Flyers may ‘both buy and sell’ at NHL trade deadline

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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.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Why wait to trade for Wayne Simmonds?

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A shrewd contender should ask themselves a simple question regarding a Wayne Simmonds trade: “Why wait?”

Simmonds’ name has been surfacing in trade rumblings lately, including when Darren Dreger weighed in on the matter during Tuesday’s edition of TSN’s Insider Trading. Dreger and others indicate that Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher is still mulling over options, with at least some possibility for Philly to simply re-sign the 30-year-old power-play whiz.

The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reports (sub required) that Simmonds’ reps are expected to increase pressure on Fletcher to make a decision soon (maybe by the end of the week), and while that might lead to some sweaty palms, it’s likely for the best overall.

In fact, it could end up being a situation where everyone – the Flyers, Simmonds, and a potential new team – wins.

Consider the many factors at hand.

Lame duck: Let’s face it, the Flyers essentially sealed their fate without Simmonds when they handed James van Riemsdyk $7 million per season with considerable term. The two players are just too similar from an age and role (power play ace, big body) perspective.

Unfortunately, it’s been a tough season for Simmonds and an even rougher one for JVR. Maybe it would be better just to move on?

On one hand, Simmonds has motivation as his near-$4M cap hit is set to expire, as his next contract is a true mystery. Could he get big money and big term? Would a slower season really hurt his bargaining power? The current situation doesn’t seem particularly happy for Simmonds, and the Flyers might not have a ton of luck driving his value any higher.

Plenty of selling points: Luckily, Simmonds brings a lot to the table already.

We’re talking about a forward who’s not that far removed from regular 30-goal seasons, and while his next contract could be risky, he’s a better bargain rental than that Oscar winner you nabbed at RedBox.

Naturally, he checks a bunch of old-school “intangibles” boxes. He’s a hard-nosed winger who plays with an edge and scores goals in the vaunted “dirty areas.” That style of play makes him risky for a long-term contract, but for a rental?

(Cuts to GMs salivating.)

Buying time: The waiting game may or may not make sense for the Flyers, but there are some significant reasons why a contender should get him sooner rather than later.

For one thing, there’s the stupidly simple logic: if you land Simmonds, that means your competitors don’t get him.

It’s also worth noting that, giving Simmonds’ affordable cap hit, that same contender might be able to land another big fish. Considering rumors about the Golden Knights allegedly running out of time to trade for Erik Karlsson, it might help to cross an item off of the to-do list.

Let’s not forget human elements, either.

When a player’s traded, that person has to find somewhere new to live, possibly relocating family too. Some players are creatures of habit almost to a Rick Spielman level of zaniness (looking at you, Jack Eichel, hopefully with more reasonable pants policies). Disrupting those habits could be a real bother, particularly mid-season.

The sooner you’d land Simmonds, the more likely you’d be able to get him comfortable with new teammates and new surroundings before the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs kick in.

You’d get more time to make sure you’re optimizing strategies on the power play, where Simmonds seems like a dynamite difference-maker.

And, hey, getting extra looks at Simmonds could be crucial if said contender is thinking long and hard about signing the winger beyond this season. It would be dangerous to make such a decision based on, say, 30+ games, but that would sure beat about 15 regular-season contests.

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The proactive argument makes sense for quite a few would-be trade targets, yet Simmonds ranks as one of the clearer cases, as he’s one of those UFAs whose teams have been noncommittal about the future.

(In other words, he’s not being wooed with free vodka to stay in town, like Artemi Panarin is with Columbus.)

Seeing Simmonds score big goals for a contender might sting for the Flyers and their fans, yet trading him might help that franchise get back to a place where they’re doing the contending. Sometimes that means making tough decisions, and this is a great time to pull off that Band-Aid.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Rookies get all the goals

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Players of the Night:

Travis Dermott and Justin Holl, Toronto Maple Leafs: Both Dermott and Holl scored their first NHL goals on Wednesday, Dermott in his ninth NHL game and Holl in his first. Dermott assisted on Holl’s goal, because of course he did.

Chandler Stephenson, Washington Capitals: Stephenson scored his third and fourth career NHL goals to help drag the Capitals back from an early first-period 2-0 deficit. His goals began a run of five straight for the Caps, who beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-3.

Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: Jones sure could have used some run support on Wednesday. He made 43 of 44 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Someone owes the man a dinner.

Highlights of the Night:

Nice pass from Wayne Simmonds. Nice finish from Nolan Patrick.

Geez, Louise, Tomas Tatar.

Factoids of the Night:

MISC:

Scores:

Maple Leafs 5, Islanders 0

Capitals 5, Flyers 3

Red Wings 2, Sharks 1 (SO)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Poll: Are the Flyers better off losing (a lot)?

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When you ponder the Philadelphia Flyers’ roster, it doesn’t immediately scream “hopeless.”

That’s especially true if you scroll down starting with the forwards; the one-two punch of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek is complemented by the unusual power play + power forward work of Wayne Simmonds as well some other nice pieces. Combine that group with redemptive goalie Steve Mason and one can understand the optimism.

The glass gets closer to half-empty as you scan that blueline.

Mark Streit is probably the brightest light in that group, and he’s 37. Things get pretty dicey from there, and GM Ron Hextall’s hands were tied with a clogged cap situation.

Could this roster churn out a wild card berth? One would think it’s a possibility, so we’ll start with that poll:

Feel free to disagree in the comments, yet as plausible as a postseason bid might be, it’s tough to imagine the Flyers contending with that bumbling blueline.

Flyers owner Ed Snider won’t like this, but it could be best to swallow a bitter pill of defeat in 2015-16 and gear up for better days.

You never want to throw away peak years for the likes of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. That said, they’re young enough (Giroux is 27 and Voracek is 26) that they could still be elite producers when the smoke may start to clear in a year or two.

Between Luke Schenn and Sam Gagner alone, the Flyers will see $6.8 million in cap space dissolve in the summer of 2016 alone. They’ll also be free of R.J. Umberger’s $4.6 million mark after 2016-17.

(Vincent Lecavalier’s $4.5 million cap hit taunts them through 2017-18, though. Hey, you can’t win them all.)

Beyond gaining financial breathing room, Hextall collected nine draft picks in 2015, 2016 and 2017, so the farm system could be impressive down the road. Naturally, that would only be more apparent if the Flyers end up with a premium pick in 2016.

So, long story short: should the Flyers go into tank mode next season?

It’s Philadelphia Flyers Day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Philadelphia Flyers.

In 2013-14, the Philadelphia Flyers endured a terrible 1-7-0 start, but they improved as the campaign went on and still managed to make the playoffs. Last season they once again struggled out of the gate (0-2-2), but this time no comeback of significance was forthcoming.

There were silver linings to be sure. Steve Mason showed that his solid 2013-14 campaign wasn’t a fluke as he posted a 2.25 GAA and .928 save percentage in 51 games. After years of goaltending headaches, the fact that the 27-year-old netminder is secured for another two seasons with a reasonable $4.1 million annual cap hit is a big plus for Philadelphia. However, the Flyers largely squandered his strong play in 2014-15 as he had the NHL’s best GAA in losing efforts (2.67) among goaltenders that were charged with at least 10 defeats.

Philadelphia was credited with just 215 goals for, which left them in 22nd place. That’s despite the fact that Jakub Voracek stepped up in 2014-15 with 22 goals and a career-high 81 points in 82 contests.

Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds were the only other Philadelphia forwards that recorded at least 50 points as Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn weren’t able to make a significant leap offensively, Vincent Lecavalier was used sparingly under coach Craig Berube, and R.J. Umberger struggled in his first season following the Scott Hartnell trade.

That all culminated in Philadelphia ending the season with a 33-31-18 record.

Off-season recap

After missing the playoffs, Flyers GM Ron Hextall fired Berube and replaced him with Dave Hakstol, who previously served as North Dakota’s bench boss. Philadelphia stayed busy in the lead up to the UFA period by inking veteran KHL defenseman Evgeni Medvedev, shipping forward Zac Rinaldo to Boston for a 2017 third-round pick, and trading Nicklas Grossmann along with Chris Pronger’s contract to Arizona in exchange for Sam Gagner.

When it came to the draft, Philadelphia realized it needed a forward, but with Ivan Provorov available for the seventh pick, Hextall couldn’t pass on the opportunity to grab the highly regarded defenseman.

The Flyers were relatively quiet during the free agent period, likely due in large part to their cap situation, but they did ink 27-year-old goaltender Michal Neuvirth to a two-year, $3.25 million deal. A veteran of 168 games, he’ll enter the season as Mason’s understudy.

Philadelphia might not be done yet though as they do have eight defensemen signed to one-way contracts, so the squad might part ways with one via the trade market. There’s also always the possibility that the Flyers will find a suitor for Lecavalier, although the fact that he has three seasons left on his contract with a $4.5 million annual cap hit makes moving him a challenge.