The NHL trade deadline is fast approaching, and the Flyers are quickly falling out of the playoff race. In fact, after their loss to Buffalo on Wednesday night, it’s looking more and more likely that they’ll be sellers at the trade deadline.
Instead of setting their sights on a big-name player to push them over the top, Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers will most likely be selling off pieces to set themselves up for next season. Mind you, the Flyers are somehow only three points out of a playoff spot with three games against the Bruins coming up, but they’re definitely not trending in the right direction.
The possibility also remains that the Flyers both buy and sell at the deadline. They could look to add a defenseman with term (Ryan Ellis, perhaps?) to shore things up this season and moving forward.
So, if the Flyers do end up selling, who could they ship out of Philadelphia?
Unfortunately, with the Flyers roster constructed to contend, there aren’t many obvious answers. The chances of trading away a core player in-season are slim-to-none, and the underperforming players this season still have bright futures. Therefore, there are limited options for Fletcher to realistically have on the market.
But there are a few names that come to mind given the Flyers’ situation and the players’ cap hits.
Scott Laughton has carved out a nice role for himself on the Flyers. He has shown that he can be effective as a center or winger. On top of that, he’s not just a fourth-line grinder. The two-way forward kills penalties and can chip in offensively a bit as well. He’s most effective in the bottom six, but he can slide up the lineup in a pinch.
Laughton has 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 32 games this season. Last season, he had 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 49 games. That’s a total of 44 points (20 goals, 24 assists) in his last 81 games, which is an attractive number for a mostly bottom-six player.
Laughton is a pending free agent with a cap hit of $2.3 million this season. The 26-year-old forward should be welcomed on any team that needs a feisty forward in the playoffs.
On the other hand, Laughton is beloved in Philadelphia. He is a hard-working player that has earned his spot on the roster and in the lineup. He plays hard every night and is a solid contributor. He’s spent his entire career in the Flyers organization since being drafted
Laughton was a hot commodity at last year’s trade deadline too, according to Elliotte Friedman. Here’s a snippet from Friedman’s 31 Thoughts column from last February:
“Another player I heard a lot of teams liked: Philadelphia’s Scott Laughton.
‘Chuck (Fletcher) couldn’t hang up fast enough,’ another exec joked.”
It’s safe to say that Fletcher doesn’t want to trade Laughton, but if the Flyers aren’t going to make the playoffs and a team comes calling with an attractive offer, he has to listen.
Laughton is the lone Flyers player on TSN’s Trade Bait List and sits at the No. 16 slot.
Michael Raffl is another player that has spent his entire NHL career with the Flyers. The Austrian forward has been a staple in the Flyers lineup since making his NHL debut in the 2013-14 season.
Like Laughton, Raffl is a versatile player. He doesn’t have the skills to be a top-line player anymore (granted, he may not have ever really been a top-line talent), but he does all the little things right and is a great guy to have on the fourth line. He has spent time at the center position with the Flyers, but seems to do his best work at wing.
Raffl has eight points (three goals, five assists) in 30 games this season. He had 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 58 games last year.
Raffl, 32, is another pending free agent with a cap hit of $1.6 million. He’d be a cheap option for a team looking for a fourth-line boost.
To say that Erik Gustafsson has been a disappointment in Philadelphia would be a massive understatement. Perhaps expectations were too high for the lone defenseman signed in the offseason, but he’s barely played at a third-pair level.
Despite that, Gustafsson is the type of defenseman that could fetch a mid-round pick or prospect at the trade deadline. Just last season, Gustafsson was traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Calgary Flames for a third-round pick.
Gustafsson, 29, is a pending free agent with a cap hit of $3.0 million. He has 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 24 games this season.
The defenseman won’t light the world on fire, but could work for a team looking for some depth help. He can be effective playing third-pair minutes in a sheltered role while helping out on the power play.
The Flyers still have 10 days and six games until the trade deadline. However, they’re going to have to drastically improve their play if they want Fletcher to trade away assets to improve the team. Otherwise, they’ll end up as sellers looking to move a few pieces as they focus on next season.
Photo: Heather Barry Images