The question isn’t about whether the Flyers will unload personnel on or before next Friday’s NHL trade deadline but rather just how much of it will be sent packing.
To be realistic, at least several veterans could be shown the door and that’s OK with TNT and Flyers television analyst Keith Jones.
He believes in the Flyers’ 2022-23 “process” – namely head coach John Tortorella’s first-year plan to determine which players have a future in Philadelphia and which don’t.
Some of the ones who don’t figure in the years ahead might be out of here now. Some may stick around until a likely third straight season out of the playoffs comes to an end and then undergo a change of address in the offseason.
Either way, the Flyers would seem to be attempting to continue a “rebuild” without a total reconstruction.
“I think the messaging this year has been on point,” Jones said in a telephone interview. “And I think John Tortorella gets it. I believe he gets the city and I think the city has really come to a good understanding of what he brings to the table.
“I feel really good about it because he’s here.”
The Flyers have put trust in Tortorella’s ability to judge talent. Ultimately, that will weigh heavily on what moves general manager Chuck Fletcher will make over the last few days before Friday’s 3 p.m. transaction cutoff time.
“If there’s a market for a player that ‘Torts’ did not feel would fit into the Flyers mold that he has seen, then I would think there would be a high likelihood that type of player would be moved,” Jones said.
“Or a different view of where that player is going to end up down the road.”
A lot of different scenarios could play out here. Aside from certain-to-be-traded James van Riemsdyk, anything is possible.
“I think there are some obvious players will likely move based on their contract situations and I do think there’s a player on the back end, (defenseman) Nick Seeler that I think a lot of teams are interested in. But the price is going to be high.”
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Minnesota native has enjoyed an exceptional season. In 56 games, he’s posted three goals/10 points with a plus-5. He’s also shown a willingness to drop the gloves. Reports have him being one of the more popular teammates in the Flyers locker room.
At 29 and on the first year of a cap-friendly two-year with an AAV of $775,000, Seeler should attract at least a few contenders.
“He’s really done wonders for himself the way that he’s performed this year,” Jones said. “There’s the personality, the conditioning. He’s just done an outstanding job. The compete level has been good, I’m just really happy for that guy. I would increase the price before I would give him up.”
If Seeler is such an asset to the team and still has a year to go on his contract, why give him up? Unless another team offers a Cam York-like player, there might be a chance Seeler sticks around.
And let’s not forget the Fletcher connection. The former Minnesota GM was the one who drafted Seeler for the Minnesota Wild in the first place.
“I can’t envision a more Flyer-like player for the future the way Nick has performed this year,” Jones said. “They’re not giving him away, I will say that.”
Jones believes the Flyers are correct in giving plenty of ice time to youngsters such as York, Noah Cates, Morgan Frost and Wade Allison as the season enters its final quarter. At this point, there simply is no reason to acquire any veteran talent to try to upgrade a particular position.
“I would just continue to let these kids show you what they have,” Jones said. “The Flyers remain competitive. They’re not just throwing the season away. They’re going to play it out and each individual player has a responsibility to show that they want to stay here.
“It’s been a much more enjoyable team to cover because of that – the way this team has worked for one another. It has exceeded expectations together. I think there are a lot of positives that have happened this year that I can see from up top.”
Would we be having this sort of dialogue if center Sean Couturier, right wing Cam Atkinson and defenseman Ryan Ellis were not injured? Surely the Flyers would be a lot closer to a playoff spot (eight points back as of Friday) or in one if those three talented players were in the lineup.
If that were the case, the Flyers probably would be acquiring players on Friday.
“You would be adding players,” Jones agreed. “You would be in a playoff spot. Those guys are elite talents that would put everyone else in the lineup slotted where they belong. Three years ago, before the pandemic delay, the Flyers were one of the five top teams in the league entering the playoffs.
“And so you would be back in that conversation now. It’s amazing how three players can change the dynamic of a franchise. Prior to his injury, Couturier was the team’s most important player. It would be like taking Patrice Bergeron out of Boston’s lineup.”
No doubt team ownership (Comcast Spectacor) is on board with the Flyers’ strategic plan and willing to give both Fletcher and Tortorella some extra latitude with the evaluation process.
“That should definitely come into play,” Jones said. “I think you have to consider everything. The injuries have to a part of the thinking when you’re making a decision like that.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean the fan base has to be quite as patient.
“That’s a fan’s right, to be demanding of what they expect from the team they’re buying tickets to watch play,” Jones said. “I do think if you (ownership) are overseeing that, it (injuries to stars) is something you have to give consideration to.”