Flyers Should Circle Back on Sam Reinhart

Creativity and the Philadelphia Flyers go together like oil and water. Looking back at the 2021 offseason, the Flyers made a high-profile trade with the Buffalo Sabres for Rasmus Ristolainen, but didn’t acquire forward Sam Reinhart, who was featured in some of the original rumors. Instead, he was shipped off to the Florida Panthers a few days later. The Flyers, who have desperately needed an upgrade at forward ever since, are probably kicking themselves they didn’t pay up for Reinhart; but what if there’s a way to fix that mistake?

The Florida Panthers are against the salary cap with Patric Hornqvist and Anthony Duclair, who are making $5.3 million and $3 million respectively, both due to come of LTIR in the near future. That means the team is somehow going to have to make room for them on the main roster, and it could lead to the Panthers making a few trades to navigate themselves to cap compliance. It has led some to believe that Sam Reinhart or Sam Bennett could become casualties to make the money work.

Hornqvist, whose been dealing with a concussion dating back to early December, has traveling with the team dating back to early January, but his timeline for a return is still murky.

Duclair had achilles tendon surgery last summer and has been back skating with the team since mid-December and has picked up the pace during the last couple weeks of January and has been on pace for a return after the All-Star break.

27-year-old Sam Reinhart is coming off a career season where he posted 33 goals and 82 points in 78 games. While that pace has slowed a bit during the 2022-23 campaign, he still has 17 goals and 39 points in 52 games. He can play center or wing, though has slotted in primarily at right wing during most of his run with the Panthers.

Unfortunately for the Flyers, they don’t exactly have an abundance of cap space themselves to capitalize on a situation like this, but there aren’t many teams that can afford to take on $6.5 million without making moves of their own. According to CapFriendly, there are just 10 team who have the current cap space to add that cap hit, but as predicted, only two are currently sitting in a playoff spot, being the Minnesota Wild and the Colorado Avalanche (thanks to LTIR usage of their own.)

Now, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a creative solution out there where the Flyers could do some gymnastics to acquire Reinhart, and the impending trade deadline will help both teams create a bit of cap to make a deal work. Referencing CapFriendly again, the Panthers are projected to have $2.4 million in cap on deadline day and the Flyers are sitting just shy of $2.9 million.

For the Flyers, they’re just about guaranteed to part ways with James Van Riemsdyk on deadline day, though probably have to eat half of his contract to do so. Even still, that clears $3.5 million by itself. That $3.5 plus the projected $2.9 brings the Flyers up to $6.4 million, a number that could creep up even higher if they sell other players like Justin Braun as well. So if they choose to pursue Reinhart for a cocktail of draft picks, even potentially returning Florida’s 2024 first round pick they acquired in the Giroux trade at last year’s trade deadline, the Flyers could make that deal work.

The Flyers would get Reinhart and the Panthers would get cap space and an extra draft pick or two, assets that could be reused to make other additions once their cap space becomes clearer post-trade.

There’s ways to maneuver around for Florida as well. They could desperately use a top left-handed defenseman and the Flyers are currently looking to unload Ivan Provorov, so a potential swap including Reinhart could work considering their cap hits are nearly identical, with Provorov’s clocking in at just $250,000 more.

That doesn’t directly solve any cap problems for Florida, but it could make Gustav Forsling expandable, which could clear $2.7 million, a number that, including their $2.4 million deadline day cash, is more than enough to bring Duclair back, who wold serve as an in-house replacement for Reinhart at forward.

If the Panthers would have interest in Kevin Hayes, that could produce another scenario, but only if the Flyers would be willing to eat a significant amount of his remaining cap. If the Flyers were to retain half of his cap, that would bring his cap hit down to $3.571,428, which is almost $3 million in savings for Florida in a one-for-one swap for Reinhart. That tab for the Flyers could be covered by trading JVR at the deadline in the short term, it’d be all about whether or not the Flyers want to carry Hayes’ $3.5 in retained cap for an additional three seasons, something they probably don’t want to do.

Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers aren’t exactly known for their prowess when it comes to hunting down trade scenarios like this, but adding Sam Reinhart, who’d be under contract for next season as well, would be a serious upgrade at forward for a team that critically needs it. Neither team’s cap scenario is perfect, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to navigate through the weeds.

Does Fletcher put his big boy pants on and do something big? No, probably not. But given the current state of the Flyers both financially and roster wise, the front office should be looking far and wide for scenarios just like this one to improve the team. It’s the kind of killer instinct that has been sorely lacking from the Flyers front office for a very long time, and could be the difference between the franchise turning around or remaining stuck in mediocrity for another year.

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

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