The Philadelphia Flyers are close to the cap ceiling and need to make a few moves. One particular move often talked about is attempting to get a hefty return for a recently underperforming Shayne Gostisbehere. Gostisbehere has a 65-point campaign under his belt (2017-18) and still shows power-play prowess and high upside, though he hasn’t produced the same way in recent seasons.
The 27-year-old, Florida native could get back to his high-flying offensively-talented ways at any moment following multiple surgeries, but it doesn’t seem to be working out in Philadelphia.
On the Block
According to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, Flyers general manager, Chuck Fletcher has offered the player they call Ghost Bear on the trade block. However, trading an underperforming defenseman who makes $4.5 million per season could be tough without retaining any salary. Some Flyers fans might think the return could be substantial considering his upside, how good he has been at times, and that he could be getting back to normal after recent surgeries to repair his knees.
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This is…inaccurate. Unfortunately, if this trade does happen, it will be with a team that has cap space to work with and who is willing to take a risk on an inconsistent defenseman.
Friedman, Zamula, York Can Step In
The Flyers are looking to clear out Gostisbehere’s salary to make room for the next big piece. With Robert Hagg recently signed for two years, the Flyers now have Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Hagg, Philippe Myers, and Matt Niskanen locked up for at least next season.
They’ve got Mark Friedman, a 24-year-old who’s been playing with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms since the 2016-17 season, available to come up, and some think he is ready. His $725,000 AAV contract looks better for a bottom-pairing defenseman than Gostisbehere’s, who was paid to be a top-pairing player but hasn’t looked like one.
Provorov has taken over the first power-play unit, and Myers, Niskanen, and Sanheim are all capable of running the second. Not to mention, the Flyers have University of Michigan defensive prospect Cam York climbing the ranks along with Egor Zamula, a 20-year-old Russian defenseman who scored 28 points in 28 games for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL last season.
Of course, there’s risk involved with these players. Just as no one knows if Gostisbehere will suddenly return to being the stud he was in his first few seasons, no prospect is guaranteed to perform when they get to the big league.
Fans often overvalue their own players, but Gostisbehere could be a special case. The possibility of landing a player like Johnny Gaudreau or Patrik Laine has been thrown around recently, and the trade proposal always seems to include Gostisbehere. The recent trade market for GMs looking to unload heavy contracts suggests the return will be small. The New York Rangers traded Marc Staal to the Detroit Red Wings for a second-round draft pick. The Penguins were able to move Nick Bjugstad for a conditional seventh-round pick.
Gostisbehere’s value is closer to Staal’s than Bjugstad, as a 27-year-old defenseman who has scored 65 points, and those don’t grow on trees. Finding someone with that track record isn’t easy, even if their recent play hasn’t lived up to it. Don’t expect Fletcher to get fleeced and lose out on the potential upside of Gostisbehere for no reason, but don’t expect Gaudreau to come back the other way. If you have low expectations, you might be pleasantly surprised.
If there is anything Flyers fans know well, it’s that struggling players can become revitalized and better than ever on a new team – see James van Riemsdyk and Sergei Bobrovsky. So, no one in Philadelphia would be particularly surprised if Gostisbehere was traded for, say, a third-round pick and ended up scoring 70 points wherever he lands.
Despite playing only five postseason games, he seemed to move much better and looked closer to his rookie season than the 2019-20 season. There is a chance his surgeries helped get his skating back, and the young defenseman could return to his prior form. The question is, where will he be when he does it?
Tim Harding is a freelance writer covering the Philadelphia Flyers. He has over 20 years of hockey playing and watching experience.