An Inconvenient Truth: The Case for Asking Giroux to Waive his NMC

I know this is a difficult subject to address.

It is yet another difficulty in an already difficult and frustrating season for fans of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Before I start and before you pass judgement, I want to make clear that Claude Giroux is undoubtedly on the Mount Rushmore of Flyers players.  Since he was drafted 22nd overall in 2006 (after Bob Clarke famously forgot his name when making the selection), Giroux has exceeded all expectations and ensured that fans will never forget his name or the contributions that he has made over the years.  He will have his number 28 retired and raised to the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center.  There may even be a case for Giroux to enter the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto as one of the most productive players of his time.

This is in no way, shape, or form a criticism of Claude Giroux as a person, a captain, or as a hockey player.

Ironically, 2006 also saw the release of former Vice President Al Gore’s documentary about climate change titled An Inconvenient Truth.  The case made in that documentary was that human activity through the burning of fossil fuels and the spewing of greenhouse gases was going to dramatically change the planet irreversibly if the behavior was not changed.  It served as a powerful warning that governments, corporations, and individuals needed to be more aware of their environmental impact and take steps to avoid an environmental catastrophe or crisis before it is too late.

Similarly, the case for asking Giroux to waive his ‘No Movement Clause’ (NMC) is a course of action that is inconvenient and difficult to talk about in early December; but it may force itself into the conversation with greater urgency depending on how the next month or two plays out.

Let me be clear: IF (and only if) the Flyers season continues to slip away and the team finds itself well behind in the playoff race, the Flyers need to ask Giroux if he would be willing to waive his NMC.

Any reluctance, hesitance, or aversion to this course of action should the above scenario play itself out would be disastrous in consequences and would condemn the Flyers to more difficulty and uncertainty in the years ahead.  It would be irresponsible to avoid having that discussion in order to properly try to chart a plan for the team to move forward.

There will be those who will agree with that assessment and there will be others who will disagree.  What follows is my attempt to take out all of the passion and feelings surrounding this contentious issue to try to bring some rationality and logic to a potentially franchise altering decision.  To attempt to do this, I will list the arguments that I have seen online that argue against potentially trading Claude Giroux and respond to each of those arguments with a rebuttal of each while trying to keep personal feelings and emotions out of the equation.

Claude Giroux has been the most dynamic offensive player for the Flyers.  Imagine what they would look like without him?

I would absolutely agree with the above statement.  All of it in fact.  But if the goal is to turn the Philadelphia Flyers into a consistent playoff team and a Stanley Cup contender, the fact remains that the Flyers are neither with Giroux in the lineup.  If the team continues to not demonstrate tangible progress towards that goal year after year, the personnel that are currently on this team are completely irrelevant (with the possible exception of Carter Hart).

In terms of the best interest of the team, which looks like the better outcome for this season:  missing the playoffs with Claude Giroux heading to unrestricted free agency, or missing the playoffs and acquiring assets with the possibility of re-signing Giroux to a new contract should both parties be willing to continue going forward together?

No question the second option is preferable.  This is especially obvious when the quality and depth of the players that will be available in the 2022 and 2023 NHL Draft’s is taken into consideration.  The acquisition of 1st Round (and even 2nd Round) draft picks should be of the utmost importance to not only re-stock the prospect pool, but a hit or two in the early rounds could make the rebuild/retool of this roster much less painful and time consuming than it might otherwise be.  After all, we can all admit that patience is not a strong suit for fans of this team especially considering the time spent on the Hextall plan that has ultimately led us into the current situation.

He has a NMC.  He decides whether or not he is going to be traded.  Besides, he doesn’t want to leave anyways.

While it is true that he has a NMC and he is the master of his own destiny when it comes to the remainder of this season, Giroux’s intentions are not known.  It would certainly appear likely that him and his family are very comfortable in Philadelphia and would not want to uproot their current situation.  What we do know is that GM Chuck Fletcher signed Sean Couturier and Joel Farabee to contract extensions the year prior to their contracts expiring. 

Giroux who was in the same situation did not get an extension in the offseason, and at a press conference Fletcher stated that he has “had good conversations with Claude and with Pat Brisson, his agent, and at this point our plan is to play the season out and we’ll talk at the end of the season”.

Should the Flyers woes continue, those talks will be sooner than expected and will actually be about how Giroux feels about donning another uniform for a Stanley Cup contender.  Considering Giroux has been a good soldier for this organization, I have a hard time seeing him request a trade away from the Flyers.  I just don’t see him doing that.

That’s why the club has to approach him; in the most respectful, humble, and dignified manner possible to address the situation.  Giroux has done everything that the Flyers have asked of him.  The teams ultimate lack of playoff success falls much more on the shoulders of the Flyers management not surrounding Giroux with more talent to make the Flyers a bonafide contender.  They failed to capitalize on the prime years of Giroux and owe him a chance to finally lift the sports ultimate prize.

It is incumbent on the team to ask Giroux how he feels about being a traded to a team with a legitimate shot to win the Stanley Cup.  He needs to be asked if there are any teams that he would be willing to waive his NMC (if any) to join, because the reality is that another failed season leaves the Flyers deficiencies exposed.  The errors, missteps, and mismanagement of regimes both past and present would be on full display with the only hope being to get assets in return for one of the few pieces that could garner a return significant enough to help begin the process of turning the ship around.

It also leaves the door open for Giroux to sign a deal in Philadelphia after the season is over.  If he and his family are adamant that they want to stay, a move at the deadline would be only for a few months.  Yes, it would be an inconvenience especially considering that Giroux and his wife have two young children; but in the grand scheme of things it would be temporary and would allow for things to be worked out for a potential return to the Flyers the following season and beyond.

He deserves a shot to win.  The Flyers owe it to Giroux to have that conversation.  Giroux has always been a loyal soldier.  The Flyers need to ask him to do one more thing for the club.

He is a Flyers icon and you can’t trade him because you won’t get full value in a potential deal.

Well, I guess that depends on what you define as full value.  If you are still thinking of the Claude Giroux from 2017-2018 that scored 102 points and was a Hart Trophy candidate, then yes every potential trade will look very underwhelming.

On the other hand, the Claude Giroux of today is 33 years old and has 9 goals and 21 points in 23 games this season.  He would be considered a rental and would be a highly sought after offensive piece that teams would absolutely try to add at the trade deadline.  It is realistic to expect that the return for Giroux would start at a 1st Round pick and there would likely be another component added (any combination of another draft pick from a later round, a prospect, or a player from the acquiring team’s roster to make the financials work).  The Flyers would also likely have to swallow a significant chunk of salary in order to ensure that the deal can be made.

Simply put, Claude Giroux would be the big fish that teams would compete against each other for and would therefore drive the asking price up (especially if there are multiple teams Giroux is willing to play for that are interested in his services).  This is an opportunity that cannot be squandered as the Flyers are usually an organization that trades players well after their best before date and get minimal return due to little interest from the rest of the league (Wayne Simmonds comes to mind).  Giroux will not follow the same path.  Obviously, he is not a player that would fetch what he would have been able to garner in a trade years ago; but the stars would appear to align that a few suitors could give the Flyers a nice return for a player who could walk away at season’s end for nothing. 

Nothing is of less value than nothing; especially considering the potential frenzy that could happen at the deadline with back-to-back strong NHL Draft’s in 2022 and 2023 on the horizon.  Some fans may not consider it to be fair value, but it is a fair assumption that some of the offers will more than make it worth the Flyers while.

After the busy offseason of moves, the Flyers have to go all in.  Trading Giroux for draft picks makes no sense.  It will take years for those prospects to make a difference.

Of course prospects take time and it will be frustrating for the fans.  We were promised that drafting and developing players was the key to becoming a consistent playoff team with Stanley Cup aspirations.  But those prospects have not carried their weight and developed into what we all hoped they would be.  The result is the middling team that never seems to bottom out and draft in the top of the draft, but also doesn’t do well enough to make the postseason consistently.

Chuck Fletcher made all of those moves in the offseason banking that stabilizing the defense and seeing a bounce-back year from the goaltending would result in a return to the playoffs.  That hasn’t happened as the offense of this team has sputtered and has not been helped by a miserable powerplay.

Giroux has been the best and most consistent forward on the team.  But after years of drafting and developing, the Flyers have not found anyone to lead the charge offensively and are relying on Giroux at 33 (soon to be 34) far too much.  The glaring hole at the center position in the organization is massive and if the goal was to compete as a playoff team, the window would be incredibly short and with little chance of success.

Is it better to expend more assets to try to salvage this season and somehow make an improbable run to the playoffs, or pick up draft picks, prospects, and cap space to try to replenish the farm system?

The answer depends on how patient you are and how you feel about building through the draft.

Regardless if the ultimate goal is to build a contender, it is clear that the Flyers are multiple players away.  The plague of injuries also does not help and with the next few weeks likely to determine the fate of the season, the wait and see approach should be preferred over a rash trade to try to force improvement on a roster that may not be capable of it.

Acquiring draft capital should the season continue to slip away should be the number one priority.  It also opens up options to try to acquire the types of players that this roster needs if they become available.  Losing assets at this time makes no sense unless it is for a young center with top line skill (and those rarely are available).  Trading Giroux (and other pending UFA’s) helps put the team in a better position to strike if something to the Flyers liking materializes.  If the Flyers chase the season and try to go all in, it is far more likely that the Flyers come up with ‘Fool’s Gold’ rather than striking paydirt.      

Conclusion

Trading Claude Giroux may be unthinkable to some.  But it is vital that the Flyers ask him to waive his NMC should the playoffs fall further out of reach.

An Inconvenient Truth, warned everyone of the perils of ignoring the impact that humans are making on the environment and contributing to climate change.  Recognition and acting is required to avert disastrous consequences.

Likewise, the Philadelphia Flyers need to recognize the warning signs that their play has demonstrated this season.  Missing the playoffs is a failure by any measure, but failing to recognize and act to move the organization forward when opportunities present themselves will set themselves up for disastrous consequences in the longer term. 

Unfortunately, the unthinkable (trading Giroux) has to be seriously considered as part of the strategy to move forward and ensure a better future.  No doubt it will be difficult for the player, the team, and the fans.  But objectively speaking, it is a course of action that is a necessity based on the way this season has gone. 

Trading Giroux is sure to be an unpopular choice and I am sure many will still deny it and ridicule it.  It is much easier to deal with uncomfortable and inconvenient ideas in this way.

Admittedly, it is a difficult choice and one I wish wasn’t an option. But many times the hardest choices to make are also the right ones.

An Inconvenient Truth indeed.    

***

Do you agree with the article?  Do you disagree?

Feel free to leave any comments or feedback via twitter or at www.brotherlypuck.com.  .

Until next time from BrotherlyPuck.com,

I remain,

Manny Benevides

@mannybenevides

photo credit: NHL.com

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