What If the Flyers are Buyers At the Trade Deadline?

The NHL trade deadline is one of the most exciting days on the calendar for any hockey fan. Playoff teams making big acquisitions while the bottom feeders gather assets for the future. The Philadelphia Flyers are far away from making the playoffs but also aren’t really looking to be major sellers either. There’s no major pending unrestricted free agent on the roster and the few later round picks they’ll acquire for the few UFAs that are don’t exactly move the needle for the future. Though theoretically the Flyers are gathering themselves to actually be a competitive team in the time ahead, so maybe they themselves should enter the buyers market.

It may seem counterintuitive for a team like the Flyers to be buyers at the trade deadline of a completely lost season where the playoffs aren’t going to happen, but if it comes at the price of securing high-end talent for the future, it may have to be an avenue they have to consider going down.

The 2023 free agent pool is shaping up to be one of the deepest in recent years with such stars as Dylan Larkin, David Pastrnak, Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko and others all potentially becoming unrestricted free agents in the summer. If those players can’t come to terms on new deals with their respective teams when the trade deadline rolls around in early March, it’s possible they could all get moved for assets and it’s always possible they re-sign with their new team removing them from the wild west of free agency all together.

The Islanders, who are currently out of a playoff spot, just traded for and re-signed Bo Horvat long-term. While they’re still a playoff bubble team, the Isles now have Horvat and his services for eight more seasons no matter what happens this year. Even if they miss the postseason, they’ve still got a major addition to further build around during the offseason.

For the Flyers, who need to go big game hunting this summer to give the roster a fighting chance at a playoff berth, letting a player like, say, Dylan Larkin slip through their fingers could doom them before the 2023-24 campaign even begins.

We all know Chuck Fletcher’s very lackluster history when it comes to not just offseasons in general, but specifically free agent signings. Outside of Kevin Hayes’ seven-year, $50 million deal signed back in 2019, there hasn’t been a single free agent contract of note the Flyers have signed.

Reality is, the Flyers are going to have to pay up for talent sooner or later, whether that come in the form of trade assets or cap dollars -or in some cases- both.

It’s about being proactive. If the Flyers’ front office has the foresight to determine that Larkin in their main target during the summer, but he ends up on the trade block on deadline day, there’s no reason they shouldn’t throw their hat in that ring if it ultimately means they get their guy. Obviously contingent on whether or not the pending unrestricted free agent would consider negotiating a new deal to stay in Philly.

There is always the possibility of acquiring a restricted free agent to keep that expiring player under team control. That market seems relatively quiet when looking ahead to deadline day, but there’s one big fish in the pond and that’s San Jose Sharks’ forward Timo Meier.

We’ve previously weighed the options when it comes to pursing Meier in the past, and obviously a winger whose qualifying offer clocks in at a whopping $10 million is quite a big ask, but it also means that he’ll be a Flyer for the foreseeable future.

It was the appeal of acquiring Alex DeBrincat from Chicago last summer. A 24-year-old two-time 40-goal scorer who was still an RFA would’ve been a fun new toy for the Flyers.

There’s always the argument of “well this player can just sign a short term contract and walk himself to unrestricted free agency and leave.” And, sure, that’s a possibility, but it’s also not the most likely outcome. Unless that player is money hungry and willing to sign anywhere that has the highest bidder, the odds of a player racking up that much bad blood in a year or two is relatively improbable.

Meier could be acquired by the Flyers and refuses to sign long-term, instead inking a deal for one year and leaves in free agency in 2024, but he could also sign a long-term deal and be a foundational piece for the next generation of Flyers’ hockey. Considering the odds greatly favor the latter, it’s a move that should at least be considered.

The pop and circumstance of the trade deadline is set to allude the Flyers once again, as they sit on the sidelines doing nothing more than parting ways with their few low-interest pending UFA’s. It may seem contradictory for the Flyers to potential add a player or two given they’re lined up to miss the playoffs for a third consecutive season, but making a few additions to better their own future could be a way to jumpstart their critical 2023 offseason. It’s a certain level of vigilance and a killer instinct that desperately lacks from Chuck Fletcher and pretty much everyone else in the front office, but if there was ever a time to sack up and take a risk, now is the time. It’s possible his job could depend on it.

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: nhl.com


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