“I don’t like any guy on their team… I don’t like ’em” was the famous quote by Penguins forward Sidney Crosby after game 3 of their first round matchup against the Flyers during the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs. Crosby, who was just 25 at the time of that series, is now a veteran of 1,000 NHL games and will turn 34 in August. After over a decade of dominance in Pittsburgh, the Penguins are finally starting to unravel and after replacing general manager Jim Rutherford with Ron Hextall and Brian Burke earlier this month, the rumors have already started to swirl about the futures of some of their biggest stars, mainly Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. But how does one even put a value on the greatest player of our generation?
By no means do I think Crosby ever gets dealt away from Pittsburgh, he himself has so far shot down the rumors saying-
“Nothing’s changed. (Trade rumors) are definitely a new subject I’ve had to deal with and hear about a little bit. I love playing here. This is where I’d love to play for the rest of my career.”
So far he’s sticking to his guns, but what if things get worse it Pittsburgh? Would Crosby be willing to spend the last few years of his career on a bottom-feeding Penguins roster? If he wants out, the Flyers have to at least throw their hat in the ring. He does have a full no-movement clause, meaning he’d ultimately get to choose where he ends up, and based on the heated rivalry over the years, the chances he waives his clause to come to Philadelphia is a long shot anyway.
For fun, let’s say Chuck Fletcher does he due diligence and checks in on the value Pittsburgh is seeking for Crosby.
Crosby, who still has four years left on a deal that pays him $8.7 million a season, has recorded 1,278 points in 1,000 NHL games. He may not have the jump in his step he once did, but the talent hasn’t diminished a bit. He’s still one of the smartest, most creative players in the game today.
If the Flyers were to offer a real deal to the Penguins, right off the bat it’d have to at least start with defenseman Ivan Provorov, arguably the Flyers’ best player on the roster. Provorov already has 330 games under his belt at the NHL level with 140 points to match and there’s a good chance the best is yet to come for the 24-year-old. He’d be the perfect, young defenseman to start a rebuild around. The Penguins are without a next top defenseman in their current pipeline. 24-year-old Marcus Pettersson and 23-year-old John Marino have proven to be fine additions to the lineup, but neither possess superstar potential, and their current top defenseman, Kris Letang, is 33 years old and his age is starting to show.
Next, they’d probably ask for soon-to-be-24-year-old forward Travis Konecny. Even though Konecny has stumbled a bit during the 2021 season, he does have three consecutive 24-goal seasons under his belt and a career high 61 points from last year. The Flyers are still waiting to get the best out of Konecny, but he has shown more than enough potential to earn the benefit of the doubt that he will hit the 30-goal plateau one day. His scoring potential mixed with his ability to agitate at just 24 years old is a good sign that he could still develop into a legitimate top-line winger at some point in the future.
Would Provorov and Konecny be enough for Crosby? Hard to tell. Salary cap wise, that’d already be a tough deal to work out. Crosby clocking in at a respectable $8.7 million and the pair of Provorov and Konecny would be $12.25 million. If this deal were to be made during the flat cap era, there’d have to be a contract dump of sorts from Pittsburgh’s end to make the money work.
If TK and Provorov wouldn’t be enough, could they eliminate players who wouldn’t the Penguins want? If this trade were to happen today, they’d probably avoid most of the Flyers aging players, including Claude Giroux, Kevin Hayes, and even Sean Couturier. While Couturier is still at the top of his game, at 28, it’d be a gamble to bring him on as a long term investment to rebuild a franchise, and with only one year left on his deal after the 2021 season, there wouldn’t be a guarantee he’d stick around long-term anyway.
But the Flyers have a secret weapon in the leverage department when it comes to trades, that being Hextall and his love for the prospects he drafted. Some of Hextall’s early interviews as the Pens GM have made reference to the fact that he’s not as one-dimensional as he often showed in Philly, but like a kid and a cookie jar, he may not be able to contain himself if tempted. Most of the prospects remaining in the Flyers system, sans Cam York, Bobby Brink, and Tyson Foerster, were all drafted under the Hextall regime, and he may be interested in sweetening the pot by reclaiming some of his players. The one of main interest would probably be 21-year-old Morgan Frost. Hextall drafted him 27th overall in 2017 after trading Brayden Schenn to St. Louis earlier in the draft day. Frost is currently on the shelf for the rest of the season after a shoulder injury in the middle of January required surgery to repair.
Frost still has a potentially bright future in the NHL, but the forward group with the Flyers is so clogged up that there’s no real easy path for him to secure a roster spot. His best value to the Flyers right now may come in the form of a trade chip.
There’s also a good chance Joel Farabee, another Hextall draft pick, would have to be part of the deal as well. Especially with Frost’s ceiling unknown at the moment, they would undoubtedly want another “sure thing” added to the deal. Farabee, who turns 21 on February 25, is in the middle of his sophomore season with the Flyers and, after a rocky start, has really upped his game with eight goals and 14 points in 15 games. He in still developing, but he has shown flashes of brilliance and seemingly has all the tools to become a star in the NHL.
I’ll end this as I started, how do you put a value on Sidney Crosby? Provorov, Konency, Farabee and Frost seems like a lot, but it also doesn’t feel like nearly enough. Do draft picks get included? There’s almost no way they’d accept a deal without a first round pick in the 2021 draft, as they currently do not own their own. Do they want another young roster player added to the deal such as Travis Sanheim or Nolan Patrick? Put the rivalry, trade value, and impossibilities aside for a second and just imagine Sidney Crosby on the Flyers. A 1-2-3 punch of Crosby, Couturier and Hayes down the middle with Patrick on the fourth line. Adding a legitimate, bona fide star to this roster that is in hot pursuit of a Stanley Cup would go a long way to making that dream a reality.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com