The Philadelphia Flyers are in the middle of a transition year, or stabilization, or rebuild, or whatever specific term it’s being marketed as this week, which theoretically means there is still plenty of change on the horizon. It poses the question- considering the team is still so raw and in need of many outside additions, do the Flyers keep the few players that have shown potential this season, or do they cash in on their increased value at either the trade deadline or free agency?
If the Flyers intend on making additions next summer, they are going to have to clear some serious cap space to do so. Luckily, a few expensive veterans who are high on the list of potential candidates to move this summer have come out of the gate hot for the Flyers. Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov and Kevin Hayes are among the players whose cap hit can be dumped in the name of upgrades, but they’re also three of the best players on the ice this season as well.
Kevin Hayes has three more years left on his current contract at a $7.1 million cap hit. He’s technically a point-per-game guy during the first 20 games of the Flyers’ season, but it sure hasn’t been an easy road so far. His effort and two-way ability are hit and miss on a shift-by-shift basis and Tortorella has voiced some displeasure with the player because of it. Though there is some level of benefit of the doubt with Hayes, as he’s primarily served as the team’s 1C this season thanks to the ridiculous amount of injuries, which is a role that he just can’t handle at this point of his career, especially with almost no real center depth behind him to speak of.
Travis Konecny has an additional two years on his current deal with a $5.5 million cap hit. He had 19 points in 17 games before sustaining a hand injury against the Bruins. It easily put him on pace for the best offensive season of his career, where he maxed out at 24-goals and 61 points back in 2019-20. Consistency has never been his strong suit and there’s plenty of skepticism that he could maintain this pace for the rest of the season and beyond. The question becomes whether or not the Flyers believe he’s worth committing to long term or do they try and cash out on his rising stock considering his name has been loosely associated to the Flyers’ rumor mill for the last few seasons anyway.
Ivan Provorov has two years left at a $6.75 million cap hit. His status with the team has been on rocky ground since the offseason when rumors of a potential trade started to swirl after a heated end-of-season press conference. Ultimately he was never traded and has played well with new parter Tony DeAngelo. With Cam York and Egor Zamula still waiting for NHL ice time, and the organization making the boneheaded decision to re-sign Travis Sanheim, if they ever intend on the prospects getting NHL minutes, Provorov may have to be the one to get dealt, but do they risk moving their top defenseman with no proven suitable replacement in place?
There needs to be an air of objectivity when it comes to assessing the state of the current roster and potential future trades. “We can’t trade this player because he is underperforming” then when that player is on the upswing we hear “we can’t trade that player because he is playing well” is common theme with past run-ins for trades. Hopefully the front office can be a little more willing to part ways with fan favorites than the fanbase is willing to.
There are other players to consider as well. Joel Farabee, who’s in the first year of his six year extension and struggling with injuries over the last two seasons, Tony DeAngelo who only has a year left on his deal could be flipped for an asset or two to recoup what they spent on the guy. Liquidating a few roster players into draft assets and cap space would make it significantly easier to enter the offseason with trade chips, extra draft picks and money to burn in free agency, ya know, the way to make actual upgrades to the roster.
If this season has proved to us anything, it’s that this team is still quite a bit away from being truly competitive. The aging players under contract for the rest of time really hurt the Flyers out of the gate before the trials and tribulations of the season even begin and it’s only going to get worse as they continue to age. If they’re going to be stuck in this mess for a few more seasons until the cap rises high enough where dumping contracts once again becomes a reality, maybe disassembling the roster in preparation for a proper build up may be the right play here.
The Flyers are no doubt going to have some tough choices to make during the 2023 offseason. They’re theoretically inching closer to “go time” and having to put an actual competitive team on the ice, but way too many long term contracts and love affairs with mediocre players have kept the ties to the past strong. The 2022 offseason, which is a very similar situation to which they find themselves in 2023, left a very sour taste on the mouths of fans that Chuck Fletcher could be capable of making the tough choices for the betterment of the franchise. All we can hope is a few key players continue to play well and hopefully some team out there is willing to eat an unpleasant contract or two without asking for Fletcher’s… or whoever is in charge’s… first born child.
It’s kind of cliché, but outside of Carter Hart, there’s nobody on the Flyers’ roster that should be safe from trade speculation. This has been a very bad team for a very long time and most of the players are and have been guilty for years. The smart play would be to cash in on the good seasons, clear a bit of cap and reassess going into the 2023 offseason with choices and a bit of breathing room rather than with zero cap space and a roster filled with losers that make it impossible to make much needed additions. Is Chuck Fletcher up to the task? Seems unlikely given his track record, but if there was ever a time to step up and take control of his organization, it’s right now.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com