Decisions Decisions

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

With the NHL Trade Deadline of March 8th fast approaching, the Philadelphia Flyers have some tough decisions to make in the next couple of days. For what seems like months now, the Flyers have found themselves in third place in the Metropolitan Division. A position that, if they continue to be able to hold onto it, will allow them to be a participant in playoff hockey once again.

But, while this news is exciting, the Flyers’ General Manager Danny Briere knows that while making it in would be nice, this still rebuilding team’s real shot at contention will come a couple more years down the road when young players on the current roster and others still in the teams’ system will have had an appropriate amount of time to progress.

These comments by Briere and others that were of a similar nature made by the teams’ President of Hockey Operations, Keith Jones, may seem very blunt to a fan that is just happy that the team is back on the winning track, but should be viewed as refreshing considering managements goals under this new administration are now to compete to win championships not just to make it to the playoffs to get beat in the first round by the Bruins or Rangers and end up with a less than stellar draft pick for their efforts.

So, in saying that, the team has to decide: do they sell off assets like impending unrestricted free agents that they are due to lose for nothing in a couple of months? Do they stand pat and continue with the current roster that has got them this far with the hopes that their promising youth gets the chance to experience a bit of post-season hockey? Or do they decide to push their chips into the pot and add a few pieces that will not only help them fill some holes in their lineup this year but will be able to contribute to the team’s future success as well?

Well, in a perfect world, I would say they should do all of the above. Let me explain. At first, glance, that last statement may sound crazy to some, but to get a better understanding of where the team is at as a whole and what they must do to improve, I think you need to break it down into positions: goaltending, defense, and offense. All three have good and bad things going for them right now, and all three areas currently have some concerns that need to be addressed.


So, let us start with the area of most concern in my mind, and that is goaltending. With the sudden departure of Carter Hart this season, the Flyers have been left with a big hole to fill. Gone are the days of one goalie playing 65-70 games a year. The league is set up differently now. Teams do not play as many divisional games as they once did. Years ago, it would seem as though the Flyers played the New Jersey Devils or the New York Islanders 10 games a piece each season. Clubs now travel a lot more, seeing that they are now forced to play every team in the league at least twice each year—one game at home and one game away. So, teams have become reliant on having a pair of capable goaltenders on their roster to combat the rigors of the newly modified NHL season. So, while I will agree with the ideology of the team’s Head coach, John Tortorella, when it comes to letting the Flyers’ rookie sensation Samuel Ersson take over the majority of games in between the pipes to see what he can do, I believe the team also has a duty to protect Ersson by finding him a more suitable short term partner than a 29-year-old netminder in Cal Petersen who to this point has lacked the consistency needed to maintain a spot in the NHL.

Take, for instance, Petersen’s two prior games. On February 10th, Cal looked solid in a win against Seattle in which he only let in two goals. But in his very next outing last night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, he let in seven goals! Cal was only able to stop 78.1% of the shots he faced. Some of which were not even quality chances that he let in. They were off-angle flukey goals. It was just not the kind of effort you would expect from someone who is signed to a deal that is paying him five million dollars a season.

And if this team still wants to be competitive over the next couple of seasons, they are going to have to address this issue. There is no way the Flyers should have lost a game in which they scored six goals, especially not to a team that currently finds themselves three spots below them in the standings. Those are what you call MUST-WIN games, folks, and if the Flyers wish to be competitive, they must find themselves a backup or 1B option so that Ersson can relax on one of his rare nights off.

What are their options, you might be asking? Well, a couple of weeks ago, I offered up some goalies on the trade block who will be made available in the next couple of days, but they may not be what the Flyers really need or are currently looking for.

Philadelphia has promising prospects of their own in net in Alexei Kolosov, Carson Bjarnason, and Yegor Zavragin. However, each is still a year or more away from competing in the NHL. So, my recommendation would be to call around to teams with an abundance of goalies, so much so that they may be hindering some of their developments, so they might not mind if someone comes inquiring about their availability. Teams like the Predators, the Bruins, the Islanders, and the Sabers come to mind. When you think of goaltending when it comes to the Preds, you think of Juuse Saros, but Nashville also has a competent goalie in 21-year-old Yaroslav Askarov, who they spent a 2020 1st round pick on. Currently, Yaroslav is just waiting in the wings of the AHL. Now, I would believe Askarov to be untouchable, seeing the team thinks of him as their future. Still, it is feasible to think a guy like current NHL backup 28-year-old Kevin Lankinen, who is signed to an expiring contract of $2 million, could be viewed as expendable.

Or how about the Bruins? They are obviously set with Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman in net. So, why not call them up about either Brandon Bussi, who is 25, or Michael DiPietro, who is 24? Both are budding prospects who look more than capable of jumping up and contributing in the NHL tomorrow, but they will not get their chance any time soon seeing who is ahead of them on the depth chart. Besides, it’s not even like the Bruins would miss them, considering they continue to hit on goalies in the draft and could sign one of their other prospects in net, like Reid Dyck or Philip Svedeback, to take their place on the depth chart.

Trading for Bussi or DiPietro at the deadline would give the Flyers a viable partner for Ersson moving forward that would not only compete with him on a daily basis but be able to bring peace of mind to the Flyers coaching staff so that when they do decide to give Sam a night off he won’t have to be looking to grab his gear a period into the game because his backup has already let in four goals. Management has a duty to Sam to get him this type of relief so that he will not become known as just another promising goalie the Flyers had whose career was for not because the team misused them or rushed their development.


Here is a position that the Flyers’ new management has put a big emphasis on improving. But it somehow is still the area with the most decisions left to make. Now, I don’t know about you, but I am sick of seeing the team play this 11 forwards and seven defensemen scheme. It does not allow for some of our young players to build chemistry with a particular linemate, and frankly, I don’t think we owe the 37-year-old Marc Staal (who is beginning to show his age) anything!

In saying that, the Flyers have a lot of decisions ahead of them on the back end; they have two soon-to-be unrestricted free agents in, 29-year-old Sean Walker and 30-year-old Nick Seeler, who have been playing some of the best hockey of their careers this year. So much so that teams from around the league have been rumored to be calling about their possible availability, and although it would be nice to re-sign them, the likelihood of that happening is slim, considering the fact that the team has defensive prospects like Egor Zamula, Ronnie Attard, Emil Andre, Adam Ginning, and Helge Grans all waiting patiently for their chance to shine.

So, why not deal Seeler and Walker for draft capital, right? Well, it’s not that simple now, either. The team’s long-awaited top-pairing right-hand-shot defender, 21-year-old Jamie Drysdale, who they recently acquired from the Anaheim Ducks, sustained an injury to what appears to be his left shoulder in Sunday’s game against the Penguins when he received a questionable hit from Pittsburgh’s Jansen Harkins. This injury has the potential to be damming, considering it’s the same shoulder that Drysdale injured last year that limited him to just eight games played in the 22-23 campaign.

On top of that, the Flyers also have defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen out with an upper-body injury that will likely still see him wearing a suit in the press box for at least the next couple of weeks. This, too, is heartbreaking, considering Rasmus’ name was starting to pop up in the rumor mills as a possible player who could be moved to a team that desires a defenseman with a bit of an edge.

So, it looks as though this team is caught between a rock and a hard place. Should they keep Walker and Seeler through the deadline and risk losing them for nothing at the season’s end? Or should they trade them anyway and get the assets that will help them move forward?

I say if a solid trade presents itself for either of them, then do it! Neither one of those guys are game changers. They are just solid aging veterans who play the game the right way. And to be honest, teams like Carolina have proven that you can go out every off-season and not only find but sign those types of guys at a reduced rate. So, the team should not be hesitant to move them. The Flyers have the kind of depth at defense that will allow multiple young blue-liners to get the chance to prove themselves on the big stage if such a deal is made. And that will allow this team to see what they have moving forward.

Sit Staal and let the youth play. Everything else will work itself out, or it won’t, but at least the team will know what they actually have and what they may still need to go out and obtain.


Now to the offense. Management must be pleased to see their once horrific penalty-killing unit now be amongst the best in the league. With the additions of free agents Ryan Poehling and Garnet Hathaway this year, the team has been killing off the opposing team’s man advantages at an impressive 86.1% rate. Along with that, they currently lead the league with 13 short-handed goals in 59 games played.

In addition to that, the team has had the pleasure of witnessing guys like Owen Tippett, Bobby Brink, and Tyson Foerster continue to evolve, with Tyson totaling three of his 13 goals on the season in just the last two games alone.

But as good as those things are, they have had their problems as well. Guys like Atkinson, who is supposed to be an essential part of this offense, is on an 11-game goalless draught. The coaching staff can’t seem to get him and others going, and they don’t seem to have a plan in place to try and rectify this situation any time soon.

Because of this, areas of the game, like the power play, have suffered. The Flyers are well off the league’s pace of 53 power-play goals, seeing that they only have 25 to their credit. In fact, their ineffectiveness on the man advantage is so bad that they find themselves only cashing in on 13.2% of their chances if you were wondering if that’s the league’s worst.

But I guess when you factor in that the team has a former fighter in Rocky Thompson (who has never scored a goal in the NHL, let alone seen time out on the power play) drawing up the X’s and O’s during a TV time out then you can come to expect it.

What needs to change? Well, besides firing Rocky, I think they should try to acquire the Los Angeles Kings’ 22-year-old winger Arthur Kaliyev. Kaliyev, who was once thought of as one of the Kings’ highest-rated prospects, has since fallen out of favor with the team and its fans. Prospects like Alex Laferriere and Quinton Byfield have taken over that spotlight offensively for the team to the point that Arthur has found himself being labeled a healthy scratch some nights.

In fact, if veteran winger Viktor Arvidsson wasn’t injured right now, Kaliyev might still find himself in the press box. But I assure you, he shouldn’t be. This 6’2, 209-pound winger who can play on either side of the face-off dots has gotten a bit of a bad wrap recently, and it’s simply because he is trying too hard to get noticed. Arthur doesn’t shy away from contact, and at times, over the past couple of seasons, he may have made some hits he shouldn’t have.

These questionable hits have led to him receiving a suspension or two, but they all have been things that can be attributed to the simple growing pains of competing young players. He was just trying too hard to make a play and made a mistake. Unfortunately for him, LA is loaded with prospects just like him vying for their chance. Now that others have surpassed him in their system, Kaliyev has been left in a very similar situation to that in which Owen Tippett found himself in Florida. He is a player with a ton of offensive talent who is being given no ice time to prove his true worth.

Arthur, who was born in Uzbekistan before moving over to the US at a young age, should be considered a sniper. He is a shoot-first player who, if acquired by the Flyers, could instantaneously come in and help this team’s power play. The Kings originally drafted Arthur back in 2019 in the second round from the Hamilton Bulldogs of the OHL, where, throughout three seasons, Kaliyev was able to score 126 goals and 248 points.

If you view the videos of this still young player, you will see that he is dangerous with the puck on his stick. Whether it’s a slap shot, wrist shot, one-timer, etc., it doesn’t matter; Kaliyev can rifle the puck on the net. And it is these scoring attributes that have allowed him to win on every level up to this point.

There is no question that this young man has all the talent in the world; he might just need a second chance and a change of venue to prove it. Kaliyev is a restricted free agent who may have worn out his welcome in LA but should be given the opportunity to be reborn in Philly. He is a low-risk, high-reward type of guy who is young enough to fit right in with the likes of Tippett, Farabee, and Foerster. He has shown he can contribute offensively while playing in the NHL, setting career highs of 14 goals thus far, but has the potential to be a 30-goal scorer one day. My suggestion would be to trade for this still-green prospect and see him pay dividends for years to come. The Kings are fighting for a playoff spot right now and could be easily swayed to give him up for what they view as a must-have. So, if it costs the team a player like Scott Laughton, so be it. The Flyers will be fine without him, considering they like to employ others just like him in the form of Couturier, Poehling, and Cates. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather get a proven NHL prospect back in return rather than a draft pick that may never turn out anyway.

These are just a few of my suggestions for the Flyers to make if the opportunity presents itself in the coming days leading up to the deadline. For the first time in a long time, I feel the team is in capable hands with Jones and Briere and, therefore, I am looking forward to seeing where this new leadership group takes us.

Lance Green

I’m a lifelong Flyers fan who has been playing the sport of Ice Hockey we all know and love competitively for over 30 years now. I grew up playing in-between the pipes where I was able to take in the whole game and analysis just what the team needed to do to help us win. Over the years I always enjoyed reading and gaining as much knowledge as possible about this great sport, but always thought it lacked something. A players prospective!