Let’s face it. This year’s Trade Deadline should more appropriately be called the ‘Trade Dudline’. With Taylor Hall being dealt from the New Jersey Devils to the Arizona Coyotes, the biggest fish was taken off the market far in advance of the February 24th yearly event. It’s pretty hard to get excited over this year’s edition in which teams will be battling each other over Chris Kreider or Tyler Toffoli’s services.
While the star power won’t be there, there is a bevy of depth pieces that will most assuredly move and can be valuable in a team’s pursuit of a playoff spot and to compete for the Stanley Cup. After all, the teams that make the biggest splash at the deadline rarely win the sports most coveted prize. Added to the lack of star power is the lack of cap space available which will also hamper many teams the flexibility to add to their rosters. With the absence of luxury items and name brands available, most GM’s will be hovering around the bargain bins looking for that elusive piece that fits just right and fits their budget.
Chuck Fletcher will be no different. The Flyers currently have a record of 26-17-6 for a total of 58 points through 49 games. They find themselves in the second wildcard spot with a handful of teams both above and below them in the standings. Their playoff fate is by no means secure and the team has not replaced the production and two-way play of winger Oskar Lindblom who was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma (bone cancer). Nolan Patrick has not played all season due to a migraine disorder; and although the team is optimistic that he will return at some point this season, they must also be realistic and remove a question mark with more certainty. On defence, Shayne Gostisbehere will be out a few weeks after having his knee cleaned out; and Samuel Morin has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL.
Depth among the forwards has been a major cause of concern in the bottom six, especially with a carousel of young players and AHL callups creating matchup mismatches especially on the road. Defensive breakdowns and poor defensive zone coverage in recent weeks has led to multiple goal deficits early in games and undue pressure being placed on 21 year old Carter Hart to keep the team in games. In short, the Flyers absolutely need at least one forward to solidify their forward group and plug the holes left by Lindblom and Patrick as well as a veteran defenceman to reinforce the defence corps.
Here are a list of players that could be under consideration for the Flyers from teams that are clearly going to be sellers at the deadline.
Josh Manson (Anaheim Ducks) – Defence
The Ducks will be sellers but it is unclear if Manson would be someone that they would be willing to deal. He is well liked by the organization and is a steadying presence that can be used to clear the front of the net and provide vital penalty killing assistance. The only reason that some people believe he may be available at all is the emergence of the Fowler and Gudbranson pairing in recent weeks. The offensive numbers have declined in the past couple of years, but his positioning and defensive ability have been a boon for a young Ducks team. He is signed for 2 more seasons after this one with a cap hit of $4.1 million. If he is available, look for Manson to be a hotly sought after commodity so long as the team looking to acquire him has the cap space to fit him. The Flyers would no doubt be among the teams interested considering that Manson would provide more cover and support for the continuing development of Carter Hart.
Andreas Athanasiou (Detroit Red Wings) – Left Winger
The Detroit Red Wings are easily the worst team in the NHL this season. They have their sights set on drafting left winger Alexis Lafreniere with the first overall selection during this June’s draft. How bad are they? They have allowed a league worst 195 goals and have allowed 22 more goals than the next worst team (New Jersey). Athanasiou is used primarily on the wing and his speed could be attractive for Alain Vigneault’s dump and chase forecheck system. He has disappointed offensively this year and is a restricted free agent at seasons end with a $3 million dollar cap hit. One has to think that he will be affordable to re-sign and that the Red Wings would be looking to collect as many draft picks/prospects as they could get their hands on. As for the -35 rating, he is on an epically bad defensive team. The smart money says that Athanasiou will appear to be much better defensively on a more structured team surrounded by more talented players in comparison to his current stats.
Alec Martinez (Los Angeles Kings) – Defence
Much like Niskanen and Braun, Martinez is a veteran blueliner who would bring experience and stability to the defence corps. He has 1 year remaining after this year and his contract carries a $4 million dollar cap hit. Much like Manson, teams may have to free up some cap space with moves prior to acquiring Martinez and such maneuvering may mean that this deal gets done on or shortly before the trade deadline. While he hasn’t had a great season due to injury, he is a two-time Stanley Cup winner that will see multiple teams inquire about his services. After all, how many players could you acquire who scored a double overtime goal to win the Stanley Cup? TSN recently reported that the Kings were looking for a second-round pick and a prospect as part of the deal; items that the Flyers have and could be willing to part with in order to shore up their defence for the playoff push. Should the Flyers land Martinez (less than likely due to the expected competition for his services), it would be highly probable that Justin Braun would not get re-signed and would become an unrestricted free agent at seasons end.
Kyle Clifford (Los Angeles Kings) – Winger
Earlier in the season, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported that the Kings were likely to bring Clifford back and were eager to sign him to a new contract. He is currently in the final year of his deal with a very affordable $1.6 million dollar cap hit and is slated to hit unrestricted free agency. Clifford is a hard worker who likes the physical side of the game and is very well liked in the Kings dressing room. With all the roster movement and instability in the Flyers’ bottom six, Clifford would instantly provide a presence as a two-time Stanley Cup winner and a hard-nosed checker who is willing to do the things that the team needs in order to be successful. At his recent mid-season press conference, Chuck Fletcher stated unequivocally that the team would not give up assets for rental players. Someone like Clifford could probably be had for an affordable price and provide an element that would make the Flyers tougher to play against (especially on the road). Would the price and the potential effect on the bottom six be palatable enough to entice Fletcher to engage in a low risk deal that could pay off good dividends for the remainder of this year?
Nick Bonino (Nashville Predators) – Center
The Nashville Predators are one of the teams to watch closely leading up to the trade deadline. They are a team that has disappointed and underachieved. While the issue has primarily been goaltending, the frustration of the season has started to take its toll and resulted in the firing of Head Coach Peter Laviolette and the hiring of the recently fired John Hynes. If the coaching change does not spark an improvement in the standings, some player changes may be next. It is hard to imagine the Predators moving Bonino; after all he is a very diligent worker who is responsible at both ends of the ice. Look no further than his +16 rating on a team that has had subpar goaltending all season long. His contract carries a $4.1 million AAV and has 1 year remaining after this season. It is difficult to trade someone who has provided so much value on a clearly underachieving team, however the team needs to free up some cap space in order to potentially make the changes that are truly needed. GM David Poile will no doubt explore all the options available at his disposal and he is by no means shy to make moves. Whether it will be a secondary piece like Bonino or a larger more significant piece that gets moved remains to be seen.
Joe Thornton (San Jose Sharks) – Center
I know. This one is a real reach. The now 40 year old Joe Thornton is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and carries a $2 million dollar cap hit. Thornton debated his hockey future last summer and decided to come back to the Sharks who looked to be contenders for the only piece of hardware missing from what is sure to be a Hall of Fame career: The Stanley Cup. Things are not going as anticipated for the Sharks, and if things don’t dramatically improve to get them in the playoff picture, GM Doug Wilson will have a decision to make along with Thornton. Would Thornton consider a trade to a playoff team? He loves it in San Jose and would probably like to stay out west, however the other California teams are mired at the bottom of the Pacific Division standings as well. Would he consider a move out east? It is unclear, but one would have to think that it would have to be a team with bona fide Stanley Cup aspirations to convince ‘Jumbo Joe’ to leave the Sharks. The Boston Bruins would be the obvious choice as Thornton started his career there, but the Flyers should at least do their due diligence and inquire about his availability.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau (Ottawa Senators) – Forward
Anthony Duclair (Ottawa Senators) – Winger
Both Pageau and Duclair have had tremendous seasons thus far and have been among the biggest reasons why the Ottawa Senators are not the basement dwellers that almost all pundits pegged them to be. Pageau has an astounding +13 rating on a team that is in all probability going to select in the top 5 at the NHL Draft in June. Duclair has spent his NHL career bouncing from team to team and finally looks to have hit his stride with 21 goals this season. Teams will be calling for their services at the deadline because their play has elevated their teammates and improved the team as a whole. But make no mistake, the price will be high as Senators GM Pierre Dorion will be under no pressure to trade either player. The only way that he will entertain the possibility will be if a team comes in and blows him away with an offer. Early speculation is that the Senators are seeking a first-round pick for Pageau, which does seem high but affirms the narrative that the Senators do not need to move him. Pageau is in the final year of his deal before becoming an RFA worth $3.1 million. Duclair is in the same position of becoming an RFA and his deal is worth $1.65 million. The Senators already have a good amount of talent in their farm system, as well as two first round picks in this year’s draft (their own and San Jose’s). Once again, Pierre Dorion holds all the cards and will most likely meet with the players’ agents to see what it will take to re-sign them both. After all, the young talent in their pipeline will need to be supplemented with veterans who enjoy being in Ottawa and are important contributors to the club.
Matt Dumba (Minnesota Wild) – Defence
This past week, whispers came out of the Twin Cities that perhaps Matt Dumba would be made available by GM Bill Guerin as the Wild are looking to shed salary and pick up prime assets to retool their farm system. Considering that Dumba is 25 and still has 3 more years remaining on a contract with a $6 million AAV, a team would be acquiring a defenceman right on the cusp of his prime years with enough term to command a significant haul. It is stunning enough that Dumba may be available, but it would be even more shocking if a trade of this magnitude were able to be done by the deadline. A potential Dumba trade is probably too unlikely at this point, but teams will be paving the way for a potential deal which would be much more likely at the NHL Draft. By that time, teams (like the Flyers) may be willing to part with the significant pieces necessary in order to get the deal done.
Is there anyone else that you feel the Flyers should be interested in at the deadline?
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