They say misery loves company.
Following the NHL trade deadline, Flyers General Manager Chuck Fletcher hinted that significant changes to the roster could be coming this offseason.
He’s not alone.
The Flyers’ season has been disappointing, to say the least, but several other franchises are in the same boat as the Flyers and could be looking to change the dynamic of their lineups before the puck drops again this fall. It takes two to tango on trades, so this week, we are lining up a few trading dance partners.
Start the music.
Arizona Coyotes: Traditionally, the Flyers and Coyotes have enjoyed doing business with each other and we could see more of it this summer. The Coyotes went for it last year by adding Taylor Hall at the trade deadline but failed to move the needle much in terms of postseason success. They are currently fighting for their playoff lives but could be looking to make changes if it ends up another lost season. Even if the ‘Yotes make the postseason, they’ll run into one of two buzzsaws in Vegas or Colorado in the first round.
The Flyers have been linked to pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Alex Goligoski, and Fletcher could trade for negotiating rights to fill a hole on the blue line. But the Flyers could be thinking craftier. Three-time Cup winner Niklas Hjalmarsson is also a UFA, is two years younger (33) than Goligoski (35) and is much more defensive-minded. It wouldn’t take much to get his rights but the Flyers would then have to work out a contract. And they’d be wise to keep it short. Hjalmarsson is among the best in the game at blocking shots, and the body takes a beating from doing it.
Calgary Flames: It’s doubtful that the Johnny Gaudreau rumors will subside with the Flames threatening a major facelift this offseason. Gaudreau, a South Jersey native, will be on the last year of a $6.75 million/year contract next season so the Flames might want to deal him if they don’t see him in their future plans. Calgary would probably also love to unload Milan Lucic’s two years remaining at $5.25 million and the Flyers could use his grit if placed properly in the lineup, in addition to Gaudreau. It would open the door for the Flyers to send a big contract or two the other way.
Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes are the outlier of this group, not really needing a rebuild. But defenseman Dougie Hamilton continues to dangle without a contract extension. He’ll be the big prize of the offseason as a No. 1 defenseman and perhaps Fletcher deals a late-round pick to talk to Hamilton earlier, the same way he did before landing Kevin Hayes two years ago.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets were big sellers at the deadline, and the cuts could run deeper for a team that has won just two playoff series in its 20-year history. Blue-chip defenseman Seth Jones is due a new contract in 2022, and it’s unclear if Columbus will be able to convince its big star to stay, as it has been historically unsuccessful in doing in the past (Rick Nash, Sergei Bobrovsky, Artemi Panarin). The Jackets could offer him captaincy after trading Nick Foligno last week but will that be enough?
Jones’ underlying numbers have slipped a bit in the last few seasons after being in the discussion as a future Norris Trophy hopeful, but he still plays monster minutes and can be a force at both ends of the ice. He’s only 26 and will be due a raise from his $5.4 million salary and the trade price would be high, but still worth considering.
Also keep in mind that the Patrik Laine acquisition hasn’t gone exactly perfectly in Columbus. Would the Jackets be willing to flip him?
Nashville Predators: The good news for the Flyers is that the Predators didn’t pull the trigger on a trade involving either defensemen Mattias Ekholm or Ryan Ellis. The Flyers would have had trouble protecting a defensive acquisition in the upcoming expansion draft, but the option could be available if both parties are willing to wait until it passes. Either guy would be pricey on the trade market, as Ekholm is a terrific defenseman who has one year remaining on a bargain $3.75 million/year salary. Ellis has cost certainty, as he is locked in at $6.25 million/year until 2027. But both players are now 30, which bears some caution with long-term deals.
Warriors Host Tournament
USA Hockey announced last week that Philadelphia will be the host city for the 2021 USA Warrior Classic. Warrior Hockey is a program that provides injured and disabled military veterans the opportunity to play ice hockey.
The Philadelphia Warriors, who are an affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers, won the Tier 3 championship when it was last held in Las Vegas in 2019.
The 2021 event will be held at the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees from Nov. 4-7.