We’re getting into the thick of the season and closer to the NHL trade deadline. This year’s trade deadline is on April 12th, which is just over a month away. The Philadelphia Flyers are desperately in need of a top-four defensemen to stabilize their blue line. They have already been linked to Mattias Ekholm and could have their eyes on other targets around the league.
Frank Seravalli updated TSN Hockey’s Trade Bait List on Wednesday. The aforementioned Ekholm sits atop the list at No. 1, with another interesting defenseman right behind him: David Savard.
After that, the defensemen are slim pickings. Brandon Montour, who would be a depth addition at best, dropped from fourth on the list to eight. The rest of the defensemen on the list are likely worse than the Flyers’ in-house options.
Ekholm is obviously the ideal defenseman to bring in for the Flyers. However, he is the ideal defenseman to bring in for a lot of teams across the league. That will drive up the price for the top-four defenseman that can play on either side. The Nashville Predators know they have a hot commodity in a limited market. They’re going to have a high asking price.
What makes trading for Ekholm tricky is the upcoming expansion draft. Ekholm is under contract through next season, meaning any team that trades for him will either trade for him as a strict rental and expose him, or more likely protect him ahead of another defenseman on the roster. This causes an issue for the Flyers.
Teams can either protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goaltender, or eight total skaters and a goaltender. The Flyers have two players that they must protect due to their no-movement clauses in Claude Giroux and Kevin Hayes, and you have to think they’ll go with the first option anyway. Limiting the Flyers’ protection list to only eight skaters would be risky. They will assumably elect to protect seven forwards and three defensemen.
The price for Ekholm is likely a top prospect (or two) and a top draft pick. There are going to be multiple future assets sent to Nashville, regardless of who ends up landing him. If the Flyers land him, they’ll not only lose future assets via the trade but possibly a young defenseman in the expansion draft.
If Ekholm is a Flyer, the Flyers will have to expose at least one of Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers, and Ekholm. Those three young defensemen aren’t having the best seasons, but you still don’t want to lose them for nothing. Provorov is a top-pair defenseman, even if he’s just a No. 2, and Sanheim and Myers have the tools that can be refined to at least become solid second-pair defensemen.
There is always the possibility that the Flyers strike a deal with the Seattle Kraken to select a certain player, but that can’t be projected. So, trading for Ekholm could put the Flyers in a bind.
That brings us to another – possibly more likely – option: trading for a rental defenseman. That rental defenseman could very well be David Savard, who sits at No. 2 on the Trade Bait list.
In a normal season, Savard may not even be on the table for the Flyers to trade for from a divisional opponent. However, with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Atlantic Division this season and Savard’s contract expiring, it opens the door a bit more.
Savard is averaging 19:21 per game this season, behind only Seth Jones and Zach Werenski for Columbus. He averaged 19:23 or more in each of the six previous seasons, including 20:41 last season. He’s not going to be a guy that lights the world on fire offensively – his career-high is 11 goals and 25 assists for 36 points in the 2014-15 season – but he can be a solid defenseman in the top-four.
The important thing to note about Savard is that he is a right-handed defenseman. He could help stabilize the Flyers defense as a right-handed option in the top four.
Frank Seravalli said last week that Savard would have an “incredibly strong” market if made available before the deadline.
With Alain Vigneault saying on Wednesday that the Flyers haven’t yet found the Nisky that was playing with Provorov on the top pair, Ekholm or Savard could be the answer.