With the NHL trade deadline coming up in just over two weeks, talk about which Flyers appear destined to head out of here keeps getting louder and louder.
As many as four potential unrestricted free agents attract most of the speculation but others could be in the mix.
The Flyers, long out of playoff contention, have little to no incentive to hang on to veterans who will be able to walk away in July without any form of compensation.
The top of the list includes face-of-the-franchise player Claude Giroux, Justin Braun, Rasmus Ristolainen and Keith Yandle.
Also, even though he has one more season remaining on his contract, James van Riemsdyk could be in that group as well.
Others on the last year of contracts include forwards Derick Brassard, Gerry Mayhew; defensemen Nick Seeler, Kevin Connauton plus goaltender Martin Jones.
On virtually all mock lists of NHL trade candidates, Giroux appears in the top three or five.
At 34, Giroux looks like he has a lot left in the tank. He’s been leading the team in scoring and pretty much substituting for the injured Sean Couturier on the defensive side of the puck.
The question is whether the Flyers would want to do business with a Metropolitan Division rival such as the New York Rangers. Philadelphia does not have a second-round pick in either of the next two drafts so a potential deal might cover one or both of those needs.
If not the Rangers then perhaps the Colorado Avalanche, which believe they are just a leadership player or two away from serious Stanley Cup contention.
It should be noted Giroux does have a no-movement clause in his contract, so in some ways it’s up to him whether he wants to leave Philadelphia or not. He’s never won a Cup and it doesn’t look like the Flyers will be contending for a championship anytime soon, so a move to a powerhouse might be his last chance.
Braun, 35, has shown he still has top defense pairing game. With Ryan Ellis sidelined for virtually the entire season, Braun has stepped up and nicely filled as Ivan Provorov’s partner in most crucial situations. Braun could bring a lot of poise and experience to a legitimate postseason outfit. A good prospect and a third- or fourth-round pick might be the asking price.
As for Ristolainen, this could be a case of damage control on the part of general manager Chuck Fletcher. He gave up a No. 1 pick in 2021 (Tyson Foerster) and a No. 2 next year, so he might push hard to recoup some of those losses. Then again, Fletcher might want to hang on to the 26-year-old for a few years if both Braun and Yandle are sent packing.
It’s been a bittersweet year for the 36-year-old Yandle. He broke the NHL record for most consecutive games when he played in his 965th and he could extend that to a milestone 1,000 straight before the season ends. On the ice, he’s struggled at times, as his NHL-worst minus-32 will confirm. A change of scenery might be in his best interests although the return for his services might be minimal.
Van Riemsdyk, 32, has struggled through one of the least productive seasons of his career, with just 11 goals/20 points with a minus-27, third-worst in the NHL. His salary, $7 million for one final season (2022-23), might scare off a lot of general managers. The Flyers were sort of hoping they might disengage from the New Jersey native in the Seattle expansion draft but the Kraken took a pass.
The other player who might fit in with a challenging team is Brassard. He’s been hampered by injuries all season but when he’s healthy he can still be an effective player. The guess here is the Flyers won’t get much in the way of offers and the contract will simply fizzle out at the end of the season.
On the “who’s staying’’ side, goaltender Carter Hart, forwards Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes and Joel Farabee, plus defensemen Provorov and Ellis are probably considered the only untouchables.
Hart has enjoyed a bounce-back season. How he’s kept his goals-against average under 3.00 is nothing short of miraculous.
Couturier had season-ending back surgery but was just signed to a nine-year contract, so he’s not going anywhere. Hayes has been hurt almost all year and that takes him out of any trade consideration. Like Couturier, Farabee plays well at both ends of the rink.
Provorov has had his ups and downs this season but he’s a workhorse, just finishing up an ironman streak of 403 straight games (only stopped by COVID) plus a yearly spot among the NHL’s ice time leaders. Ellis hasn’t been mentioned in any trade rumors.
Also figuring to stick around are forwards Cam Atkinson, Scott Laughton, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom along with defenseman Travis Sanheim.
However it shakes out on or before March 21, the Flyers will be looking to acquire assets to help reshape their future. The quicker they can get away from their current situation the better.