The Philadelphia Flyers’ retooling has begun, and it is believed that a domino effect will come from the Rasmus Ristolainen signing. With the $5.1 million AAV (average annual value) he is being paid, combined with another $17.68 million tied up with the other three top defencemen on the team, one if not both of Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov could be moved.
Multiple trusted insiders including Jeff Marek, Elliotte Friedman, Darren Dreger, and David Pagnotta suggest there would be a ton of interest amongst other teams if Sanheim were to hit the open market. The Flyers signed Ristolainen and it was probably the best course of action instead of trading him given the season. But the team could maximize a return for a player like Sanheim who is having a solid season and is locked up for another year at a fair price.
The Flyers have young defenceman Cam York up with the big club once again and he looks to be staying (“Flyers’ fond memories of Cam York carry him back up to the NHL”, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 11, 2022). He has assumed a role on the top power play and has even been able to switch over to the right side. The left side of the ice is his natural side and he is going to eventually grow into a top-four option for the Flyers if he’s not already there. That means one of Sanheim or Provorov are not sticking around if they can allocate money elsewhere and get a return they’re looking for.
Amongst the teams that are believed to be heavily interested, I will look at three that could be realistic options and what possible returns they could bring the Flyers.
The Vancouver Canucks have been at the centre of trade rumours for a good chunk of the season. They have fought their way right back into the playoff race and now may either look to stand pat or buy rather than sell some of their high-end pieces at the deadline.
Brock Boeser is a name that has been out there in trade rumours and is the most likely of the top players to be on a new team by next season. He is a pure sniper but has had injury problems in his career, but less so this year. He has had somewhat of a tough season, but like many others on the team, he has turned things around after the coaching change.
Boeser’s contract is up after this season and he is a restricted free agent (RFA). He will be in for a raise and the Canucks have to manage the money they have, plus plan for future players as they will have to sign Vasily Podkolzin, Nils Hoglander, and Jack Rathbone in the coming years.
It is believed that the Canucks are in the market for another defender and the Flyers could be a team they end up doing business with. Not only are the Flyers likely planning on making changes to their back-end, but they will also be looking to bring in at least one impactful forward after Claude Giroux is expected to be dealt at the deadline. The Flyers have Cam Atkinson, but you can never have too many players who can put the puck in the back of the net, especially with the two-way capabilities of the centermen on the team.
The Canucks will be looking to move players like Tyler Myers and Travis Hamonic who make too much money for the level of production they provide, and they would essentially be saving money and getting a good deal on a defenceman approaching his prime who is already signed. The deal would have to include something extra on the Flyers’ end, but that would be contingent on the fact that Boeser will sign a contract if the trade is made.
St. Louis Blues
Marek brings up the point that the St. Louis Blues are a team that seems to have their nose in every defenceman who could possibly be available at the deadline. The defence has not been a strong point for the team this season and they are looking to add since they appear to be in a position to make the playoffs.
The Blues have three defencemen making the majority of the money on the back-end and two inexperienced guys in Niko Mikkola and Jake Walman. With Marco Scandella also on the left side, he is better suited on the third pairing. This is where Sanheim would fit in great. A fresh face who can slot in on the second pairing where he is most comfortable and has performed well this year.
The Blues don’t need any more help up front, as they are a very deep team at forward. Though, with very limited cap space, they will have to send back a roster player at minimum or shuffle around the cap to make a deal work involving Sanheim. Possibly even a David Perron or Scandella they would have to consider moving out in the deal as well.
Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings have been one of the teams that have been involved in the Jakob Chychrun sweepstakes. The haul that it will take to bring in that defender is much more than they would have to pay for a different option in Sanheim to fill their needs.
Both Chychrun and Sanheim are left-shot defencemen and even though the Kings have the resources to pull off a trade and acquire the most sought-after defenceman on the market, they may still elect to use their resources elsewhere and build smarter.
The Kings’ left side is very drained this season and if they intend on competing for a Stanley Cup this year, they will have to address that need first and foremost. Olli Maatta is a bottom-pairing defenceman at best, while Mikey Anderson is on the injured reserve. Other notable defenders on the long-term injured reserve include Alex Edler who plays the left side and Sean Walker who plays the right.
Tobias Bjornfot is 20 years old and still on his entry-level deal, while Jacob Moverare is young and inexperienced. Injuries have played a big factor in the Kings’ season this year, and adding a player who could slot in on the second pair at a good price and will stay healthy would be a big plus.
Related: Kings Prospects the Flyers Could Acquire in a Trade
Even if Sanheim isn’t made available by the Flyers until the offseason, Austin Stanovich of The Hockey Writers believes the Kings should make him their number one priority. I mentioned the Kings have a ton of prospects and young players, so the Flyers would be able to take their pick. But I would conclude they would target a player like Gabriel Vilardi and even a defensive NHL-ready player like Moverare in any trade involving him.
This all depends on if Sanheim is available now or at all and if what the Flyers think they can get in a return is enough. It’s not clear if Sanheim or any of the remaining defencemen on the roster other than Ristolainen and York are a part of the future.