Engage in any conversation or read any article about the most disappointing teams in the NHL this season and the Philadelphia Flyers are likely to come up.
Although they’ve reached the playoffs in only three of the past six years and haven’t gotten out of the first round since 2012, Philadelphia has the roster to reasonably expect a playoff push and maybe even a run through a few rounds.
But here we are, less than a month from the trade deadline, and the Flyers are 12 points out of a playoff spot, firmly in the sellers department.
What makes the Flyers an interesting team to watch in the lead-up to the Feb. 25 trade deadline is that, outside of an obvious rental sell-off like Wayne Simmonds, any other moves could involve substantial and effective players. Part of the reason the Flyers fired Ron Hextall as GM was because he was “unyielding” in his plan and unwilling to make major changes.
“I’m trying to make the team better at all costs, I guess is the best way of putting it,” Fletcher said to the media on Monday. But he qualified that with one move he definitely will not make.
“I’m not trading Claude Giroux, that’s for sure,” he said. “We have a lot of good players here, but I would never say never to almost anybody besides Giroux. Giroux’s got the no-trade and he’s our captain and probably one of the best players in the history of the franchise so I don’t think that makes much sense. But there’s a lot of guys that don’t make much sense to trade either, but you can’t say never.”
It’s a foregone conclusion that Simmonds will be dealt by the deadline, but it remains a possibility the Flyers do something a bit bigger. Fletcher also seemed to suggest that if and when he makes trades it won’t necessarily be for picks and prospects – the expectation remains the same for next season that they’ll be back contending for a playoff spot.
“We can both buy and sell. I guess my point is every decision we make, if we’re going to try to improve our team going forward and we can get that player now, great. There’s always opportunities. To me it’s not the next eight games or even the rest of the year, it’s from this point forward we gotta get better. To be better next year we have to try to get better this year,” Fletcher said.
“The bigger focus is we’d like to get some pieces in here that can be a part of this for a few years and that’s where my focus has been.”