Chuck Fletcher is going at things at a speed more familiar to Philadelphia Flyers fans.
The team’s general manager has been a bit feisty over the past several days, aggressively seeking out additions to his roster, including trading a fifth-round pick for the rights to negotiate early with Kevin Hayes — a move that paid of with a massive contract on Tuesday.
Fletcher also took advantage of a cash-strapped San Jose Sharks team to bring in 32-year-old defenseman Justin Braun and flipped the unpredictable Radko Gudas (well, 70 percent of him) for 32-year-old Matt Niskanen, too.
That ‘win-now’ mentality that has been so prevalent throughout the history of the Flyers is back. But is it a good thing? Historically, speaking, the Flyers have little to show for it.
The Hayes signing improves the Flyers, although the price tag to do business will certainly be debated. Hayes is a big center that many teams would have coveted if he hit the open market on July 1.
But what about the others?
Braun’s play hasn’t exactly been earth-shattering over the last little while. He’s aging and his ability to play the game is as well, at least according to the numbers.
Niskanen’s play has followed the same sort of declining arch, and it’s possible that Gudas is still the better defenseman.
But let’s rewind for a moment.
Ron Hextall’s slow-and-steady approach seemingly cost him his job last November (along with sticking with Dave Hakstol, who didn’t seem to be developing that talent all that well).
When he was hired in 2014, Hextall told reporters that it wasn’t his vision to trade the farm to acquire older players. The late Ed Snider concurred: “I think Ron has established a philosophy that is probably long overdue.”
Build through the draft, a model that’s done wonders for teams like Winnipeg and Tampa Bay, was Hextall’s preferred method of choice.
And his fingerprints are all over the current roster’s crop of youth, including Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Carter Hart and Nolan Patrick.
Fletcher has no such aspirations, it seems.
To get Braun, a veteran of 600-plus NHL games, Fletcher parted ways with two picks, a second and third rounder in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
And Fletcher said over the weekend that he may still be looking to find a top-pairing defenseman for Provorov to play with. Those don’t come cheap, whether through trade (assets) or through free agency (money).
The more Fletcher adds on the backend, the more he likely has to subtract, even if they carry seven defensemen into the season (they currently have eight). And we can only assume that he would then subtract a defenseman that was born and bred through the organization, through the draft — reversing some of the good work Hextall did (or Paul Holmgren, if a guy like Sam Morin or Robert Hagg is moved).
The Flyers have nearly $23 million in cap space to play with but still have to sign restricted free agents in Provorov, Konecny and Sanheim among others. That may not leave them with that much room to maneuver in the end.
Perhaps most worrying though circles back to the beginning of this, with Fletcher’s aggressive approach to acquiring older talent at the cost of assets. While Hextall’s approach may have been flawed, the essence of it has made other teams perennial contenders.
Fletcher’s been busy, certainly. But is his team any better for his efforts?
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck.