The Philadelphia Flyers retooled in the offseason and brought in impactful defencemen Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Ristolainen. Their season hasn’t gone according to plan to this point, but the good news is they still have 48 games left to right the ship. They are four points back but have played more games, which increases the difficulty. Nevertheless, we’ve seen crazier comebacks by less-equipped teams.
David Pagnotta has confirmed that John Klingberg has requested a trade from the Dallas Stars. This comes in the last year of the seven-year contract he signed with the Stars in 2015. After the Stars signed Miro Heiskanen to an eight-year deal at $8.45 million per season, went out and got Ryan Suter for $3.65 million for four years, and already have Esa Lindell on the books for three more seasons after this one at $5.8 million, there isn’t much money to throw at Klingberg for the raise he wants and is going to get.
If a deal were to get done, the Flyers’ best bet would be to pull off a sign-and-trade with the Stars, allowing them to have security in the deal for years after, regardless of the outcome of this season. The Flyers have the contracts of Ristolainen ($5.4 million), Justin Braun ($1.8 million), Keith Yandle ($900k), Kevin Connauton ($825k), and Nick Seeler ($750k) ending after this season. There is uncertainty if the Flyers are going to bring back Ristolainen, and they only have two proven NHL defencemen signed after this season.
The time for a move could be sooner rather than later before an offensive defenceman like Klingberg is unavailable. Players with his set of skills offensively don’t come available too often, especially as a right shot defenceman. It could give the team hope for this season, security for years down the line, a need filled, and a plan for if Ellis continues to have injury problems.
The Flyers have tried to make it work with Ivan Provorov on the first power-play unit, but he is more of an all-around defenceman who is better suited on the second power-play unit. Yandle is not a long-term solution on the Flyers’ power play, and he is past his prime.
Klingberg would certainly be an upgrade to quarterback the power play, as it has been a glaring weak spot, producing at only 15.5 percent, 28th in the NHL. The Flyers are in need of a change and starting with addressing the defence once again to actually get the offensive-defenceman they need would be a great start.
Klingberg would bring all the offence the Flyers could ask for from a defenceman. He is able to walk the line efficiently and get pucks through at both even strength and on the power play. With a play like James van Riemsdyk who lives around the net, that ability to get pucks on goal from the blue line is key.
In his career, Klingberg has 66 goals and 343 points in 503 regular-season games. 135 of those points (39 percent) have come via the power play. A power play that can run more efficiently and convert at a higher rate can give the Flyers a better chance of winning every night and would help increase their goals per game. The team sits in 27th in goals per game with 2.59.
Earlier this season, the Flyers went on a 10-game losing streak, scoring only 18 goals. Six of their losses this year have been by one goal, while more have been by two with the help of an empty net. A few more goals here and there and the team is in the thick of the playoff race right now. Klingberg can help the team have that moving forward, not only for this season but also beyond.
The money that can be freed up next season would be allotted well to handle that hole the Flyers have, and the other pieces should fall into place.
Ellis Injury Problems a Concern
The Flyers would also be in a different position if one of the offseason acquisitions in Ellis could stay healthy. Of the Flyers’ 34 games this season, he has played in four of them, contributing five points. This rate of scoring would be nearly impossible to keep up from a defenceman who has maxed out at 41 points in a season in his career thus far. But the offence would be welcomed.
The injuries to Ellis this season have created a hole that has been very tough to address. They lack options to properly make up what they’ve missed for most of the season. Braun has played most of the season on the top pair with Provorov, while Yandle has had to shift over to the right side at times. Seeler has entered the lineup in the absence of Ellis, but even though he has been solid, he’s nowhere close to the skill level the team lost with the injury. Just recently, the Flyers have called up Cam York and Egor Zamula to get some playing time, but the solution this season isn’t to rush inexperienced players into the lineup in an elevated role.
Ellis was definitely rushed back into the lineup after mostly recovering from his first injury, but it landed him right back on the injured reserve, putting the Flyers in a shorthanded situation once again. There is a pretty significant history of injuries now with Ellis, as he only played 49 games in 2019-20 and 35 games in 2020-21.
Coming in, Klingberg has and would play on the first defence pairing beside Provorov and could be the option the Flyers have to fill the huge void that has been left. Who knows when Ellis will be back or if he will stay healthy this season or the rest of the years he is signed with the Flyers.
The Stars don’t have to move Klingberg, and probably won’t if they are in the playoff race in a couple of months, but the Flyers should inquire about him regardless because maybe a move can still be done. The Flyers need to get out ahead of any futures problems that may arise and deal with their current problems at the same time.
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 the NHL Stat Corner and trade talks from around the NHL.
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