No more than a week ago, I thought the Flyers might be able to actually make a push and make the playoffs. However, with the key injuries starting to pile up, that’s becoming a distant possibility. The loss of Couturier was bad enough but now it looks like del Zotto is also out for a good chunk of time. If last night’s game is any indication, I just don’t see how this roster can put together enough wins to not only keep pace but jump over the other teams ahead of them to make it into the playoffs. And then if they get there, outside of the Penguins, I don’t see them advancing. As the end of the month trade deadline approaches in the NHL, it is a very interesting time for the Flyers and one that will be critical to them maintaining this progression on the rebuild.
As a fan of the team, I don’t support the whole “tanking” concept trying to get a better draft pick, and I believe the Flyers are too proud of an organization to actually do it. So I don’t think that’s even a viable option for the rest of the season. I fully expect the team to continue to compete as they’re also working to learn coach Hakstol’s system and get stronger in what he’s trying to do. Here’s what I’d like to see them do during the next couple of weeks.
With regards to the actual trade deadline, I would be fine with them not making another move. They’ve already shed 2 painful contracts with the trade Lecavalier/Schenn trade. Of the players remaining on the team, I only see 2 that are relatively high paid players that consistently spend time in the press box as healthy scratches – R.J. Umberger and Sam Gagner. Gagner’s contract actually expires at the end of this year, so I don’t see him going anywhere and it really doesn’t hurt the Flyers all that much. But perhaps someone would take a shot on a rental for a draft pick. As for Umberger, he still has one more year left on his deal (cap hit of $4.6 million) and would be very nice to get off the books. This would be another cap shedding move that I would be happy to just see a “bag of pucks” in return. I would be perfectly fine seeing both these players move on before the trade deadline, but don’t expect to see much in return. Anything Hextall can get for them should be seen as a win, which was exactly what he was able to do in that deal with the Kings.
The other interesting player on the roster is Mark Streit, who carries a $5.25 million dollar cap hit through next season and isn’t getting any younger at the age of 38. However, he’s still a very solid defender and one of, if not the best defender on the roster. IF del Zotto was healthy, I would think the probability of Streit moving would be higher, but the prospects of replacing the top 2 defenders from a minutes played perspective could prove very daunting. In the first game since del Zotto’s injury MacDonald was recalled from the Phantom’s and reminded everyone why he’s down in the AHL as he was just horrid. I guess there could be some unfamiliarity and nerves involved, but he was playing with Gostisbehere (Ghost) who he spent lots of time playing with prior to Ghost’s call-up to the Flyers. I would expect Streit to remain on the team through this season and perhaps move next year at this time as a sort of Timonen move to give him a last shot at a cup if the Flyers aren’t in contention. Unless of course, someone comes forward with a deal too sweet to pass up, but that would need to be very cap friendly and with either prospects or draft picks.
As for the rest of the roster, the biggest thing I’d like to see is an extended “try-out” for some of the younger players in the Flyers system. I will fully admit I don’t know all the complicated rules for calling up and sending down players and how that relates to waivers, so what I’d like to see happen may not be possible. But a player like Jordan Weal is already on the roster and I’d like to see him get a shot just to determine if he’s an asset for next year or someone who is a Phantoms player in all reality. Aside from him, there’s a handful of young defensmen in the ranks with varying degrees of actual NHL experience. Maybe rotate some of those guys in for a few games or something as they couldn’t possibly be any worse than MacDonald. Although I guess perhaps giving MacDonald some time before the trade deadline might get him some visibility for another sucker, i mean team, to offer the Flyers a puck in return for his play.
Overall this is a rough spot for fans, and I’m sure frustrating for the franchise, but it is one where patience will payoff as there’s finally a ton of talent in this organization. Hopefully they can make the most of this year and make a good solid push for next season.