As the NHL trade deadline appears on the horizon, the juicy trade rumors are starting to whisper their way around, and the Philadelphia Flyers have a couple players that will surely draw some attention over the next few months. None may be bigger than 26-year-old defenseman Ivan Provorov, whose future with the Flyers has been up in the air once again. After a heated end-of-season press conference last year, there’s been speculation about whether or not he’s going to get traded. Now, as the mixed bag that has been the 2022-23 season is half way over, his name has once again appeared in trade rumors, and maybe for real this time.
While fans have turned pretty hard on the Flyers’ top blueliner, it doesn’t mean trading him is the best option out there. There are some questions the franchise needs to ask itself before parting ways with the Russian machine.
Do they get proper value in a trade?
Thanks to the continued league-wide salary cap struggles, the trade scene is broken. The Flyers will surely have no problem moving Provorov, but getting anything of substance back is where the problems are going to arise.
The Arizona Coyotes have yet to move Jakob Cychrun because they can’t find a deal they deem proper value. The Chicago Blackhawks sold Alex DeBrincat for half of what they were originally asking last summer.
“But Daniel, they were asking way too much in return” I hear you yell, which is probably true, but wouldn’t you? You cool moving Provorov for a pair of third round picks? Does a mid-first round pick and random prospect X move the needle in a return on a good day?
An important key here is the Flyers don’t have to move Provorov this summer. He’s under contract for two more seasons and his play isn’t as bad as many claim, so there’s no pressure to actually make a deal for a lesser value. “Don’t make a trade just for the sake of making a trade” as the old saying goes.
This isn’t trading pending UFA Claude Giroux with a no-movement clause at the trade deadline. There’s no immediate end date, no rush against the clock with limited options. The Flyers can really take their time with this and wait for a team to come to them and meet their asking price.
What does a Provorov trade signal for the team?
This seems like a relatively important question that has gotten overlooked, but the Flyers trading their top defenseman for various assets theoretically signals a rebuild, or continuation of whatever psudo-retool they currently find themselves in, but they’re simultaneously trying to become a perennial playoff team again… That seems counterintuitive.
A bulk of this question ultimately boils down to what the Flyers get in return for the 26-year-old. There’s a price out there that is certainly worth their while whether it be for roster pieces or assets, but it’s also foolish to just assume that Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers’ front office are going to hunt down the best return possible, or that anybody is going to pay full price to begin with. Anything less than a roster player of equal value in a “hockey trade” is going to leave the door for questioning the immediate future of the franchise open.
What does the blueline look like without him?
The Philadelphia Flyers don’t know life without Ivan Provorov. He’s missed just three games in the last seven years and easily plays the most minutes on the team every season. Because of that, there’s no real indication one way or the other what the Flyers defense can do without Provorov leading the way.
Plucking him off the roster and letting the rest of the D-corps figure things out without him is a big risk. Travis Sanheim’s play is wildly inconsistent and he’s never had to eat the minutes Provorov has, and Cam York can’t even get deployed on his natural left side to see what he brings to the NHL level. He has rode shotgun with Provorov on the right side off an on since the end of last season, but that’s still not a great barometer for judging what he can do as a top guy in the NHL, especially without a stud partner.
There’s a good chance Cam York will be an acceptable top four defenseman in time, but throwing him to the wolves as the unquestioned top guy without a sustained partner during a bad era of Flyers hockey sure sounds like the exact same mistakes they made with Provorov over the years.
A platoon of York and Sanheim is more than likely passable, but if neither can truly step up and eat the hard minutes that Provorov currently does, the entire back end could be built to fail.
Who makes the trade?
By now it’s no secret that the public morale on GM Chuck Fletcher is quite low. He’s made quite a few questionable trades over the last few seasons and him overseeing a deal of this magnitude doesn’t exactly pose confidence in a weary fanbase. Though, if the team ever gets handed over to rookie GM Danny Briere, who seems more than likely the next man up whenever Fletcher meets his maker, it’s quite the task for his first move as GM to be trading and getting a suitable return for the franchise’s top defenseman. Which is the lesser of two evils here?
Building a blue line
Over the last seven years, the Flyers have both intentionally and non-intentionally failed to give Ivan Provorov a real partner – or defense corps as a whole- and it has left him as the only worthwhile defenseman on the team more often than not. He carried Andrew MacDonald for the first three years of his career, which certainly did his early career development no favors.
Chuck Fletcher has tried time and time again since he showed up to supply a partner to Provorov, but the bad luck hasn’t stopped. Matt Niskanen retired after one season, Ryan Ellis played all of four games before being forced into retirement, Tony DeAngelo has been unable to replicate the season he had in Carolina last year, and Justin Braun, who was Provorov’s partner sprinkled throughout the years is just too far past his use by date to be a top pair defenseman for long stretches of time.
Any team that acquires the Russian blueliner that already has a top right-handed defenseman to play along side him, or utilizes a solid defensive structure where Provorov won’t have to be the only notable figure night in and night out is going to reap the benefits of a very good player that just boils down to putting him in a better position to succeed. What a novel concept.
This may read as an “in defense of Ivan Provorov” piece, and maybe to a certain extent, it is. But it’s more a word of warning in being careful what you wish for. Trading away Provorov is going to be easy. Once his name officially hits the block he’ll be gone in the matter of a few days. The copious amount of unanswered questions that follow his departure is where the real red flags stem from.
There’s the possibility that things are just too far gone when it comes to the relationship between Provorov and the Flyers, and it’s not hard to understand why. Provorov has been a loyal soldier since 2016 and has outworked everyone else along the way, yet he’s seen practically zero fruits from his labor. The mounting frustration is enough to seek greener pastures from the player’s perspective and the Flyers are the ones who suffer from their own near decade of incompetence.
If there’s not a home run return to be had for the guy, or the front office is incapable of finding it, dealing away their top defenseman will surely blow up in their face. And for a fanbase that loves to focus on former Flyers and their success elsewhere, their chants for this guy’s head on a platter aren’t going to age very well.
Plain and simple, this is a situation where the net positives aren’t glaringly obvious. He may have run his course with the team and the fans are hyper sensitive to every mistake, but as the old saying goes, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Maybe just a word of advice as everyone prepares for the post-Provorov era in Philly.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nbcsports.com