Their playoff hopes are incredibly slim, and while a prolonged win streak could have them flirt with an Eastern Conference wild card spot or even the No. 3 seed in Metropolitan Division, the Philadelphia Flyers are eyeing 2019-20, which will have an affect on the Feb. 25 NHL trade deadline.
General manager Chuck Fletcher has decisions to make over the next four weeks about not only who’s staying and who’s going, but also who may be brought into the fold for the future.
Speaking to the media ahead of Monday’s meeting with the Winnipeg Jets (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN), Fletcher indicated that he won’t just sell at the trade deadline and will also be looking to bring in players to help the Flyers for next season and beyond. He won’t be shipping out the team’s 2019 first-round pick to acquire a rental, but if there’s a player with term available and the right deal can be struck, he’s all for going that route to improve.
“We can both buy and sell,” Fletcher said. “Every decision we make, if we’re going to try to improve our team going forward and we can get that player now — great. There’s always opportunities. To me, it’s not the next eight games or even the rest of the year. From this point forward we’ve got to get better. To be better next year we may have to try to get better this year. That’s what we’re trying to do, whether it’s the coaches on the ice or adding players, I can see us buying and selling. But the bigger focus is we’d like to get some pieces in here that can be a part of this for a few years. That’s really where my focus has been.”
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The Flyers entered their bye week winners of three straight, so some things have gone well of late. But their special teams units, which Fletcher described as “atrocious,” currently features a 28th-ranked penalty kill (76.3 percent) and a, per the GM, “historically unlucky” 29th-ranked power play (13.3 percent).
“We’re not good enough right now. We’re playing better,” Fletcher said. “The odds aren’t great for this year, but with this group you never count them out. This group’s had some tremendous runs. … But we’re at a stage where we need a big run here. We finished well before the break and we’ve got an opportunity here [with six of next eight games at home]. Clearly we need to get a lot of points here.”
One player who likely won’t be part of that future is Wayne Simmonds, who can be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The 30-year-old forward, who has a 12-team no-trade list per Cap Friendly, has 15 goals and 23 points on the season and is one of the names in the rumor mill given his contract status. Fletcher has had dialogue with his agent, but wouldn’t say if any offers have been made. The situation, he says, will be resolved by the trade deadline one way or another.
Simmonds may not be the only Flyer gone within the next month. Fletcher only dubbed captain Claude Giroux as an untouchable given his status on the team as well as the no-movement clause in his contract. And while he added the typical GM-speak of “you can’t say never,” you could probably also add Carter Hart, Jakub Voracek, James van Riemdsyk, Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, Sean Couturier, and a few others to the list of those players who will be staying as part of a core the GM wants to build with moving forward.
“To me, it’s not the next eight games or even the rest of the year. From this point forward, we have to get better,” Fletcher said. “To be better next year we may have to try to get better this year. That’s what we’re trying to do, whether it’s the choices on the ice, adding players, whatever we have to do. I could see us buying and selling to use those terms.
“The bigger focus is we’d like to get some pieces in here that could be a part of this for the next few years. That’s where my focus has been.”
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.