Flyers general manager Daniel Briere’s rebuilding program called for getting as many high-end draft picks in as short amount of time as possible.
That’s the main reason why the new GM pulled the trigger on a three-team trade Tuesday which sent one of the best defensemen in Flyers history to the Columbus Blue Jackets (via Los Angeles) in exchange for the No. 22 overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft later this month.
The Provorov trade did not come as exactly a shocker. Rumors had been flying since the end of the season that the 26-year-old Russian backliner was available.
The Flyers already have the No. 7 overall pick in the NHL Draft at Nashville, so they figure to obtain two quality young players from this year’s reportedly deep draft.
Also, in return the Flyers acquired goaltender Cal Petersen, defensemen Sean Walker and Helge Grans and a second-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft from the Los Angeles Kings. The Flyers also acquired a conditional second-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Provorov.
Los Angeles will retain 30 percent of Provorov’s salary and receive defenseman Kevin Connauton and forward Hayden Hodgson from the Flyers. Columbus must inform Philadelphia which year they elect to trade (2024 or 2025) immediately following the first round of the 2024 NHL Draft for the conditional second-round pick.
In a late afternoon Zoom media call, Briere said that in order to acquire a first-round pick, he was going to have to part ways with some significant talent going the other way.
“The last couple of weeks I’ve had a few different discussions,” Briere said. “It seemed like the interest was really high on the Columbus side.
“Part of it is that we are in a rebuilding stage. We felt that the picks and the direction that we wanted to go. . .it was really enticing, very exciting. We have a chance to start building the team the way we really want it the right way. It kind of starts with that.”
Parting ways with Provorov was a difficult decision.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” Briere said. “Ivan has been a good soldier for the Flyers for a lot of years. A lot of sweat, a lot of hits he’s taken. Pucks he’s blocked. He’s really put his heart out into the Flyers organization.
“For us, we were looking for young guys, picks. That was the major reason behind this.”
Of course, draft picks are always unproven commodities, no matter high up they are ranked. But Briere is willing to take that gamble.
“Sometimes you have to pay the price to get assets back as well,” he said. “We’re not denying the fact Ivan was a good defender. He put in heavy minutes for us, it’s going to be tough to replace him. But at this time the assets we were getting, for the team we’re building in the future, this is critical. You don’t get first-round picks for players that don’t have interest from other teams. You have to play ball on both sides.”
The No. 22 overall pick could bring a player either ready or close to ready to play in the NHL.
“That was the key to the deal,” Briere said. “We have the chance to get a really good player when you’re drafting in the top 10 this year in this crop. It’s a deep draft and we felt like we wanted to acquire another pick. Adding a (No. 22) was critical to the deal.”
And the trading might not stop here. The Flyers could package some assets together in an attempt to move up in the draft.
“We’re open for business,” Briere said. “If the value is there for us. That’s the luxury for us of having a lot of picks. Nothing is off the table.”
Petersen, 28, spent the majority of the 2022-23 season with the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League (AHL) and went 16-20-4 with a 2.88 goals-against average, a .904 save percentage and two shutouts in 40 games. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound native of Waterloo, Iowa, recorded a season-high four-game win streak, Jan. 8-17, and tallied his first AHL assist on Jan. 28 at San Diego. The right-glove netminder went 5-3-2 with a 3.75 GAA and a .868 save percentage in 10 games with Los Angeles last season. He is 44-42-10 with a 2.92 GAA, a .905 save percentage and four shutouts in 101 career NHL games in five seasons with the Kings (2018-23).
Walker, 28, collected 13 points and 36 penalty minutes (PIM) in 70 games during the 2022-23 season with the Los Angeles Kings. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound native of Keswick, Ontario, ranked third among team defensemen in penalty minutes, fourth in shots (94) and fifth in games played. He scored his first career game-winning goal Feb. 13 vs. Buffalo. The right-shot defenseman owns 67 points in 232 career NHL games in five seasons with the Kings (2018-23).
Grans, 21, selected by the Kings in the second round (35th overall) of the 2020 NHL Draft, totaled nine points in 59 games last season with the Ontario Reign (AHL). The 6-foot-3, 205-pound native of Ljungby, Sweden, opened the season with his fourth career multi-point game, including his first AHL game-winning goal, Oct. 14 vs. Abbotsford. The right-shot blueliner owns 33 points in 115 career AHL contests in two seasons with the Reign (2021-23).
The Flyers currently own 10 picks in the 2023 NHL Draft, including two first-round selections (7th & 22nd overall), two third-round selections, two fourth-round selections, one fifth-round selection, two sixth-round selections and one seventh-round selection.
Provorov recorded 217 points in 532 career games with Philadelphia. He is the all-time franchise leader in blocked shots (1,035), ranks second among all-time Flyers defensemen in even-strength goals (55) and overtime goals (4), third in shots (1,070), fourth in goals, sixth in points, T-9th in assists and 10th in games played. He was selected by Philadelphia in the first round (7th overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft.