Preparing to trade Giroux? Flyers send Danny Briere to scout the Avalanche

Courtesy: Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers lost again to the Detroit Red Wings Saturday, this time it was 4-2 at Little Caesar’s Arena and it was definitely a much better effort than the 6-3 debacle at Wells Fargo Center last Wednesday.

But, as you know, it doesn’t matter any longer. The Flyers have packed it in for the season as far as focus.

Instead they are going to look ahead. There are several important dates on the calendar:

It starts with today and runs through March 21. That makes 37 days. There are players on this roster whose time with the Flyers is down to that – and in a couple cases, probably less.

And it’s all going to start with Claude Giroux.

Trading the Captain

While its possible that another Flyer could be traded before Giroux, he’s the player from which the Flyers hope to get the biggest return, so it’s likely that he gets moved sooner.

There once was a thought that the team was willing to let Giroux reach the 1,000 games played plateau before trading him, but COVID got in the way of that. It can still happen. If Giroux plays every game between now and a March 17 home game against Nashville, he’d reach 1,000 games as a Flyers and GM Chuck Fletcher would still have time to trade him before the deadline four days later.

But it’s starting to become apparent that the Flyers don’t want to wait that long.

Dater published this story Saturday. He wouldn’t name the Flyers representatives in attendance at Thursday’s NHL game or Friday’s AHL game, but the key person who was out there on that scouting mission – Danny Briere.

Normally, you just send your pro scouts to look at players, but when you start seeing GMs, or assistant GMs, or Special Assistants to the GMs heading out on the road to look at players, it tells you that conversations between those two teams are a little further along than the usual tire kicking.

That’s not to say a deal between the Avalanche and Flyers is imminent. It’s not.

But, it’s at least likely that it’s reached a point where some names were exchanged in conversation and teams have an idea of who is available in certain deals.

While nothing has been reported publicly by the Flyers, Giroux or his agent Pat Brisson about Giroux’s willingness to move his no-movement clause, or even a list of teams that was presented to the Flyers, one has to imagine that that this scouting mission by Briere was not one that the Flyers decided to spend money on for no reason.

After speaking to someone who knows what Colorado is looking for as the deadline approaches, it’s a second line left wing, someone good at faceoffs, and a depth defenseman.

Giroux absolutely checks off the first two boxes, and I doubt Briere is out there scouting players at the NHL level if the Avalanche were just interested in, say, Justin Braun.

So, this has to be for Giroux.

Now the fun part… who would the Flyers be interested in.

I was told young center Alex Newhook is an absolute non-starter for the Avalanche.

The Flyers next prospect target would likely be a right-hand shot defenseman, either 20-year-old Justin Barron, a first round pick of the Avalanche in 2020, or 20-year-old Drew Helleson, a 2019 second round pick out of Boston College, who is playing for Team USA at the Olympic Games.

From an NHL source, Colorado was initially as opposed to moving Barron as they were Newhook, but might have to bight that bullet to make the deal a reality – especially if they ask the Flyers to eat up to 50% of Giroux’s contract in order to fit him under Colorado’s salary cap. (They may need to bring a third team in to do the same – like Arizona – but at what cost? More on that in a minute…)

From the NHL roster, I was told Colorado would consider moving J.T. Compher, but that the Flyers might be interested in a younger and more affordable version in Tyson Jost.

Compher, 26, is signed through next season with a cap hit of $3.5 million. and then becomes an unrestricted free agent. He has just eight goals and eight assists for 16 points in 33 games this season, but Compher has been a decent playoff player with eight goals and 11 assists in 43 career playoff games. He can play either center or right wing.

Jost, 23, is also only signed through next season, but his cap hit is only $2 million and he would be a restricted free agent after that. Jost hasn’t done anything special since joining the Avalanche. He has just five goals and seven assists for 12 points in 45 games this season, and his career high is just 26 points in 2018-19. Jost is a little more of a Swiss Army Knife, as he can play all three forward positions.

Interestingly enough, Colorado doesn’t have a first round pick in 2022, nor do they have a second rounder or a fourth rounder. So, if Colorado is to offer any draft pick compensation it would likely be in 2023, not that the Flyers would mind considering how rich that draft is expected to be.

That said, Colorado may not be willing to part with another first round pick, especially in that deep a draft, to make this deal happen. Would one of the NHL forwards, one of the prospect defensemen and a 2023 second rounder be enough for Giroux?

Or would the Flyers want more? And if so, does Colorado have the capital to trade more? Especially if they need the Coyotes as a third party to broker the financials of this trade?

In that regard, do the Flyers eschew a higher-tier draft pick and take another Avalanche prospect?

It’s an intriguing thought. After all, Colorado GM Joe Sakic has been very protective of his prospects in recent years, and maybe it’s burned the Avalanche, who have had a team good enough to ein a Cup for a couple seasons now but haven’t been able to make it happen.

Might it be time for Colorado to go all-in?

I’m also hearing that Colorado assistant GM Chris McFarland is involved in this deal, and may be brokering it with Sakic coming in as the closer.

In that case, is McFarland more willing to part with those young assets in lieu of having the draft capital needed?

Might Briere have been looking at other Colorado prospects in the AHL aside from just Barron?

In Dater’s story, he suggested in this case 19-year-old, 2021 first round pick Oskar Olausson and 2018 3rd rounder Sampu Ranta made sense as NHL-caliber prospects who might interest the Flyers.

Ranta, 21, was a name that came up in a conversation I had as well. He’s interesting in the fact that he’s bigger at 6’2″, and that he showed a scorer’s touch in college at University of Minnesota, but he has had an up-and-down year in the AHL, his first season of professional hockey.

Finally, the Flyers might be willing to take on a reclamation project as well. Colorado has two players who had high expectations but haven’t broken through in center Shane Bowers and winger Martin Kaut.

Both are 22-years-old and both are former first round picks (Bowers, by Ottawa in 2017 and Kaut by the Avalanche in 2018).

Briere didn’t stick around to watch the Avalanche prospects a second night, as he was not present for the Colorado Eagles game Saturday.

Maybe he saw enough. Maybe what he saw wouldn’t be enough. Or maybe he liked what he saw and wants to report back quickly.

Either way, we’re all going to be watching this Giroux trade saga play out in the coming weeks.

One other team to really keep an eye on is Minnesota. They would also be a great fit for Giroux.

A Below the radar trade addition first?

Might the Flyers be a buyer before they sell?

OK, that’s a little misleading, but if we’re putting puzzle pieces together, one of the things the Flyers really lack is size up front, and someone willing to go to the net to get those greasy, dirty goals.

On Jan. 7, the Toronto Maple Leafs put Nick Ritchie on waivers. He cleared and went to the Leafs Taxi squad, but now that Taxi squads have been eliminated, he was sent down to the Toronto Marlies, but has no interest playing in the AHL.

So he’s kind of been in hockey purgatory for the past month, plus.

Ritchie is 6-2, 230 pounds and plays heavy and physical hockey. He had a career-best 15 goals in 56 games for Boston last season and signed as a free-agent with Toronto in the offseason. But, his game doesn’t fit with the Leafs and now they’re stuck with him.

Or are they?

Sportsnet in Canada insider Elliotte Friedman reported yesterday that there’s been some traction about a potential trade for Ritchie. 

While he didn’t mention the Flyers, wouldn’t this make a lot of sense?

He would add the size they are looking for, cost next to nothing to acquire him (the Leafs will take a bag of pucks to avoid having to buy him out in the offseason and have to have money count against their cap for the next two seasons), and, he’s signed through next season at a very manageable $1.375 million cap hit.

I have to imagine this is one of those low risk/high reward kind of moves that can have a bigger benefit next year. If I’m Chuck Fletcher, I make the call and get this done today.

Another Losing/Winless streak Streak

OK, the Flyers have lost two straight. Both were in regulation, so right now it’s a two-game losing streak AND a two-game winless streak. Can this one get to 10 games too?

Hey, it’s possible. Here’s the upcoming schedule:

  • at Pittsburgh
  • vs. Washington
  • vs. Carolina
  • vs. St. Louis
  • vs. Washington
  •  vs. Edmonton
  • vs. Minnesota
  • vs. Chicago

There’s another home game following that vs. Vegas, before road gamers in Florida and Carolina. But I stopped at Chicago, because that would be 10 games. They’re certainly going to be underdogs in the seven games leading up to Chicago, meaning that game on March 5 could potentially be one that would put the Flyers in very rare company – teams that have had three winless streaks of 10 games or more in the same season.

That list includes:

  • 1967-68 California Seals
  • 1974-75 Washington Capitals (only team to do it four times)
  • 1985-86 Vancouver Canucks
  • 1992-93 Ottawa Senators
  • 1992-93 San Jose Sharks
  • 1997-98 Tampa Bay Lightning

They also would be the first team to do it this century and first team since the inception of the salary cap and the shootout.

There’s still a ways to go as it’s only two right now… but you can see it adding up, can’t you?

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