The Philadelphia Flyers have been on a downward spiral over the past few weeks, extending their losing streak to 11 games in a row. It is almost a certainty at this point that they become sellers at the deadline, but it would do them lots of good to consider trading assets to contenders before that.
The only way the Flyers are going to get back into any sort of race this season is if they go on a massive run and string together a couple of long winning streaks. Unless that starts next game, time is going to start running out. Better to reset for next season and re-evaluate what is on the team and what is in their system.
Related: 5 Flyers That Should Lead the Rebuild
One of the reasons for any general manager (GM) to sell early if the team is out of the playoff race is to create that space for prospects to be called up and play higher in the lineup. Additionally, selling early allows for the possibility of acquiring more assets if teams can get players early, and increases their chances of dropping in the standings and getting a better pick in this year’s draft, which is projected to be very good.
Create Space for Youth
Prospects have already been able to make the jump and get playing time with the Flyers this year due to COVID, as well as injuries. Kevin Hayes’ early-season injuries allowed for Morgan Frost to get enough reps in the NHL to establish himself and stick around. On defence, meanwhile, the injury problems that Ryan Ellis has been dealing with this season have allowed Cam York to make the jump and make a name for himself on the team, as well.
If the Flyers were to just sell upcoming unrestricted free agents (UFA) worth trading, they would be able to trade Claude Giroux, Rasmus Ristolainen, Derick Brassard, Justin Braun, Keith Yandle, and Martin Jones. That alone opens up two spots on forward, three more defence spots, and one goaltender position in a backup role.
Related: Flyers: 3 Trade Destinations for Claude Giroux
I would assume a player or two would be coming back in the trades they make to be able to free up a roster spot or cap space from the team trading with the Flyers. This could be in the form of a cap dump to get more assets, or bring in a prospect that may be NHL-ready.
There has always been this theme, whether it’s a contender or a seller, that later in the season is the time to call up players who have been performing well in the minors, giving them a late-season tryout while providing reinforcements. Some players may have had season-opening injuries and missed training camp. A look at NHL action while games still matter can allow the team to get a better idea of what the Flyers have in their system that could be impactful as soon as next season.
As I mentioned, players like Frost and York have had the largest impact after getting their shots and should stick around, especially when spots are freed up. But other names that could stick around or get the call include Wade Allison, Jackson Cates, Tyson Foerster, Egor Zamula, and Felix Sandstrom. Frost and York will definitely be able to move up the lineup while the other should slot into the middle of the lineup while Sandstrom should get a little look this season, especially if Jones is moved.
Possibly Acquire More Assets to Help Turn Things Around
Lots of teams decide on what they will do right at the deadline because the GMs have that extra time to really see where their team is at, but it goes both ways. Teams that are in full rebuild mode and aren’t competing this season should already be looking to sell assets as early as they can to get a better return and drop in the standings. But just like possible sellers that are analyzing their position in the standings and the possibility of getting into the postseason, possible buyers are doing the same.
Before this most recent losing streak, the Flyers were in that group that would have been waiting and judging if they are going to be sellers, buyers, or stand pat at the deadline. More players are now injured after Sean Couturier and Brassard have been sitting on the injured reserve for a while and Joel Farabee recently joined them. This has been a factor in the Flyers plummeting down the standings.
In selling early, teams that think they have a shot, but are hanging around the middle of the pack may want to add early and gain that advantage over teams around them in the standings. The Flyers have a number of upcoming UFAs and trading them early could get them the return on a better prospect or a draft pick that’s one round higher. Both could make a huge difference, as it would add one or more players with the potential to be difference-makers in the future.
In selling some players early, it would open up cap space so that in a possible deal closer to the deadline the Flyers would be able to retain cap space, again, garnering them a better return.
Drop in the Standing to Get a Better Draft Pick This Year
The Flyers have dropped far enough to get themselves in the conversation for one of the lottery picks. There’s most likely no competing with the losing of the Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes this season, as they still sit 10-plus points behind the Flyers. But the Flyers now rank 27th in the league in points, just ahead of the Buffalo Sabres, Seattle Kraken, and Ottawa Senators (from “The Flyers finally land in the bottom 5, a new team enters the top 5, and is the East just way better than the West?” The Athletic, Jan. 24, 2022). Though still badly negative, each of those teams have played better recently and have at least three wins in their past 10 games while as you know the Flyers have none.
To push the Flyers’ losing streak to 11 games, the Sabres walked all over them. Even if the Flyers don’t fall enough to finish in the bottom three in the league, it’s no certainty that they won’t move up into the top three in the draft lottery like they did in 2017. It was bad luck that Nolan Patrick had his career set back by injuries, but way more often than not, top picks in the draft turn out to be franchise-changers.
As I mentioned, the injuries for the Flyers have piled up, even more, so dropping in the standing more isn’t unlikely. The team would do well in starting to talk to potential trade partners now if they haven’t already and get the best return in a lost season that could still bring positives.