31 teams have a more optimistic view.
The Flyers just need to decide if he should be part of their future – which should start hitting it’s stride as soon as next season – or if they can still get there without him and if he can be an asset that can help fill gaps in other places.
It’s a bit of a conundrum, but I’m thinking it’s ultimately going to be the latter – even if it doesn’t happen until the summer.