VOORHEES, N.J. – Years from now, when Flyers historians look back on the 2023 NHL trade deadline, one glaring omission will jump off the video.
How the heck were the Flyers unable to move about-to-be unrestricted free agent James van Riemsdyk?
In the moments leading up to the 3 p.m. transaction cutoff, Fletcher believed he had a tentative deal worked out with the Detroit Red Wings for a conditional draft pick.
But the deal was contingent on Detroit moving another player and when that deal fell through, so did the potential swap with the Flyers.
So when the clock struck 3 at the Flyers Training Center, all Fletcher had to show for it was the acquisition of tough guy Brendan Lemieux and a 2024 fifth-round draft pick from the Los Angeles Kings for Zack MacEwen and a 2023 sixth-round draft pick from the Ottawa Senators for center Patrick Brown.
As for JVR, just about every hockey fan this side of Harrisburg thought he was a goner.
Fletcher, however, essentially pleaded for a bit of sympathy during a press conference after the deadline had passed. He said he made 17 phone calls (most of them presumably about van Riemsdyk) and just about came up dry.
“I didn’t have any offers until about 1:40,” Fletcher confirmed. “I had a call from a team that said if they were able to move a forward off their team, then they had interest in acquiring JVR. We talked about the parameters of what the deal would look like. It made sense from that standpoint.
“But all along it was conditional on the other trade going through. The other deal fell through. It’s interesting. We’ve been working the phones hard for three weeks on most of our players on expiring contracts.”
Apparently the asking price for van Riemsdyk was a conditional fourth-round pick either in 2023 or 2024.
Fletcher said he didn’t know what the market would be. He added he wanted to give van Riemsdyk a chance to play in the playoffs but the market spoke.
“It wasn’t to be,” Fletcher said. “He’s a true professional. He’s a good hockey player for us. He will be a good mentor down the stretch.”
Was there a chance to give other teams a second opportunity after the Detroit deal fell through?
“Every team I asked told me no several times,” Fletcher said. “That didn’t hold up anything at all.”
The Flyers were going to retain 50 percent of JVR’s $7-million salary (pro-rated over the final 20 games) but even that did not provide enough incentive.
Van Riemsdyk has scored 297 NHL goals. Why such a lack of interest around the NHL, especially for legitimate Stanley Cup contenders?
“I’ve been using that line for three days,” Fletcher said. “That’s exactly what I’ve been saying to teams. This guy’s a good player, he can help you. Give him to you at $3.5 million and let’s cut a fair deal.
“But I’m just trying to be clear here. I didn’t get even get a firm offer for a fourth-round pick for JVR. I can’t speak for those teams but obviously that was more than they wanted to pay.”
Meanwhile, just hours before the deadline the Flyers had activated MacEwen from the injured reserve list. He had been sidelined multiple weeks with a fractured jaw.
Lemieux, 26, was a a second-round pick (31st overall) of the Buffalo Sabres in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
Known for his physical play, he’s accumulated 463 penalty minutes in 257 NHL games in a career spanning three teams: Winnipeg, the New York Rangers and the Kings.
MacEwen, also 26, has been a hard-working fourth-liner for the Flyers over the past couple seasons. In 121 games, he registered seven goals/18 points with a minus-24 and 164 penalty minutes. He’s making $925,000 per year.
Lemieux gives the Flyers a proven enforcer, one who mix it up with the best of them. When he was a member of the Rangers, he got into a number of physical altercations with the Flyers.
Earlier in the day, the Flyers activated forward Tanner Laczynski from the injured list. He’s been sidelined since December with a lower-body injury.