The Philadelphia Flyers made Chuck Fletcher’s decision easy for him on Sunday afternoon. After starting out the game strong, and playing well throughout, it all came crashing down. The Sabres scored three goals in the final 3:03, including two within 25 seconds of each other to tie the game and take the lead in the final minutes.
The mood around the Flyers quickly changed. If they held on for the win, they could potentially buy at the deadline –– or at least not sell too much –– and have a path to the playoffs. Instead, Chuck Fletcher has no choice but to sell. The Bruins have three games in hand, including one on Sunday night, and a four-point lead on the Flyers.
The final nail in the coffin?
The Flyers aren’t mathematically out of it –– they can’t really be until the final few weeks of the season –– but Sunday’s loss felt like the final nail in the coffin.
“It’s hard to explain. We had that game in total control. We were giving them almost nothing. We just blew it,” Alain Vigneault said. “The icing that we didn’t need to do and lost the puck in our end in the corner there when we had control and they found a way to jump on one of their rebounds. We just couldn’t get it done.”
“Two mental mistakes. When you get position at that point of the game, and letting them score two goals like that, that just can’t happen,” Giroux said. “It’s very frustrating, especially the position we are in right now in the standings. That just can’t happen.”
Obviously, there’s no secret that this was an important game for the Flyers. The puck dropped just 25 hours before the trade deadline with the Flyers in flux.
“Yeah, the trade deadline, I’ve been in a lot of them. The unknown, not knowing who is going to be here tomorrow or what the future has for us,” Giroux continued. It’s out of our control and it’s not on us to make those decisions.”
Chuck Fletcher has to sell at the deadline
The most frustrating thing is that the Flyers have been playing well over the past week or so. They just haven’t gotten the results. Playing well but losing won’t make up for their failures in March, and Chuck Fletcher has to sell.
There aren’t a ton of players that Fletcher will be able to move, though. I touched on three of the more likely ones last week.
Laughton has reportedly been a target of a couple of teams, but both he and the Flyers want to get a contract done if they can.
Raffl and Gustafsson haven’t been in the rumor mill as much, though. Raffl was kept out of Sunday’s game and Gustafsson hasn’t played since March 31st.
Fletcher should trade Gustafsson for whatever he can get, and Raffl could likely net a mid-round pick.
What players with term could get moved?
The Flyers could also move a player with a year or two left on their deal.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel fits into the Laughton and Raffl category, but he’s a bit younger at 24 years old and only has a $1.075 million cap hit through the end of next season. With a few prospects waiting in the wings, maybe a team tries to snag Aube-Kubel if they miss out on another player.
I don’t see the Flyers making a major move involving any of their forwards at the deadline. If that is going to happen, it’ll be during the offseason. Anything is possible, but it would surprise me.
On defense, both Justin Braun and Robert Hagg are at under $2 million cap hits with their contracts expiring after next season. If the Flyers are trending towards missing the playoffs, perhaps they are able to flip one of them for a decent return.
Shayne Gostisbehere is an intruiging name. Sure, teams didn’t claim him for free on waivers, but they could’ve just not had the cap room. He is showing off his offensive game recently and it wouldn’t be shocking if he got traded. It’d be surprising, but if the salaries work it could happen.
The Flyers’ collapse against the Sabres came less than 24 hours before the trade deadline. It was their last chance to impress and they did anything but.
Chuck Fletcher should have his mind made up. He could still look to improve the team’s defense for this year and beyond, but selling should be his main goal.
Monday is certainly going to be interesting for the Flyers. The trade deadline is at 3:00 p.m. ET.
Photo: Heather Barry Images