The Philadelphia Flyers didn’t do much this offseason in the way of moving players out. They did buy out Oskar Lindblom, which was a good move to free up a little cap space, but there are some other options that would benefit the team not only next season but in the years to come. There are three options that we will go through and look at who would benefit the team the most if they were traded.
Starting with a player acquired in a trade that hasn’t gone anything like Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers had imagined, defenseman Ryan Ellis. He has dealt with some injuries and has missed big chunks of seasons before, but he was acquired anyway to try and mend the top pairing. He had missed 54 games over the previous two seasons before getting into just four games with the Flyers in his first season with the team.
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Ellis looked strong, and from a very small sample size, appeared to help out Ivan Provorov on the top pairing. But things went downhill very quickly after he suffered a season-ending injury early into the 2021-22 campaign. Ellis is age 31 and the injuries have now piled up. The Flyers can’t feel confident that one of their top defenseman that would be key to winning games can stay healthy enough to actually impact the season as a whole. After suffering multiple injuries, he is just more vulnerable each time he is hurt and misses time. His age doesn’t help his case or the durability of his body either.
Not only is Ellis a health concern, but the Flyers must move a defenseman sooner than later. The team is paying five defensemen $4.675 million average annual value (AAV) or more, and even though he can end up on the long-term injured reserve (LTIR), it handcuffs the team to not utilize the cap space and commit to someone else to replace him. He makes the second-most of the team’s defenders and the Flyers currently have four right defensemen and seven who should be playing every night if healthy.
Ellis would bring back a solid return in a trade if the Flyers dealt him despite the risk of injury. But the Flyers are too close to the cap to be playing a game of chance with whether he will be healthy each season. With the additions of Tony DeAngelo, who can play on the top pairing and the power play, as well as Justin Braun to shore up the third pair, that $6.25 million can be spent better somewhere else, even if it is next offseason.
James van Riemsdyk
Fletcher opted not to trade James van Riemsdyk this offseason and it was heavily criticized since it would have created room to sign Johnny Gaudreau who had an interest in joining the team. The cost to trade van Riemsdyk would have been a first-round pick, but the Flyers could have easily gotten that pick top-10 protected. Looking now at what the Calgary Flames had to give up to move Sean Monahan, the cost checks out. Monahan makes $625,000 less than van Riemsdyk and they’re both in the final year of their contracts. But van Riemsdyk had a more productive 2021-22 season, scoring 24 goals and 38 points while Monahan scored just eight goals and 23 points. If the cost was only a future first-round pick to move van Riemsdyk and be able to sign a major free agent (Gaudreau), that should have been an easy decision and we wouldn’t be talking about moving van Riemsdyk once again.
van Riemsdyk isn’t the strongest player on the defensive side of the puck, but he is a goal-scorer and is great in front of the opponents’ net. John Tortorella should be able to help the veteran winger with his defensive game and there could still be a chance the Flyers flip him at the trade deadline for an actual return.
Kevin Hayes is the second-highest paid player on the Flyers, and he played just over half of the games last season. In those 48 games, he scored 10 goals, and 31 points, and was minus-20. His cap hit is $7.142 million per season and he is signed for four more seasons. He not only needs to be better at both ends of the ice for the Flyers to warrant keeping him around, but the contract is not ideal considering the role he plays (from “Flyers hope good health and John Tortorella can help Kevin Hayes bounce back”, The Athletic, Aug. 11, 2022).
Hayes is definitely not worth over $7 million, but the Flyers pulled the trigger on a signing right before COVID messed with the steady rising salary cap. It is somewhat like the situation with Ellis. If Hayes can’t stay healthy and consistently contribute to the lineup every season, then the Flyers are playing shorthanded without being allowed to fill that void long-term.
Hayes should be dealt before his contract is up if the Flyers have a centerman who can step up and fill that void on the second line. Morgan Frost will have to have a big season to get that confidence from the Flyers and a shot at taking that role or Tyson Foerster/Cutter Gauthier could be options in a few years’ time if things go according to plan. Having a player who is paid less to do a similar or better job is always ideal. Having a second-line center for a full season would be beneficial and would allow the Flyers to work their lineup around much better.
Of the three players discussed, Ellis would benefit the Flyers the most if he was dealt, and sooner rather than later. You can’t ignore the number of defensemen on the team that should be playing top-four minutes while Ellis also can’t seem to stay healthy. The team could let van Riemsdyk’s contract run out and without a suitable replacement, Hayes is the best option right now for the second-line center position despite being overpaid.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
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