Chuck Fletcher and the Philadelphia Flyers are sitting on a powder keg as the NHL offseason quickly approaches. They are primed to make a substantial shakeup to their roster and, with all the rumors popping up across the league, there will be no shortage of trade partners and opportunities to overturn the current stale roster into a Stanley Cup contender in one move. If Fletcher steps up to the plate and searches for a deal for his hockey club, what could a blockbuster trade end up looking like?
Number 5: Mitch Marner and William Nylander for Travis Konecny, Joel Farabee, Travis Sanheim, Phil Myers, Egor Zamula and Felix Sandstrom
Let’s start with a spicy one. The idea behind this trade is allowing the Leafs to clear a ton of cap space between Marner’s $10.9 million and Nylander’s $6.9 million while in return giving them cheaper help at multiple positions of need. While Konecny and Farabee may not be on the level of either of Marner of Nylander, they’re still good players but most importantly, they collectively save the Leafs about $11 million in cap space next season. Sanheim and Myers may not be the exact type of defensemen the Leafs need, but two bodies on a shallow blue line could go a long way, especially since Myers is only making $2.5 million for two more seasons. Zamula and Sandstrom give them a defense and goalie prospect that can keep costs down in the future.
For the Flyers, it’s all about overhauling the offense. Marner led the Leafs in points this season with 67 in 55 games, 20 of which were goals. He has never put up less than 60 points in all five of his NHL seasons including a 94-point outing in 2018-19. Nylander is a pretty consistent 60-point scorer as well, hitting that plateau in all three of his full NHL seasons, and on pace for it in two of his three others.
While there is some risk removing Marner and Nylander from stud Auston Matthews, gaining an elite 24-year-old playmaker like Marner and jack of all trades 25-year-old like Nylander could be well worth it. Obviously gutting the defense to make this scenario happen isn’t ideal either, but that’s where someone like Dougie Hamilton or Seth Jones comes into play in a separate move.
Is this trade even close in value? It’s hard to say, really. Though the thought process of quantity versus quality should be an approach the Leafs seriously consider. Adding four pieces to their current lineup and spreading the wealth and finding a bit of cap relief should be a lesson they learned the hard way after yet another failed playoff run in 2021.
Number 4: Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk for Kevin Hayes, James Van Riemsdyk, Travis Konecny, Morgan Frost, 2021 first round pick and a 2022 second round pick
A blockbuster deal between the Flyers and Flames still makes sense as both organizations find themselves in a roundabout of stale failure. Now, it’s safe to say Monahan and Gaudreau for some combination of the trio of Voracek, Hayes and Konency is a fair deal. Tkachuk would be the ultimate prize for the Flyers, but given the level of player he is, he won’t be cheap. His name did appear in trade rumors at the end of the Flames’ season, so while it’s an unlikely option, if Tkachuk does indeed hit the market, there’s no reason to not acquire him.
Monahan, who will turn 27 in October, has eight NHL seasons under his belt and 439 points in 591 games. He’s been a highly effective two-way center in that stretch with four 20+ goal seasons and three 30+ goal seasons and has received Selke votes during his career. Even though the running gag for Gaudreau is his youthful appearance, he is going to turn 28 in August. He’s just shy of a point-per-game pace during his entire career with 494 points in 520 games. He’s two years removed from his career best 36-goal, 99-point season when he finished fourth in Hart Trophy voting. Tkachuk just wrapped his fifth NHL season where he has developed into a pillar for the Flames, and one of the most notorious players in the league for his physical play.
Tkachuk and Gaudreau each have one year left on their current contracts at $7 million and $6.75 million respectively. Tkachuk is a restricted free agent and Gaudreau is unrestricted. Monahan has two years left on his current deal at $6.37 million per year. He will also be an unrestricted free agent. That’s $20 million in cap space coming from the Flames camp, so the Flyers have to start by matching the financial commitments.
Hayes, Van Riemsdyk and Konecny make up $19.6 million, with Frost tacking on another $863,333 on the last year of his entry-level deal.
Quite frankly, this deal is quite lopsided in favor of the Flyers. When comparing the three players on each side, the Flames ‘ players would win all three times. Fletcher would have to hope the Flames would value Frost and the draft picks to make up the talent difference and Brad Treliving is desperate enough for a blockbuster trade to salvage his team that the disparity falls through the cracks.
The bigger issue is the lack of contract certainty for the Flyers. Three players that are on expiring deal within the next two seasons comes with the risk of players not re-signing. If they acquire Gaudreau and Monahan and both opt to test free agency, that’s a huge price to pay for one or two year rentals. Though if they both keep producing as they’ve done in recent years and sign extensions, the Flyers have a new, experienced core to build around that is much more talented than their current group. It’s a gamble that is absolutely worth the reward.
Number 3: Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm for Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim, Linus Hogberg and Wyatte Wylie
Circling back to the trade deadline rumors, the chatter amongst Flyers fans was “Ellis or Ekholm?” Well, why not both? This could actually be a fascinating scenario for the Predators. As their Cup window begins to close, they defied the odds and snuck into the playoffs in 2021 but were quickly dispatched by the Hurricanes in the opening round. Now they’re stuck with the same question they were around the trade deadline- is it time to blow it up or try and keep them together for one more year?
The theory behind this one is just overwhelm them with defensemen in return. Ghost and Sanheim are both younger and (so far) cheaper than Ekholm and Ellis, and in the right scenarios could be be top four guys.
Hogberg and Wylie would be sneaky parts of this trade. If the Predators do enter at least a re-tool over the next few years, they probably wouldn’t want a prospect who is near NHL ready like Zamula, they’d look to play the long game and look for guys who may be ready a few years down the road. Both Wylie and Hogberg both made their professional debuts this season and shown flashes of potential with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
For one reason or another, Shayne Gostisbehere was the rumored return at the trade deadline, probably to make the money work, but if there was interest in the 28-year-old, there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t be in their sights during the summer. Travis Sanheim has been a bit of a wildcard for the Flyers. Some nights he looks like a star, others he falls face first into the endboards uncontested in overtime.
Ellis and Ekholm address two big holes the Flyers faced on the blue line this season, veteran presence and continuity on a night-to-night basis in terms of what to expect. Ellis does have a bit of injury concerns, only dressing for a full 82-game season once in his ten year career. Partner that with the fact he has six years left on his current contract at $6.25 million, and this issues speak for themselves. Though when he’s healthy, he is a great guy top plop in the top four and on the penalty kill, two holes the Flyers need filled. Ekhlom has played third fiddle in Nashville behind Roman Josi and Ellis for most of his career. He sees time on both the powerplay and penalty kill. He just turned 31 at the end of May and has one year left on his current deal at $3.75 million.
The risk-reward is there for both teams. If Ghost can bounce back to his 65-point form, which he hinted at during 2020-21, and Sanheim can finally steady his game, those are two guys fully capable of playing top four minutes. For the Flyers, they get two veteran additions that improve the team right now, though with Ekholm on an expiring contract and Ellis on a long-term deal, there’s financial risks for both players, not to mention they’re in their 30s. It gives the Predators assets for the future and a bit of cap relief now, and it propels the Flyers lackluster blue line to a competitive one that will help push them to a playoff spot in 2021-22.
Number 2: Seth Jones and Patrik Laine for Travis Sanheim, Phil Myers, 2022 first round pick, Isaac Ratcliffe, and Maksim Sushko
Over the last calendar year, the Flyers have been attached to both Seth Jones and Patrik Laine in trade rumors, so why not try the ol’ two-birds-one-stone strategy? There’s quite a bit of uncertainty from the side of Columbus here, as Jones is on an expiring contract and Laine is a restricted free agent who just posted the worst season of his career. Though from a trade perspective, that could be a perfect opportunity to swoop and and pick up two top players when their value is at rock bottom.
Over the last few weeks, we suggested trading for Seth Jones with a high return for Columbus, but when a Columbus Dispatch beat writer made a guest spot on Brotherly Pod and even he threw some water on the potential of a massive Jones trade due to the lack of contract certainty past next season. Maybe the Flyers can get Jones at a discounted cost if they take on the gamble of re-signing him?
As for Laine, is there a player in the league who has suffered the free fall he has over the last few seasons? From a 44-goal season in 2017-18 to just 12 goals and 46 games during the shortened 2021 season, it has been a rough go for Laine. He got his wish and was dealt away from Winnipeg, but found himself in Columbus, a step back in the on-ice product and he didn’t mix well with former head coach John Tortorella, leading to being benched and not trusted in high-pressure situations. Even with Torts out of the picture, does Laine return to Columbus? Even though his numbers have been on the downward trend lately, he still has the potential to be one of the best goal scorers in the game today, making any risk of trading for him potentially worthwhile.
For a trade to work, the Blue Jackets would need to have enough skin in the game to make a deal worthwhile, but their demands would have to be reined in a bit based on the risks the Flyers would take on.
Sanheim and Myers would be the big pieces going back from the Flyers’ perspective, but the addition of Jones and the emergence of Cam York should make their loss manageable. The 2022 first round pick may be the most enticing thing for the Blue Jackets as they will look to stockpile assets in a projected deep draft. As for Ratcliffe and Sushko, it gives the Jackets a couple extra bodies in their farm system, which is a bit shallow.
For the Flyers, it’s a huge blockbuster trade, but at the same time, they’re taking on an obscene about of risk both on-ice and financially. If Jones and Laine both sign long-term deals in Philly and their play doesn’t bounce back, they potentially hamstring the franchise for years to come. Though on the other hand, Laine and Jones would be entering a well constructed team with plenty of talent to surround themselves with and given the best chance to succeed. If they both hit their strides, Jones will be the elusive number one defenseman the Flyers have been looking for, and Laine could be the best goalscorer since the heyday of Jeff Carter. It’s a huge gamble, but it may be worth the risk. Will Fletcher step up and roll the dice?
Number 1: Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen for Sean Couturier, Jake Voracek, Shayne Gostisbehere, 2021 First round pick, Morgan Frost, Tanner Laczynski and Tyson Foerster
After news that the Sabres finally won a draft lottery and will pick first overall in 2021, There is a bit of renewed interest in the rebuild in Buffalo. Though the reinforcements may have come a bit too late as the natives are getting restless after years of suffering. If they do indeed look to deal their some of their stars, there’s a chance the Sabres would want help now and in the future, and that’s the kind of mix that is an attainable price tag for the Flyers.
The financial terms of this deal would be the biggest question mark at the moment, as Sam Reinhart is a restricted free agent this summer, and Sean Couturier is a unrestricted free agent next summer, so making the deal work out for the 2021-22 campaign could be tough. Eichel makes $10 million a season for five more years, and Reinhart will probably demand a raise to the tune of $5.5-6.5 million per season. Couturier is making $4.3 million this year and Voracek clocks in at $8.25. Let’s work under the assumption Reinhart gets $6.5 AAV on his next deal, that’s $21.9 million on the Sabres’ end and $17 mil from the Flyers.
While Couts and Voracek should help the Sabres immediately and make the transition from the old guard easier, they also get three of the Flyers’ top forward prospects as well. Frost has found himself as the odd man out in Philly after missing a full season with a shoulder injury, Laczynski made his NHL debut during the 2021 campaign but missed the last few games after undergoing minor hip surgery, and Foerster raised many eyebrows after lighting up the AHL at just 19 years old due to the OHL season not starting because of the pandemic.
Eichel is 24 years old and his situation in Buffalo has slowly been boiling over for the past few seasons. He has been in a deadlock with the front office about the handling of a herniated disc in his neck and it sounds like it could be the straw that broke the camels back with their relationship. After missing almost a full season and at least a slight question mark about his health, it’s possible his trade value has dipped a bit, at least to the point where the Sabres may not get the king’s ransom for him they may have last summer. Though, it’s important to remember that, when healthy, Eichel is one of the top players in the league who has never recorded less than 24 goals in a season, had a point-per-game pace in 2018-19, and racked up 36 goals in 68 games during the shortened 2019-20 campaign.
Reinhart has rode shotgun with Eichel since 2015-16 and finally had the chance to prove himself when Eichel went down with his neck injury. He scored 25 goals and 40 points in 54 games for the anemic Sabres this season, which is even more impressive considering nobody on the Buffalo roster even came close to his production. Ristolainen is the second longest tenured players on the Sabres roster, having held a regular roster spot since the 2013-14 season. Once a highly touted prospect, he played a role the was well over his head in Buffalo and the constant losing didn’t help further his development either. Now 26 years old and a veteran of 542 games, Ristolainen has more or less asked for a way out of Buffalo. He has one year remaining on his current contract at $5.4 million and will be a UFA next summer.
This is the kind of deal that would be a massive overhaul for the Flyers. They get younger, better, and address quite a few needs. There is obviously a certain level of risk acquiring Eichel given his current medical situation, but at the end of the day, it’s just a herniated disc not a severed leg, there has to be a realistic compromise that will give him the best recovery and the chance for a long career. Reinhart would be an improvement on the wings, and he can also play center as well as handling bit minutes on the powerplay. Ristolainen provides some much needed size and snarl on the back end. It’s a move that drastically changes the landscapes of both teams, but significantly drops the average age in Philly and jolts them into an ultra-competitive team while also giving the Sabres veterans to build around now and key pieces for their continued rebuild.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: sportsnet.ca / yardbarker.com / fingerlakes1.com