Should the Overachieving Flyers be Buyers or Sellers Come the Trade Deadline?
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - DECEMBER 04: Sean Walker #26 of the Philadelphia Flyers skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Wells Fargo Center on December 04, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Heading into tonight’s game against the Avalanche, Philadelphia was riding a three-game winning streak. In addition, this overachieving team has managed to vault itself into second place in the Metropolitan Division. But while their unexpected success up to this point has been a welcome change for their fans, the question now is, does management think that their club is going to be able to sustain this kind of production throughout the rest of the season and force them to ignore potential buyers calling in about their players?
Let’s analyze this, shall we? To their credit, I don’t think there is one of us out here who would have thought through 26 games into the season that this team would find themselves second in their division. But let’s be honest with ourselves: while Tortorella may have his team staying competitive, they are still rebuilding and have no real shot at contending for a Stanley Cup. Case in point, while the Flyers may be sitting pretty in the Metro, they are sixth in the Eastern Conference, with the Caps, Hurricanes, Lightning, and Islanders all only one point behind them right now. This means that if the Flyers were to be dealt even one loss, they could easily see themselves go from sixth to eighth or ninth in the standings.
So, the newly appointed general manager, Danny Briere, is going to have to ask himself is it worth passing up on a bunch of potential draft capital that could be gained by trading away a couple of expendable players at the deadline so his team could maybe make it back to a state of mediocrity just to get booted out of the first round of the playoffs by a team like the Bruins or Rangers who are both winning close to 75% of their games right now?
The correct answer should be NO! This team’s best chance of winning is still a couple of years away when Cutter Gauthier and Matvei Michkov are suiting up for the Orange and Black.
That said, if teams come calling for any of the Flyers’ current roster players in the coming months, they should at least be willing to listen to what the potential buyers have to offer.
By now, you might be asking who these prospecting teams might want to acquire from the Flyers. And I would have to say the one with the most rumors surrounding him currently is Carter Hart. But I would be hard-pressed to believe that a trade of this magnitude would be able to come to fruition in the middle of the season. Instead, if such a trade were to happen, I would perceive it to occur later, on the draft floor this summer.
So, let’s instead discuss some players who the team is more likely to move leading up to the trade deadline. One player who may fit that bill and has begun to garner some interest in the past few days is the Flyers towering defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. And for good reason, it’s not often that a 6’4, 208-pound defender (who is under 30) and playing the best hockey of his career is made available for a playoff push. But if the rumor of the Toronto Maple Leafs wanting him is true, then I’m wondering why Briere hasn’t already jumped at the chance to rid himself of a player who is a career -176 and is signed for three more years at over five million dollars.
Remember that while Ristolainen’s play has been good as of late, it has been for only a short duration, seeing that he has been limited to just six games this season. He is only just returning from the Injury Reserve list. Surprisingly, though, in his absence, the team appeared to not even miss him, with others proving they were more than capable of stepping up. Thus making him seem pretty darn expendable, if you ask me.
Why would they want him, you ask? At this point, Toronto’s fanbase is just plain desperate to win, seeing that they last raised the cup nearly 60 years ago. Consequently, if the Leafs find themselves salivating over the possibility of landing a defender with his type of physicality and choose to come calling offering up a first or second-round pick for a player who has never finished as a plus player in his 11 seasons in the NHL. I say let’s do the dam deal so that the Flyers can keep garnering quality draft picks that will help add to this team’s depth in the future.
Another Flyer that teams have been asking about the availability of is their 29-year-old veteran defenseman Sean Walker. This underrated player acquired from the Kings during the trade that sent Ivan Provorov packing has proved to be more than just the throw-in most chalked him up to be. Dressing for all 26 games that the Flyers have played thus far, Walker has scored 11 points and is a plus-seven on the season. However, Sean is in the last year of a contract paying him an A.A.V. of $2.6 million, and the team may be unable to resign him due to cap restraints. Thankfully, they may not need to bring him back anyway, given the emergence of blue liners like Egor Zamula, Louie Belpedio, Ronnie Attard, Emil Andre, Adam Ginning, Helge Grans, and Oliver Bonk currently coming up in the team’s system.
That’s why selling high on Walker may not be such a bad idea, especially if it could garner the Flyers an additional first or second-round pick in the coming months. Besides, doing so may also be beneficial to the team, given the fact that it would give the Flyers an extended look at a few prospects on the back end who will be battling it out for a permanent roster spot next season.
The last and final player I think could bring back future value to this team at the trade deadline is one you may not have expected: Philadelphia’s 6’2 201 pound 30-year-old versatile defenseman Nick Seeler. Nick is a guy who has proved over the last couple of years that he is defensively responsible enough to have gained the trust of his head coach, John Tortorella. So much so that the Jack Adams Award winner allows him to move up and down the lineup as injuries occur.
Seeler, who can play both the right and left side, currently leads the Flyers with a +13 average. I believe this insanely tough customer would provide great depth, strength, and toughness to any team heading into the playoffs and should be considered a steal if attained, especially since he is only getting paid a mere $775,000 this season.
If dealt, I believe Seeler could bring back a mid-round pick in the upcoming draft that could allow their GM, Danny Briere, to bring in some talent this summer that other teams have managed to overlook.
These are but a few players that could bring back some much-needed draft capital to this rebuilding organization if dealt at the deadline. While squeaking into the playoffs this season may sound nice, the team would benefit more from obtaining additional draft picks to go along with the multiple first and second round picks they already possess in this impending draft.
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!