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Drysdale Acquisition, Zamula’s Improved Play Makes Walker More Expendable

(Heather Barry Images, LLC)

The Calgary Flames might be doing the Philadelphia Flyers a favour by dealing their pending free agents well before the trade deadline, further making Sean Walker a more coveted piece.

Heading into this season, the crop of players that would have been available at the trade deadline was never going to be an enticing or dazzling list – for two primary reasons. 1) There are far more teams battling for playoff spots than in previous seasons, making their expiring contracts unavailable for most of the season, 2) a lot of the more skilled players who are playing on expiring deals are currently on contending teams, who most likely won’t trade them.

For lack of a better word, the Flames have “flamed out” this season and are on the cusp of a rebuild just 2 years removed from having the most potent top line in the league. Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, and Elias Lindholm each tallied 40+ goals and combined for 301 points and an even more ridiculous +182. They lost to the Edmonton Oilers in the second round in 2022, Tkachuk requested a trade, Gaudreau walked as a free agent and signed in Columbus, and just last week Lindholm was dealt to Vancouver.

Lindholm was at the top of most trade boards so now the focus will be shifting towards two of their defensemen in Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev. They have already moved Nikita Zadorov to Vancouver earlier in the season, Hanifin has made it clear he doesn’t want to remain in Calgary, and Tanev has been linked to Toronto and Vancouver – and was reportedly almost dealt along with Lindholm.

Looking at Chris Johnston’s trade board from earlier last week, you can cross off #1 Elias Lindholm and #7 Andrei Kuzmenko to begin with. #2 Chris Tanev should be moved in the next few weeks as interest continue to intensify and then at #3 comes Philadelphia Flyers rearguard Sean Walker:

“Acquired from the Kings over the summer as cap relief in a three-way trade that included Columbus, Walker has been a revelation in Philadelphia. The right-shot defenseman is playing more than 20 minutes per night and putting up offensive numbers at a career-best rate.

“Known throughout his NHL career as a player who likes to join the attack, Walker seems to have struck a nice balance since joining the Flyers. The team is consistently carrying the play offensively when he’s on the ice at five-on-five.

“Walker is also playing on an affordable (and expiring) contract, which makes him a strong asset for the Flyers to sell before the deadline, especially after adding 21-year-old defenseman Jamie Drysdale in the Cutter Gauthier trade with Anaheim.”

The Flyers have seemingly been yo-yoing on the idea of trading Walker especially after his strong start to the season. By no means has he regressed since but the Flyers have been debating internally on whether or not they would extend him beyond this season. However, after the Jamie Drysdale acquisition, the equation has suddenly changed and the club will more or less move on from the 29-year-old ahead of the deadline.

Walker started off his career in Los Angeles with a bang and was a mainstay in their top-4 before suffering through a torn ACL and MCL that forced him to miss all but 6 games in 2021-22. While on the mend, Mikey Anderson took his spot and earned a lucrative contract, which made Walker’s position on the club tentative at best. He played in 70 games upon returning but his ATOI dropped from 18:22 to 14:50. The Flyers swooped in and acquired Walker’s final year from the cap-strapped Kings as part of the three-team Ivan Provorov trade.

Through 50 games with the Flyers, Walker has 5 goals and 17 points, is a plus-6, has 2 shorthanded goals, and has averaged 19:36 TOI. He is currently 3rd on the team behind just Travis Sanheim and Cam York at even-strength TOI (16:48) and shorthanded TOI (2:06). Walker has provided stability at a position that desperately needed it, he has helped a struggling penalty kill climb up the ranks, and his aggressiveness on the offensive side of things at even strength has been a boon for a club that has previously struggled with defensive zone exits.

What makes him an even more attractive piece is that he is a right-hand shooting defenseman – something that rival GMs covet like diamonds – and his cap hit is just $2.65 million, which is relatively cheap for contending teams with or without salary retention. With Zadorov off the board, Tanev and Hanifin to follow suit, Walker should sit firmly at the top of every team’s wishlist – for those looking to acquire a defenseman.

The Flyers have been firm since day one that they won’t part with Walker unless they receive a first round pick. At first, that might have seemed like Daniel Brière was just pulling at his rival general managers but the market this year is going to benefit the rebuilding teams far more, which will only drive the price higher and higher as we get closer to the deadline.

The Zadorov return was mystifyingly lower than what was being talked about prior to deal falling through. The Canucks parted with just a third round pick in 2026 and a fifth round pick in 2024 for what was supposed to be one of the top targets. The Flames might have jumped the gun a little too soon on that deal but now everyone’s attention will be diverted towards Hanifin and Tanev.

Realistically, a 2nd round pick can be had for Walker and that would be a great deal for the Flyers. However desperation might seep in with teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs desperately trying to find defensive help. Walker is already at the top of most team’s list but the more players that continue to fall off, the better it is for Philadelphia.

Nick Seeler has played his way towards a contract extension and it shouldn’t surprise a soul that has followed the Flyers. He has endeared himself not only to his teammates but also his coaching staff and front office. At one point he wasn’t even sure if he was going to continue playing hockey before Chuck Fletcher extended a helping hand.

He struggled in 2021-22 – as did everyone playing with Keith Yandle – but has really turned into a specialist of sorts with his shot blocking, penalty killing acumen, and willingness to be aggressive. John Tortorella loves him, Daniel Briere is enraptured, and he shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to extend. The only argument is that he might block any of the prospects currently in the AHL but they still have to prove to the coaching that they deserve an NHL spot.

Drysdale’s acquisition gives the Flyers another young right-hand shooting defenseman to add to Sanheim and York for the present and future. After that it’s a crap shoot as to how the Flyers fill out the final 3 spots but they’re very content with Rasmus Ristolainen‘s recent transformation, Egor Zamula‘s resurgence, and Seeler’s intangibles – further making Walker expendable.

As for now, the Flyers will continue to play the waiting game as they have to dig themselves out of their current rut. They’re still holding onto the final playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division but lost a lot of breathing room recently. Until Tanev is moved, Walker will most likely remain in Philadelphia unless another team is desperate for his services and jumps the gun.

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