Fletcher trade plan aims to emphasize youth

Chuck Fletcher
      VOORHEES, N.J. – If the Flyers’ disappointing season does have one silver lining, it’s that the roster has gotten younger and more energetic.
      As general manager Chuck Fletcher pointed out in Tuesday’s press conference at the Flyers Training Center, the team was the 30th-oldest in the NHL last season.
      This season, with regular playing roles for youngsters such as Cam York, Noah Cates, Wade Allison and Morgan Frost, the Flyers stand 7th-youngest.
      Fletcher made it clear he wants to continue that trend, which means if he’s busy on or before Friday’s NHL trade deadline, look for him to acquire mostly prospects or draft picks in any sort of transactions.
      The Flyers are expected to trade players with expiring contracts such as James van Riemsdyk, Justin Braun or Patrick Brown. Other possibilities with years still left on their contracts include Kevin Hayes and Nick Seeler.
      If some of these speculated deals go through, the 2023-24 Flyers roster should have even “fewer years” on it.
      It’s just part of the continuation of a rebuild (a word the Flyers are reluctant to employ).
      “We’ve been pretty clear about it all year,” Fletcher said. “Particulary when (Sean) Couturier and (Cam) Atkinson went down – some of these injuries have provided us with a longer runway for some of these younger players to show what they can do, establish themselves in the league.
      “The rosters change on a daily basis but as of a few days ago I believe we were seventh-youngest in the NHL. We’re getting younger. ‘Torts’ (coach John Tortorella) has been working, trying to establish the Flyers’ identity of being a hard team to play against.”
      Statistics show the Flyers have been among the top three NHL teams for hits and blocked shots most of the season.
      “Defensively we’re getting better,” Fletcher said. “Clearly we have work to do. It’s going to a be a longer process than maybe what we want. I think we’re starting to build the right way and integrate a lot of young players into our team.”
      So, are there big moves planned regarding trades?
      “Clearly it will depend on the market and the opportunities that are there,” Fletcher said. “The primary focus of most of the calls I’ve had are about players on expiring contracts, the rental players. That seems to be the focus of most of the calls I’ve had.
      “In saying that we’re willing to listen to just about anything if it makes sense. Some teams are really tight on the cap, so when you’re looking at a bigger move or a hockey move you just want to make sure you’re not limiting your market too much. It’s easier to do it in the summer but that doesn’t mean something can’t pop up. The focus right now has been mostly on the rentals.”
      The Flyers already have a pretty good stockpile of draft picks. They could always use another Owen Tippett, acquired in last year’s Claude Giroux trade. Tippett’s 17 goals are tied with Kevin Hayes for second on the team. Look for the Flyers to acquire both draft picks or prospects.
      “Either or, in terms of (draft) picks or prospects,” Fletcher said. “We want younger assets. Some combination of both.”
      Fletcher stated the Flyers will not make the playoffs this year and that will make it three straight years out of the postseason, the second-longest drought in franchise history.
      The GM has been preaching patience but it’s safe to say the fan base is getting a bit impatient. That’s part of the reason why Tortorella sent out a letter to season ticketholders asking for their indulgence.
      “We’re not looking to take shortcuts right now,” Fletcher said. “Again, a lot of young players have stepped into our team. Usually we have one or two young players pushing. This year we have Cates, Tippett,  York, Allison and Frost. These guys are all starting to establish themselves.
      “The goal next year would be, can two more push their way onto the team? We want to keep getting younger.”
      The Flyers believe they will have a high first-round draft pick this year. Currently they are slotted for eighth. They have two more first-round picks in 2024.
      “I think we have to continue to get younger,” Fletcher said. “Continue to build around some of the assets we have around here. I’m not sure on the timeframe. You see some teams flip it pretty quickly. Probably depends on how well you draft and how well you develop. That’s going to be our focus.”
      The Flyers have steered away from using the word rebuild. Fletcher explained how he sees this process.
      “Are we going to gut this team? No,” Fletcher said. “We’re not looking to trade Tippett, (Joel) Farabee, Frost, (2022 first-round draft pick Cutter) Gauthier or just trade everybody and start over. We’re going to do what other teams have done: Keep some of your assets and move a couple players to get younger and we’ll do that.”
      Is team governor Dave Scott on board with the timeline of the process?
      “I’ve had a lot of conversations with Dave,” Fletcher said. “Soent a lot of time with him this weekend. I think we all recognize where we’re at. We’re not making the playoffs this year. I think we’re the fifth-most improved team in the league. That’s nice but we’re still not good enough. We want to get better, it’s not easy but we’re going to work hard at it.”
      >Konecny out for season?
      Fletcher mentioned the possibility that injured forward Travis Konecny could be out for the season. He suffered an upper-body injury on the Flyers’ recent road trip and hasn’t played since.
      “I know he will be in contact with the doctors over the next two to three weeks,” Fletcher said. “He was on the bike today. He feels pretty good. I think he’s hopeful he can come back this season. Whether or not that’s realistic, we’ll see.”
      The GM said Konecny will be out a minimum of two weeks and probably more after that. Another update is expected in about three weeks.
      >Couturier continues to skate
      Couturier, out since a second back operation in the preseason, continues to skate but his status for the rest of this season is up in the air.
      “It’s been going really well,” Fletcher said. “Skated today, shot a lot of pucks. He looked pretty good. Is there enough runway to play this year? I don’t know. The back is feeling great. He’s missed a lot of time. But he’s excited. We’re hopeful he’s able to come back and play.”
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About Wayne Fish 2437 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.