With the NHL trade deadline coming up on Feb. 24, there’s speculation around every team which moves they might or might not make.
The Flyers are no exception.
More than a half-season of work has shown them to be legitimate playoff contenders.
If not for a puzzling lack of success on the road, the Flyers might be pushing the Metro powerhouses like Washington, the Islanders and Pittsburgh a bit more.
As it stands, it appears they are still in need of at least one more proven scorer, particularly in light of the absence of two top offensive weapons – Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick.
Having them out of the lineup – Lindblom due to a rare form of bone cancer; Patrick because of a chronic migraine headache condition – means a projected loss of about 50 goals.
Before he went down, Lindblom was already tied for the team lead in goals with 11 (in 30 games). That put him on pace for close to 30.
Meanwhile, Patrick was coming off a pair of solid 13-goal seasons and figured to push that up to around 20.
So far, the Flyers have gotten by on offense, thanks in part to steady efforts from some of their top-six forwards, namely Travis Konecny (14 goals), Claude Giroux (13), Kevin Hayes (13), James van Riemsdyk (12) and Sean Couturier (12).
But none of those guys is even in the NHL’s top 20.
And if you go to the overall points stats category, Konecny’s 38 points (which lead the Flyers) are not even in the NHL’s top 30.
In the eyes of some, the Flyers need another veteran forward who can perhaps come through with a clutch goal, particularly if/when the Flyers make the playoffs.
They’ve made attempts at this in the past.
Back in 2013, they swung a deal with Arizona in late February to bring back Simon Gagne. Gagne produced only five goals in 27 games down the stretch.
Two years before that, they went for sharpshooter Kris Versteeg from Toronto near the trade deadline. The results were eerily similar to Gagne’s: Seven goals in 27 games. (Versteeg did register six points in 11 playoff games).
Then there was the acquisition of Ville Leino from Detroit on Feb. 6, 2010 and just before that, a trade with Tampa Bay for Vinny Prospal on Feb. 25, 2008.
Leino didn’t do much the remainder of that regular season but lit it up in the playoffs, totaling seven goals and 14 assists in 19 games as the Flyers sent all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
The following year he posted 19 goals and 53 points, so in this case, the trade (Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and a fifth-round draft pick) was a success.
Prospal held his own, too. He recorded four goals and 14 points in 18 games, then went 3-10-13 in 17 playoff games.
So, can the Flyers improve their chances of making the playoffs and perhaps succeeding in them for a change? They haven’t won a playoff series since 2011-12 season, the longest drought in franchise history.
One player they could have used was ex-Devil Taylor Hall. But he was sent to Arizona.
Other snipers who are rumored to be on the trading block include the New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider, the Los Angeles Kings’ Tyler Toffoli and the Chicago Blackhawks’ Brandon Saad.
The first two are pending unrestricted free agents, so any deal for them would be a rental. Saad has another year left on his contract at $6 million.
What general manager Chuck Fletcher has to ask himself is this: Are the Flyers on the brink of serious contention and just a star or two short of making a legitimate run at the Stanley Cup?
Or are they a young team that still needs another year or two of experience before doing some damage?
Besides, what do the Flyers have in the way of trade chips? Are they willing to give up a Joel Farabee or a Morgan Frost for a star-power forward who can deliver at crunch time?
If it’s just a rental, highly unlikely.
So the guess here is the Flyers will try to make some kind of trade that not only fits their offensive need but also their budget.
But if Fletcher believes he can wait this one out and eventually get Lindblom and Patrick back in the fold at some point, all bets are off.