PHILADELPHIA — The Flyers welcomed back captain — and freshly minted NHL All-Star Game MVP — Claude Giroux by clubbing their sticks on the ice to rhythmic sounds of “MVP! MVP!” until he skated to the middle of the team stretch.
The Flyers had already warmed up their vocal chords for the moment inside the locker room with “MVP!” chants before Tuesday’s video meeting at practice.
The Flyers still admire the center who remains, at 34, one of the top players in the league.
“Since I got here this morning, they made me feel pretty special,” Giroux said Tuesday. “It’s been fun.”
Giroux continues to shine, even as the Flyers scuffle at the bottom of the standings, and the three goals he scored over the weekend in the All-Star game was just one more showcase moment for him as the March 21 trade deadline draws close.
His future in Philly is complicated: Giroux would have to waive his no-movement clause as he plays out the final months of his $66.2 million, eight-year contract, and the Flyers could surely get prospects or a first-round pick in return.
Giroux’s salary this season is only $5 million, which would make him easier for smaller-market teams to take on. Boston, Calgary, Minnesota and Colorado are among the playoff contenders that could be in the mix for the All-Star.
He would become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
“He’s clearly not done,” Flyers interim coach Mike Yeo said. “He’s a determined player and performing at a very high level.”
Giroux’s 15 goals and 35 points are both second behind Cam Atkinson on the Flyers, and the former first-round pick — who made his debut in 2008 — continues to shoot near the top of most of the franchise’s major career offensive records.
“I think we have to recognize what we’re dealing with here, he’s a franchise icon, his jersey’s going to be in the rafters, to me he’s a Hall of Fame player,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said.
Fletcher and Giroux’s agent, Pat Brisson, met recently and speak several times a month about the All-Star’s fate.
“It’ll be Claude’s decision,” Fletcher said.
Giroux was a star on the rise when he helped lead the Flyers (15-22-8) to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010. He has finished as high as fourth in 2018 in NHL MVP voting.
But it’s been a lot of lean years since then, none as worse as this season’s team headed into Tuesday’s game against Detroit. Philadelphia lost a franchise-record 13 straight games, and it has only 38 points this season.
The Flyers are about to miss the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since a string of five straight absences from 1990-94.
“It looks like it’s going to be almost impossible,” Giroux said.
As losses mount, Giroux has downplayed his impending decision and declined to discuss what could make him give the Flyers a list of teams he would consider as a potential trade destination.
“I’m not going to think about this right now,” Giroux said at the All-Star game. “Just enjoy the weekend. There’s a lot of things to figure out, but that’s for another day.”
Giroux, who has four goals and two assists over the last 10 games, brought his wife and 2½-year-old son Gavin with him to the All-Star festivities in Las Vegas and he clearly enjoyed the family time. His wife, Ryanne, posted weekend snapshots of Gavin on dad’s shoulders, inside the locker room, asleep on dad’s arms on the plane.
“I think he took a picture with all the mascots,” Giroux said.
Giroux had a million reasons to cherish the extravaganza.
The seven-time All-Star won his first MVP award with two goals in the final and another in the semifinal. Giroux also picked up a slice of the $1 million check shared among the winning players as the captain of the Metropolitan squad — a role he got late after Alex Ovechkin tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week.
“He’s been setting the bar and I’ve been happy for him getting personal accolades, as well,” Yeo said.