The trade deadline is on the horizon and the Flyers find themselves in the mix for the top spot East Division. They currently sit fourth in the division but are still first in the points percentage category. The NHL trade deadline is on April 12 this season and a major question amongst the Flyers’ faithful is what the organization will be doing that day?
Fletcher sat on his hands during the 2020 offseason, pointing to the upcoming expansion draft and flat salary cap as the main reasons for his inaction. To give him the benefit of the doubt, it didn’t feel like he knowingly neglected the roster like a certain previous GM would, but rather he put too many eggs in the basket of some of the team’s younger players such as Travis Sanheim, Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom. That gamble has so far not paid off and the Flyers could use some real reinforcements for the playoffs.
Chuck Fletcher’s trade deadline history with his past organization, the Minnesota Wild, isn’t exactly expansive. He acquired forward Matt Moulson for a pair of second round picks in 2014, acquired Chris Stewart for a second round pick then Jordan Leopold for a fifth round pick in 2015, and the biggest trade coming in 2017, when he picked up Martin Hanzal from the Coyotes along with Ryan White for a first round pick, a second round pick, a fourth round pick, and prospect Grayson Downing.
Not exactly inspiring names or moves if we’re hoping for that player to push the Flyers to the next level.
Last season Fletcher kept the additions limited. He acquired Nate Thompson for a fifth round pick and Derek grant for a fourth round pick. While depth center was the role the Flyers most needed filled, he shot a little too low and got players that ended up over their head during the playoffs and became bigger problems than they were positives. He’s going to have to aim a little higher and bring in a meaningful addition if he wants the Flyers to have the best chance in the postseason.
The main, and so far only, rumor the Flyers have been linked to has been Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm, but that is the exact kind of deal that would pose problems to the Flyers. He has a year left on his deal, meaning he wouldn’t be a rental, and with the expansion draft still hovering on the horizon, do the Flyers add a tenured player? It means they would more than likely have to leave him exposed and potentially lose him for nothing shortly after giving up an asset or two to acquire him. While he is the exact type of player the Flyers need, is it the kind of deal that Fletcher would make?
There won’t be an abundance of cap space for the Flyers to work with come the trade deadline, but that isn’t an issue just facing the Flyers, it’ll be a problem for most teams across the league. According to capfriendly.com, the Flyers will have in the neighborhood of $5 million in deadline cap space to work with, which is one of the higher numbers for playoff caliber teams. Any trade will more than likely have to be a “hockey trade” or as Vancouver GM Jim Benning called it “apples for apples.” So if the Flyers did indeed have their eye on Ekhlom, it’d have to be a deal where the money going back to Nashville would have to be about even to what they’re taking on, thus making the trade even harder to maneuver.
With the combination of Fletcher’s lackluster track record and the outside forces working against the Flyers, do we see them make a worthwhile trade deadline acquisition? The answer should be yes. The Flyers are in ‘win now” mode and if the season ended today, both the Islanders and Bruins, whom the Flyers have had less than stellar records against lately, would make the playoffs as well. Fletcher will have plenty of factors working against him, but a big move isn’t impossible either. The ball will be in his court when April 12 rolls around.
It’s time for the Flyers to put their best foot forward and try to win a Stanley Cup this season because the moral victory shelf in the Wells Fargo Center is full.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: cbssports.com