As the end of the atrocious 2021-22 Philadelphia Flyers season is finally on the horizon, all eyes are turning to the offseason and potential solutions to put a competitive team back on the ice for the 2022-23 campaign. The defense has come under the microscope as it’s been a weak point for much of the past two seasons, but thanks to some interesting developments, fixing it doesn’t seem as black and white as it once did.
Originally, the thought process was dealing Sanheim to let Cam York flourish in the NHL, but lately, the rumors have turned and now Ivan Provorov could be the one on the move. Nothing should be taken off the table yet, but moving either certainly has its own pros and cons.
Trading Travis Sanheim originally seemed like the foregone conclusion just a few months ago, but thanks to his stellar play and the fact they re-signed his partner Rasmus Ristolainen, the organization may be reconsidering their approach.
Probably the biggest concern when it comes to keeping Sanheim around is his looming contract extension in the summer of 2023. Thanks to an arbitration filing, they got him on a second bridge deal at a $4.6 million cap hit. If his play continues its upward trajectory, he could be in for quite a raise. On the flipside, if his play cools off, they could be stuck paying him a bigger contract for lesser results, something they’ve done too frequently lately.
Though to be fair, Sanheim has finally put the pieces of his game together and has probably been the best player on the Flyers’ blueline through most of the season. Do you give up on him when he’s at his peak? The Flyers re-signed Rasmus Ristolainen and they’ve worked well together, regardless of which one is leading the way. If they like the pair and feel like Ristolainen’s best chance to succeed comes with Sanheim, keeping them together may be their best move.
Provorov has still handled the bulk of the heavy minutes, with Sanheim just recently eclipsing him at five-on-five minutes but not yet on powerplay or penalty kill. Can you move Provorov and assume Sanheim will fit into the number one defenseman role flawlessly? Does his recent string of solid hockey erase years of checkered play? Is it a risk the organization is willing to take?
Something that seemed like a crazy idea less than a year ago now feels like a real possibility thanks to another season of lackluster play. The rumors have been mixed when it comes to Provorov’s fate, which seems right considering what a gigantic gamble it would be.
We’ve seen Provorov play well in the past. Giving up on him after two seasons with Justin Braun, whose been way over his head playing on the top pair, seems like a bad time to throw in the towel. Ryan Ellis was supposed to be his partner this season, but a lower body injury kept him on the shelf for all but four games during the 2021-22 campaign. If Provorov is picked up by a team that has a stable defense corps in place and a good partner for Provorov to work with, it’s almost a guarantee that he re-finds his footing and looks like a top guy again.
If Provorov is the player they decide to move, even in his declined state, he probably has the higher trade value of the two. With the laundry list of holes the Flyers have to fill this summer, getting a big return for the 25-year-old is a good place to start when it comes to addressing those needs.
There’s a good chance the Flyers roster will be hit with sweeping changes this offseason, so neither player should be truly untouchable. The reality is, thanks to Cam York and to a lesser extent Egor Zamula, there is some leeway when it comes to dealing one of Provorov or Sanheim. Either should have the trade value to address a hole elsewhere in the lineup with some level of legitimacy.
At different points in time, both Provorov and Sanheim have proven to be very good and, occasionally, very bad. There isn’t one that is a “perfect” trade candidate between the two. Provorov feels like the guy with the staying power, but Sanheim is the current hot hand.
There’s always the third option which is keeping both. A 1-2-3 punch of Provorov-Sanheim-York on the left side, and a huge mess on the right. It could be a short-term solution until York locks up an NHL gig and/or one of Sanheim or Provorov convincingly provides an answer as to which one deserves to get moved, potentially in a trade deadline deal in 2023. Time will tell what the outcome is, but there’s no easy way to get to the desired destination of icing a competent defense corps in 2022-23.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com