Deadline Decisions: Flyers weigh playoffs versus patience

Flyers rookie Shayne Gostisbehere joins ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr as they both put their names in the NHL record books by reaching some significant milestones.

Over the next seven days, will be taking an in-depth look at teams and the decisions facing them leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 29. Today: Philadelphia Flyers.

PENDING UFAs: Sam Gagner, Michael Raffl, Ryan White, Evgeny Medvedev.
2016 DRAFT PICKS: 1st (PHIL), 2nd (PHIL), 2nd (CHI), 3rd (PHIL), 3rd (LAK), 4th (PHIL), 5th (PHIL), 6th (PHIL), 6th (LAK), 7th (PHIL)
NO-MOVE CLAUSES: Claude Giroux, R.J. Umberger, Mark Streit, Wayne Simmonds.
TEAM MODE: Try to make playoffs. But don’t do anything stupid.

Draft pick, no-move and cap space data via general fanager.

The reality is the Philadelphia Flyers already made the big trade they needed to make.

That came back on Jan. 6 when the Flyers were able to move two contracts they desperately wanted to be rid of, those belonging to veterans Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn, to Los Angeles for minor-league forward Jordan Weal and a third round pick this June.

The Flyers had to retain salary for both Lecavalier ($2.25 million) and Schenn ($1.8 million), but that ends after this year. Lecavalier has said he intends to retire, which would void the final two years of his deal for both L.A. and Philly, while Schenn is an unrestricted free agent in July.

That was a significant move for GM Ron Hextall, not for this season, but as he continues to try to pry the Flyers out from the salary cap jail they had built for themselves, a process that began last summer in that bizarre deal that saw the essentially retired Chris Pronger traded to Arizona.

Like Toronto, the Flyers have had to try and clean up their cap problems before they can get on with the business of trying to get back to being a contender. Unlike the Leafs, the Flyers haven’t fallen quite so far, which, depending on your point of view, may or may not be helpful as they rebuild.

For now, the Flyer cap-clearing continues, with only Andrew MacDonald’s deal ($5 million annual cap hit until 2020) a major problem, although they’ll be happy to get R.J. Umberger’s $4.6 million contract off the books next season.

In June, the Flyers have accumulated 10 picks, including three in the first two rounds, and may try to add more by next week’s trade deadline.

That’s why it’s very unlikely Philly will add a major, expensive component by the deadline. Hextall has said as much, and he hasn’t done all this difficult leg work to get the Flyer house back in order just to blow it all on doing something crazy.

“We’re not looking to add a player who is a rental,” Hextall told reporters on Sunday. “That is not going to happen. We’re not going to mortgage part of our future to make a push to make the playoffs.”

The loss of defenceman Michael del Zotto (wrist) for the season does create a hole, and Hextall could do something small to fill it. But he’s more likely to try and move a few bodies, with UFAs Sam Gagner and Michael Raffl, and RFAs Evgeny Medvedev and Radko Gudas possibilities.

The emergence of defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere has given the Flyers their most exciting young blue-liner in years, adding to a defence depth chart that includes draftees Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg.

Up front, both Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek are signed long-term, although Voracek’s 10 goals after signing an extension last summer that kicks in with an $8.25 million cap hit starting next year, have given Flyers observers some reason to pause.

The Flyers made it to the Stanley Cup final in 2010, losing to Chicago, but only Giroux remains from that team. The Flyers have missed the players two of the past three years, and lost in the first round in 2014.

Hextall has done a nice job sticking to his plan in a city that doesn’t like to be patient, and because of that the Flyers may soon be positioned to be an aggressive in the player acquisition market again.

But not now. They’ve still got a shot at making the playoffs, but don’t expect any big moves.

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