It’s ironic the player whose name former general manager Bobby Clarke forgot on stage at the 2006 NHL Draft would end up becoming one of the most beloved players in Philadelphia Flyers franchise history.
That player, of course, is Claude Giroux. After being selected 22nd overall nearly 16 years ago, he has spent his entire NHL career in Flyers orange and black.
Giroux’s time in Philly could be winding down, though, with his name consistently being mentioned in the churning rumour mill less than three weeks out from the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline.
The 34-year-old star forward is a pending unrestricted free agent and Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher told reporters earlier this year that “everything’s on the table” in terms of what to do before March 21. Fletcher said the Flyers were “going to try to aggressively retool” and “look to do what we can at the trade deadline to improve this team going forward.”
That includes engaging in frequent dialogue with Giroux and his agent Pat Brisson because the first, and ultimately most important, element of a possible Giroux trade is the full no-movement clause he needs to waive for the Flyers and another team to facilitate a deal.
If Giroux is going to waive his NMC, he isn’t going to do it merely as a favour. He’ll want to join a legitimate contender to pursue his first Stanley Cup.
Giroux has finished top-four in Hart Trophy voting thrice during his 14-year NHL career, and despite his production taking a dip over the past three seasons, can come in handy down the stretch. The versatile right-shot forward can line up on his strong side, is effective on his off-wing in power-play situations, all the while remaining an elite faceoff man.
If Nick Foligno garnered a first- and fourth-round pick as a coveted rental player at the 2021 deadline, you’d have to imagine the haul for Giroux would be considerably more substantial – especially if the Flyers are asked to retain any of Giroux’s remaining salary. His salary was a relatively modest $4 million this year but his cap hit is $8.275 million.
Will a standard package of player-prospect-pick be enough to land perhaps the most impactful player available this year?
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman said he has heard the Flyers are interested in “a prospect that’s closer to playing” as opposed to one that might not be NHL-ready for a few years. Friedman suggested that desire from Philly could actually help teams that have already traded away their 2022 first-round picks – a couple teams below meet that criteria.
Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli told Sportsnet he doesn’t think a potential Giroux trade would necessarily come down to the wire. Seravalli added that with the Flyers' season going so poorly he feels the writing is on the wall, so to speak, and it’s more a matter of when Giroux will be traded and not if.
Giroux is on track to skate in his 1,000th career NHL regular-season game with the Flyers at home against Nashville on March 17, four days before the deadline. The Flyers also play March 18 in Ottawa and March 20 at home against the Islanders.
An ideal situation for all parties, in theory at least, is if Giroux enjoys his silver stick moment with the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center and it doubles as a celebratory send-off before he joins a new team by March 21.
If Giroux does end up waiving his no-movement clause, don’t be surprised if he ends up on one of these five rosters.
You wouldn’t guess it simply by looking at the standings, but Buffalo is the only team with a worse faceoff winning percentage than Colorado this season. There aren’t many centres you’d rather have taking a draw for your team during an important moment of a game than Giroux. Patrice Bergeron (63.0 per cent success rate in the circle) is the only centre with a better faceoff winning percentage than Giroux’s 62.0 per cent success rate.
Breaking that down further: Colorado cumulatively wins 46.0 per cent of its draws when at even strength, 51.1 per cent with a man-advantage and just 45.3 per cent when killing a penalty. Giroux, meanwhile, wins 60.0 per cent at even strength, 64.5 per cent on the power play and 71.1 when shorthanded.
Just imagine the additional damage the Avalanche could inflict if they increased their time of possession simply by improving on the dots?
The Avs have been the perceived favourite for a while to land Giroux in a trade. The team’s assistant GM, Chris MacFarland, attended Philadelphia’s game Tuesday to scout Giroux. Colorado has both its firsts and seconds in 2023 and 2024, which the Avs could conceivably package with a prospect(s) and pick(s).
ST. LOUIS BLUES
This is a different-looking Blues roster than the one that hoisted the Stanley Cup three seasons ago, yet this year’s edition is also a well-rounded bunch. The Blues can roll four lines more effectively than most other teams and adding Giroux would make their depth all the more enviable.
Blues GM Doug Armstrong attended Philly’s game Tuesday and Giroux wouldn’t be a complete stranger in the St. Louis room. He was teammates with Brayden Schenn for six seasons in Philly and was coached by current Blues bench boss Craig Berube for seven – five as an assistant and two as head coach.
St. Louis has a relatively standard draft stockpile save for a 2022 second-round pick, so giving up one of their quality prospects is a likely prerequisite. This is the type of major move the Blues might have to consider to compete with the Colorados of the world in the post-season.
“One team to watch if and when Claude Giroux talks get serious: Florida,” Friedman wrote in a recent 32 Thoughts column. “No guarantees, but it makes a lot of sense for everyone involved.”
This is a rare all-in year for a Panthers franchise that hasn’t won a playoff series since its Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1996. Florida doesn’t have a first- or second-rounder this year, so the Panthers probably would have to part with their 2023 or 2024 first plus players and prospects.
Would the Flyers covet a forward such as Owen Tippett as part of a package? The 10th-overall pick from 2017 has yet to find his scoring touch at the NHL level but has been a highly sought-after young player.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Tampa has won back-to-back Cups but lost several key forwards in the off-season and may need some reinforcements at the deadline if it wants to become the first team since the New York Islanders 40 years ago to win three consecutive Cups.
The Lightning don’t have a full stockpile of draft picks with which to work. They lack 2022 second-, third- and fourth-round selections, and also traded away their 2023 second-rounder. They did have a pair of scouts at the most recent Flyers game.
We know GM Julien BriseBois can circumvent the cap with refined skill after what he was able to accomplish last season. So, even though it would be a tough trade to pull off this year we won’t put it past BriseBois to pull off a surprise deadline blockbuster. Plus, if you’re Giroux, you’d have a chance to join a group of proven winners aiming to make modern hockey history.
Why not add another Central Division team to the Giroux sweepstakes? The Wild would have an easy time slotting Giroux into their lineup because Minnesota has a dearth of top-level talent down the middle. Ryan Hartman is having a career year centring the Wild’s top trio but Giroux would be an upgrade over Freddy Gaudreau on the No. 2 line. The Wild win fewer than 49 per cent of their faceoffs at every level of the game – even strength, special teams and in all three zones. Minnesota has seven draft picks in each of the next three years.
You might also hear Calgary or Boston and Toronto get mentioned with Giroux because they are often considered buyers at the deadline and their GMs don’t shy away from impactful trades. Toronto and Boston are already two of the best faceoff teams in the league but any playoff-calibre team could benefit from Giroux’s other skills and intangibles.
Of course, another option is Giroux ends up staying with the Flyers and the decision on his future is postponed until the summer.
“Being a Flyer means a lot to Claude Giroux,” Friedman said on a recent 32 Thoughts podcast. “Watching his family at the All-Star Game (at which Giroux was named MVP) and what that meant to him, I think they love it there.”