As the NHL trade deadline nears, the Philadelphia Flyers have yet to make a significant trade. Up until now, their only trade has been to send American Hockey League goalie J.F. Berube to the Rangers for future considerations.
It is possible that may be the only trade the Flyers make. They’re hot, winning 8 of their last 11 games and have suddenly found themselves in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. For general manager Chuck Fletcher, he may not want to play around with a roster that has suddenly found its groove at the right time.
Should Fletcher and the Flyers stand pat at the deadline, the team might very well continue with its recent success. The main reason why is because the team does not have any glaring needs.
Between the pipes, Carter Hart has put up pretty good numbers this season with .908 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.54 goals-against average (GAA). And although Brian Elliott’s numbers are not as good this season (.899 SV% and 2.90 GAA), he brings a lot of experience and is good to have as a No. 2 goalie.
The defense has some solid offensive pieces in Matt Niskanen, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim, and will be getting a boost with the return of Shayne Gostisbehere. Furthermore, Niskanen and Justin Braun bring leadership and playoff experience that could prove especially useful during the Flyers’ playoff run.
Finally, the Flyers’ forwards have no trouble scoring goals and the unit boasts one of the best lines in the NHL with Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux. Meanwhile, the top two goal-scorers on the team are not even on that line, as Travis Konecny (21 goals) and Kevin Hayes (19 goals) help comprise an impressive second line.
On this note, the Flyers have scored 201 goals, which is second in the Metropolitan Division to the 210 goals scored by the Washington Capitals.
So Where Could the Flyers Improve?
The one area on the team which might need a boost for a potential playoff run is the fourth line, specifically at the center position. Throughout the season, the fourth-line center position has been occupied by several players, but recently, Connor Bunnaman has taken over the position.
Nonetheless, his numbers have not been spectacular so far. The fact that he only has one goal and two assists through 21 games is not the biggest concern, because he does play on the fourth line.
Rather, the stat that is most concerning is his lack of hits on the season. Bunnaman has registered 29 hits through 21 games, good for about 1.4 per game.
Although the fourth-liners are not expected to deliver huge offensive numbers, they are expected to be tough and record hits. Frankly, 1.4 hits per game from a fourth-line center will not cut it. By comparison, New York Islanders’ fourth-line center Casey Cizikas was averaging double that number with 2.8 per game prior to getting injured.
Bunnaman is only 21 and could be a solid player for the Flyers in the future. Nonetheless, for a team that is trying to make the playoffs now, adding a little experience and toughness at the position could not hurt.
Who Could the Flyers Add?
One player who comes to mind is Luke Glendening of the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings are already eliminated from the playoffs and should be eager to rebuild their roster for next season.
A seven-year NHL veteran, Glendening would provide an immediate boost to the Flyers’ fourth line. For starters, he would provide a little more scoring than Bunnaman, as Glendening has had three seasons with double-digit goal totals.
More importantly, Glendening would bring even more toughness to the team. He is currently averaging 2.6 hits per game, and his 136 hits rank 19th in the Eastern Conference. As an added bonus, Glendening has one year left on his current contract after this year and would be a part of the Flyers next season.
With the trade deadline fast approaching this Monday, Fletcher better hurry if he wants to improve the fourth line.