There’s been a lot of smoke around the Philadelphia Flyers and Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm recently.
On February 20th, Pierre LeBrun listed the Flyers as one of four potential destinations for Ekholm. Lebrun does stress that there’s no evidence to suggest that the Predators are shopping Ekholm. Even with that, you have to wonder if the Flyers are eyeing the Swedish defenseman.
With Ekholm’s name in the rumor mill, there’s the question of what the Predators would want back for him. Well, there could be a player (or two) on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the package.
According to Tony Androckitis of AHLInsideHockey, the Predators had scouts at the PPL Center this weekend to scout the Phantoms.
“While it might seem to be purely coincidental on the surface – scouts attend AHL games all the time – the fact that Nashville was scouting the Phantoms’ games this past weekend against the Penguins comes at a time when the Predators’ organization doesn’t play against the Flyers organization at either the NHL or AHL level (Predators AHL affiliate Milwaukee opted out of the 2020-21 season, and they play in the AHL’s Western Conference so wouldn’t face the Phantoms anyway),” Androckitis writes.
“Also worth noting, since InsideAHLHockey keeps track of which scouts attend Phantoms games, is that Nashville has only ever sent scouts to the PPL Center two or three times in the past several years since we’ve been keeping track of scout attendance and which teams’ reps are on hand. They simply don’t face the Flyers’ organization in direct competition, albeit twice at the NHL level in a “normal” season. This year, the NHL has an in-division only schedule.”
If there wasn’t smoke before, there’s definitely smoke now.
There are several players on the Phantoms that the Predators could be interested in. Notable defensemen include nearly the NHL-ready Egor Zamula as well as Linus Hogberg, Mason Millman, and Wyatte Wylie. The Phantoms also have a few forwards of note in David Kase, Tanner Laczynski, and Zayde Wisdom.
The price for Ekholm could be steep. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Predators are looking for at least a first-round pick as well as a prospect or two for Ekholm. Depending on the market and teams interested, they could get their wish.
Ekholm, 30, has a cap hit of $3.75 million through next season. He scored a pair of goals in his return from injury this weekend and has averaged over 23 minutes per game over the last four seasons.
If the Flyers want a top-four defenseman, Ekholm could be their guy. He drives play and can be the No. 2 to Ivan Provorov’s No. 1 on the top pair. Provorov thrived with Niskanen last season and Ekholm could even be a step up from that.
We’re still over a month away from the April 12th trade deadline, but Mattias Ekholm is someone to keep an eye on.