With not much excitement in relation to Philadelphia Flyers hockey and with the regular season almost all but over, the rumour mill, trade mill, and chatter around the Flyers is going to be in abundance from now all the way to free agency. Outside of an insane run where the Flyers collect 30+ wins in their last 38 games, the playoffs aren’t happening.
Normally it would be time to cut the loose ends and trade for future assets, and probably start transitioning into a rebuild. Unfortunately, the Flyers don’t run on common sense or logic, they want to contend year after year and by the sound of things, they’re not going to hold back either. When Elliotte Friedman speaks, you listen, and he’s been rather chatty about the Flyers recently. He first talked about Claude Giroux over a month ago and the increasing likelihood of a trade and then just a few days ago, after Chuck Fletcher’s press conference, he had several juicy tidbits on the moves the Flyers will be trying to make.
If you’re a neutral fan and love chaos then what the Flyers said during that press conference would make you a happy camper. From foregoing a lengthy rebuild to trying to contend as early as next season to giving Fletcher the biggest vote of confidence you can give to a singular human being; it had it all. To boot, Friedman was rather excited as well because out of chaos comes order, hopefully for the sake of the Flyers and their fanbase.
Two names that he mentioned that are on the Flyers’ radar and have been for quite some time are Nazem Kadri of the Colorado Avalanche and Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames. Nazem Kadri has been on the radar ever since the 2011 blockbuster summer where the Flyers traded Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. It was reported that Paul Holmgren had a tentative deal in place for Jeff Carter to go to Toronto in exchange for Kadri-plus a much larger haul. Before being traded to Colorado a few years ago, the Flyers attempted again but this time the Leafs wanted Travis Konecny-plus more.
With the Colorado Avalanche looking like true Stanley Cup contenders, sporting a 31-8-3 record, 9 straight wins, and a gaudy 17-game home winning streak, they’re a Claude Giroux trade away from possibly getting their hands on Lord Stanley for the first time since 2001. The Avalanche have been sniffing around in an attempt to get Giroux but that will ultimately be Claude’s decision on whether or not he wants to waive his NMC and go Stanley Cup chasing.
In terms of Kadri and the Avalanche, he is set to hit free agency at the end of the season and with how he has produced this year he is going to get a substantial raise on his current cap hit of $4.5 million. Whether it’s from the Avalanche or another team is something we won’t find out until the summer, but the Avalanche’s cap window is starting to shut. They had a few years of leeway when captain Gabriel Landeskog was still on his post rookie year contact, Mikko Rantanen was on his rookie contract, Cale Makar was on his rookie contract, and Nathan MacKinnon was making a modest $6.3 million.
Landeskog has a cap hit of $7 million until the end of 2028-29, Makar has a cap hit of $9 million until the end of 2026-27, Rantanen has a cap hit of $9.25 million for another 3 years, and MacKinnon is currently playing on an expiring contract. Based on his production in the last few years and even adding in the fact that he’s mentioned that he’s willing to take a pay cut to keep the core together, it’s still going to be a substantial increase on the $6.3 million AAV he’s currently playing on.
Adding onto the fact that both goaltenders in Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz are set to hit free agency, along with Andre Burakovsky, Ryan Murray, and Valeri Nichushkin; the Avalanche have a lot on their table and not a lot of money to work with, making Kadri expendable for other teams. If he doesn’t stay with the Avalanche and he officially hits free agency, then the Flyers are surely going to be suitors. Friedman mentioned several times on The Jeff Marek Show that Kadri “is a Flyer” with the way he plays, the way he comports himself, and the style of jam that he brings. He’s currently third in the NHL with 58 points (17 goals and 41 assists) so that blank cheque statement really resonates on a guy like Kadri if the Flyers are serious about contending as soon as possible.
Another very common rumour-mill name that has been linked to Philadelphia since the dawn of time is Johnny Gaudreau. The local boy who has said on several occasions that one day he would love to put on the Flyers sweater is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and if there’s one guy the Flyers would throw an inane amount of money towards, its Gaudreau.
He represents everything that Philadelphia is lacking and everything that Philadelphia wants. He’s a superstar in the league, he has talent that most don’t possess, he’s an elite playmaker, he’s a scoring winger, and has the wheels that this team desperately needs. Add in the fact that he’s a local, he grew up watching the Flyers, and hasn’t forgotten that fact either. He currently has 17 goals and 52 points this season and it’s no secret that he might test the free agent waters.
The Flames have to re-sign Matthew Tkachuk as well but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they can re-sign both players, however unlike Tkachuk who is a restricted free agent, Gaudreau can choose where he goes. With the Flyers desperate for change and possessing a wallet with no limitations, the bell tolls for a move like this.
The core four according to Dave Scott includes Kevin Hayes, Ryan Ellis, Sean Couturier, and Joel Farabee; ironically all signed long term and all currently on injured reserve with long term injuries. Hayes is set to make $7.14 million for another 4 years with an NMC, Ellis is set to make $6.25 million for another 5 years, and the long term extensions for Couturier and Farabee kick in next season. If the Flyers are going to go big fish hunting this summer, they’re going to have to unload a lot of money and that can honestly come from anywhere.
A couple of surprising omissions to that list include Claude Giroux, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Carter Hart. Giroux has been talked about to death this year so we are all aware of his situation. Provorov and Konecny have been with the Flyers since they got drafted in the summer of 2015 and debuted the following season in 2016-17. They are both currently signed for 3 more seasons but they have hit the rumour mill a lot in the last 2 seasons.
It’s worth keeping an eye on as Friedman stated because if the Flyers are going to orchestrate big moves and big changes, some big names and big contracts might have to saddle up and go elsewhere; Provorov and Konecny included. Friedman reported that at the end of the season, the Flyers approached Konecny and let him know that he was almost traded and had they not believed in him, he would no longer be a Flyer. In other words, the Flyers have and are listening to anything and everything but need to be blown away.
The Flyers are also very keen on extending defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to a contract extension. Ristolainen has played on losing teams his entire career and there’s a sense that he wants to test the free agent waters, but Chuck Fletcher hasn’t forgotten the gaudy price he paid for his services and won’t just let him go willy-nilly. He could trade him at the deadline for future assets, every team is looking for a right shot defenseman who can hit, score, and skate pretty well for his size. However, Fletcher seems very keen on extending him and should be very wary of the market value and pricing for a defenseman of his ilk. There’s a good chance with how the market fluctuates for defensemen, he gets an overpayment that will quickly become a regrettable contract in the near future, a la Andrew MacDonald.
It seems that everyone is on the table except the core 4, for obvious reasons. If you’re looking for a rebuild, the Flyers aren’t going to do it and Friedman even mentioned that it’s not in the Flyers’ “DNA”. Several executives were unhappy when former general manager Ron Hextall brought up the idea of a rebuild and it created a huge division within the organization, so we can probably scratch that idea off the chalk board, considering the fact that most of those executives are still employed with the Flyers.
The Flyers don’t have a lot of patience so it’s going to make this trade deadline and off-season very exciting, frightening, worrying, interesting, and anything else synonymous with the previous words. A lot of jobs are on the line, a lot of names are being mentioned, and a lot of players have entered the rumour mill; nothing out of the ordinary for Flyers hockey. A lot of turnover has to happen for these moves to come to fruition, a lot of contracts have to be unloaded, and most importantly these players would have to have serious interest in Philadelphia. Buckle up Flyers’ fans, it’s going to be a bumpy ride and according to Dave Scott, we wouldn’t have it any other way!