VOORHEES, N.J. – For coach John Tortorella, the much-ballyhooed NHL trade deadline is just another day at the office.
Of course, for several trade-vulnerable players on the Flyers’ roster it’s anything but that.
Between now and 3 p.m. Friday, some – including the high-priced Kevin Hayes — could be moving to different teams in distant cities. Such upheavals are just the nature of the business.
After Thursday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center, Tortorella was open in his comments about his approach to this headline moment.
“It doesn’t affect me,” he said. “Who it affects are the guys who could get moved with expiring contracts. It’s them thinking about what they’re going to do with their families.
“Me? It’s another day at the office. It’s getting ready to play. If they (the players) have questions, I’m there to answer questions as far as where everything sits and all that. I just have a tremendous amount of respect for the players who have to think about it. I try to help them as best I can.”
The list of potential trade candidates has been well documented. Veteran James van Riemsdyk is on an expiring contract and almost certain to go, as are defenseman Justin Braun and Patrick Brown.
Then there are players with years still on their contracts who could move, including Hayes and Nick Seeler.
“We’re selling,” Tortorella said. “You’re in locker rooms where you’re trying to get there and get better. I think that’s a whole different type of situation. This has been talked about. Guys know what their contracts are. The guys know who could be moved. They’re pros, they’re adults and they just go about their business.”
Hayes might be the name with the most question marks after it.
He’s 30, has three years left on a deal which pays him $7-million per year and might not fit into the mold of a player the Flyers want to keep in their rebuilding process.
Can he fit the timeline moving forward?
“I don’t want to speak for (general manager) Chuck (Fletcher),” Tortorella said. “When players are getting up in the 30s, and we’re in this process here of trying to get younger but also stay competitive doing that, his name has to come up, has to be talked about.
“You have to listen, you have to explore. I’ve been very honest with Kevin as we’ve gone through here, as to the deadline, where he fits. I don’t know where it all goes. Chuck hasn’t talked to me with anything about Kevin. But his name is certainly in conversations, just because of where we are with the process. And where he is in his career.”
Hayes has enjoyed a bounce-back season after enduring a pair of core surgeries and the death of his brother last season. He leads the team in assists and was named to the NHL All-Star Game last month.
“Kevin and I have gone around and around,” Tortorella said. “He sat one game, moved him to wing. He hasn’t been happy at certain times and he shouldn’t be. If you sit out a game, you never should be happy, I would be worried if you were happy and accepted it. But we’ve had honest conversations about it. So there’s no gray area between Kevin and I.”
>Evaluation of Provorov
Trade rumors involving Ivan Provorov popped up a while back and Tortorella was asked if the veteran defenseman still fits in the Flyers’ plans. He’s only 26 and continues to play a steady game despite not having a steady partner.
“I’ll put it to you this way,” Tortorella said. “Provy, I think he’s been really good. I’m sure he hasn’t liked certain things that have gone on this year. When there’s honesty between a player and a coach, there’s always going to be disagreements, as long as you handle it the right way. I think he’s been a great competitor. I don’t have one problem with the way he’s handled himself this year.”
>Brown’s status uncertain
Brown returned from major back surgery in November and put together a pretty good year. After brief stints with Carolina and Vegas, he’s played a total of 87 games over the past two seasons with the Flyers.
It might all come down to whether the Flyers believe he’s worth keeping and re-signing.
In a fourth-line role on a team with a collective minus-41, he’s been a respectable minus-6, including a regular turn on a subpar penalty kill.
“He plays hard,” Tortorella said. “Penalty kill, faceoff guy, he’s been OK. I wouldn’t say great. But the thing I always respect about Brown is he’s always ready to compete as we’re trying to build the standard here. He’s stood in there in that part of it, that’s for sure.”
Brown has at least established himself as a bona fide NHL player.
“I’ve always taken my defensive responsibilities to heart,’’ Brown said. “That’s always been a big part of my game. And a lot of opportunity on the PK, that’s been awesome. I think that’s been great.”
Would he like to stay a Flyer?
“I love it here,” he said. “It’s always been a dream to be a full-time NHL player. Having that opportunity this year has been incredible.”
>Laughton knows about trade deadline jitters
Veteran Scott Laughton knows all about pre-trade deadline nerves. A few years back, he signed a new contract just minutes before the deadline hit. If he hadn’t done that, he probably wouldn’t be a Flyer now.
It’s a good bet he keeps tabs on things with other players in the room. He’s the only player wearing a letter, so he’s considered the team leader.
“I think you’re always pretty aware of it (the deadline),” he said. “I’m really close to ‘Riemer’ (JVR). So I’m trying to keep tabs on that. Grab a couple dinners with him, spend as much time as I can. Try to take his mind off it as much as you can.”