If Flyers trade away stars, who fills in next year?

Chuck Fletcher
      With so much attention being paid to the week leading up to the NHL trade deadline, not a lot is being said about what teams perceived as “sellers’’ – like the Flyers — will do for next season if they decide to part ways with some of their big names.
      Everyone expects captain Claude Giroux to be moved to a serious contender. Although general manager Chuck Fletcher did sign potential unrestricted free agent Rasmus Ristolainen to a new five-year, $25.5-million contract extension this week, he’s still expected to consider moving key talents such as Justin Braun, James van Riemsdyk and possibly Derick Brassard on or before Monday, March 21.
      Should any of these transactions happen, Fletcher probably would become a little (or a lot) more active in the free agent market, which opens on July 13.
      One name already being bandied about is Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri, who is enjoying a career season. The 31-year-old is lighting it up; currently standing fifth in NHL scoring with 22 goals/72 points.
      He’s finishing up a six-year contract with just a $4.5-million salary cap hit. Industry observers expect him to make around $6.5-million per year on his next deal.
      Colorado GM Joe Sakic hasn’t shown a lot of interest (at least not publicly) in bringing back Kadri on a long-term deal. He appears to have money tied up in some of his other stalwarts, including young star Gabriel Landeskog now and superstar Nathan MacKinnon in 2023.
      In an article posted on the Hockey Writers’ website last month, veteran hockey analyst Elliotte Friedman offered this quote: “You know who’s a Flyer if he’s not signed? Kadri.’’
      This move would seem to make sense since the Flyers aren’t willing to go through another lengthy rebuilding process. With the expected return of Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis next season, plus better health for Kevin Hayes and Joel Farabee, the Flyers believe they can jump right back into playoff contention.
      Kadri, who has a 10-team no-trade clause in his current contract which might make it a little tougher to move him at the trade deadline, gives the impression he’s open to eventually becoming a free agent this summer.
      “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it, but you try not to focus on it too much,” Kadri said in the Hockey Writers article on why he didn’t negotiate during the season. “I just want to play out the season and focus on one game at a time, because I feel like that’s the best mentality and best preparation for it.”
      If the Flyers do let their free agents hit the open market, Fletcher figures to have about $10 million in cap space to work with in the free agent market.
      Should Giroux leave the Flyers, or even if he doesn’t, the Flyers are going to be moving money and contracts around and have more than enough to give Kadri what he asks for.
      The obvious risk is the possibility of giving a 31-year-old player like Kadri a six- or seven-year deal in the $40-million range and expecting strong return for the length of the deal.
      But imagine a lineup of Couturier, Kadri and Hayes centering the top three lines. That’s a big upgrade from Brassard and Scott Laughton.
     This would spread out the ice time and create mismatches against almost every other team.
     Up until recently, the Flyers were rumored to have possible interest in UFA-to-be Johnny (“Johnny Hockey”) Gaudreau, the South Jersey native who stars for the Calgary Flames. But it sounds like GM Brad Treliving will do his best to keep the gifted forward in the fold.
      If Kadri were to sign with the Flyers, he wouldn’t be the go-to man for producing points like how it is on Colorado and he also wouldn’t be on the third line like how he was in his final year with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Due to the constant injuries of Hayes, Kadri would be a great safety net that will be a big contributor for years on the Flyers. In case something like what happened this year — with the injuries piling up — happens next season, at least the team will have a plan in place to deal with it.
      Fletcher knows these will be an extremely important few months. He has to make the right trades, come up with a productive draft, hire a new head coach and score big in the free-agent market.
      One or two big successful moves could make the difference.


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About Wayne Fish 2154 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.