Fletcher’s Mismanagement of Flyers’ Defense Proving Very Costly

There has been a ton of change on the Philadelphia Flyers’ defense over the past year for better and for worse, but it has cost the team dearly in terms of draft picks. For a team that has finished low in the standings two seasons in a row as well, that’s not an ideal situation to be in.

Let’s take a look at the defensemen that have come and gone over the past two offseasons, the cost in terms of draft picks for the Flyers, and what has become of the moves made by Chuck Fletcher to overhaul the blue line.

Defensemen In & Out For the Flyers

The defense may look strong right now at full health with Ivan Provorov, Ryan Ellis, Travis Sanheim, Tony DeAngelo, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Cam York, but they are paying them a lot in total. Only two defensemen, Provorov and Sanheim, remain from the 2020-21 team.

Ryan Ellis, Philadelphia Flyers
Ryan Ellis, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The madness started last July when the Flyers started the overhaul to acquire Ellis from the Nashville Predators. There have been five trades involving NHL defensemen since then. Here’s a look at what has come in and what has gone out in those five deals.

In

  • Ryan Ellis
  • Rasmus Ristolainen
  • Tony DeAngelo
  • 2023 Third Round Pick (NYR)
  • 2022 Seventh Round Pick (220th overall, Alexis Gendron)

Out

  • Shayne Gostisbehere
  • Philippe Myers
  • Nolan Patrick
  • Justin Braun
  • Robert Hagg
  • 2021 First Round Pick (14th overall, Isak Rosen)
  • 2022 Second Round Pick (36th overall, Artem Duda)
  • 2022 Fourth Round Pick (101st overall, Simon Forsmark)
  • 2022 Seventh Round Pick (216th overall, Miguel Tourigny)
  • 2023 Second Round Pick (PHI)
  • 2023 Third Round Pick (Lowest of the Flyers three picks in that round)
  • 2024 Second Round Pick (PHI)

That is a large number of assets, and even though the Flyers got three top-four right defensemen, there will have to be a significant improvement overall to make anyone look at the moves and think they were worth it. They moved a top-four defenseman in Shayne Gostisbehere, three sixth or seventh defensemen, and a former second-overall pick. After all the draft pick trade-offs happen, the Flyers will have lost a first, their second-round picks this year and the following two, and a fourth-round pick.

They don’t expect to have high picks in the second round, but if they do fail once again to make the playoffs and get a pick in the 30s, they will be losing out on yet another good prospect to fill their system for the future.

Related: Flyers’ Newest Player Tony DeAngelo – What to Expect

If you look at what it cost to get rid of Gostisbehere and to acquire DeAngelo, it will make you question Fletcher’s decisions. Involved in just shipping off the former last offseason and bringing in the latter this one, it cost the Flyers two second-round picks, a third-round pick, a fourth-round pick, and a seventh-round pick, all to pay DeAngelo $500,000 more and to get the same production/style of play as Gostisbehere (from “Shayne Gostisbehere Has Revived His Career In Arizona”, The Hockey News, Jan. 13, 2022).

Shayne Gostisbehere Arizona Coyotes
Shayne Gostisbehere, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Gostisbehere put up 14 goals and 51 points with the Arizona Coyotes, the second-worst team in the league, while DeAngelo scored 10 goals and 51 points with the Carolina Hurricanes, one of the best. Yes, DeAngelo missed some games, but regardless, they were equally productive.

All the Flyers’ Draft Picks Lost

The Flyers lost a huge sum of their draft picks just to overhaul their defense. Now they are paying five defensemen $4.675 million-plus next season and have very little cap space to work with as a result. It is an improvement, I’ll say that much, but for things to work out, Ellis has to stay healthy, Ristolainen has to play better, and there can’t be any problems with DeAngelo.

The team has paid the price ahead of time but has at least managed to keep the players they acquired around. They re-signed Ristolainen despite what the thoughts on him were; so the first and second-round picks didn’t go to complete waste. The Flyers were also able to sign DeAngelo very quickly after acquiring his rights from the Hurricanes.

Tony DeAngelo Carolina Hurricanes
Tony DeAngelo, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Two picks, in particular, will likely come back and haunt the Flyers, the first-round pick in 2021 that saw the Buffalo Sabres draft Isak Rosen and the 2022 second-round pick (36th overall), which became Artem Duda (from “Isak Rosen readying for ‘big opportunity’ with Sabres after tough year in Sweden”, The Buffalo News, June 21, 2022). That early in the second round is pretty similar to a late first-round selection. It remains to be seen if the next two years’ second round picks will come back to bite them, but from the viewpoint today, those are pretty valuable picks.

If things go south again, which I will admit is less likely with John Tortorella behind the bench, a more healthy squad, added experience for the young players, and a couple of new faces, the Flyers have more of a hill to climb to get back those picks they sent away over the last couple of years.

What Has Become of the Flyers’ Moves Thus Far?

Before looking at the Flyers, I will go through what has benefited the teams they made deals with first. The Coyotes got more solid draft picks and a great offensive defenseman in exchange for future considerations during a season they were welcoming teams to trade them unwanted contracts. The Predators received Cody Glass in the end since Patrick was sent over to the Vegas Golden Knights. Glass didn’t have much of an impact, but still has potential, while Myers was swapped with Ryan McDonagh this offseason. The Sabres got themselves another great prospect to add to their elite prospect pool as well as another opportunity to add to that next year. Finally, the Hurricanes got rid of another offensive defenseman before they had to pay him and were able to replenish their weaker farm system in the process.

As for the Flyers, Ellis played four games last season, and even though he recorded five points, it means nothing if he can’t stay healthy. Ristolainen had a down season but Sanheim helped him out as his partner. The Flyers re-signed him for his physicality and work in his own end, but they will need to see a bounce-back season from him to justify his large contract. We will have to wait and see with DeAngelo, but for now, the team is paying one of their defensemen too much money to play third-pairing minutes.


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