NHL rumors can come and go in the blink of an eye. It’s only Tuesday, but there have already been several reports regarding the Philadelphia Flyers and their potential interest in Dougie Hamilton this week.
On Monday, Elliotte Friedman reported that the Carolina Hurricanes gave Hamilton permission to talk to other teams after contract discussions broke off during the season. Friedman also said “I think Philadelphia is going to be there” in the Hamilton sweepstakes. So, the Flyers should do whatever they can to get Hamilton, right?
Not so fast. Hamilton may not be the Flyers’ top target this offseason.
Dougie Hamilton “not Philly’s top target”
On Tuesday’s 31 Thoughts Podcast, Friedman spoke again about the Hamilton situation:
“Someone told me, Philly, they thought was gonna be big on [Hamilton] earlier in the day, but I got some pushback on them later. Someone said to me that Philly’s target is not Hamilton. I think it’s more likely [Seth Jones] or something else. But I heard that Hamilton was not Philly’s top target.”
He summed it up nicely in his 31 Thoughts column later on Tuesday:
“I thought Philadelphia might be among the more aggressive pursuers, but the Flyers’ defensive targets seem to be elsewhere.”
Hmm. That’s interesting. Hamilton is the best free-agent defenseman available, so Chuck Fletcher must be working the phones with other teams for a trade. Either that or Fletcher is hoping to add a few depth pieces rather than a top-four defenseman, which seems unlikely.
So, if Dougie Hamilton isn’t the Flyers’ top target, who might it be?
Flyers could be interested in Seth Jones, Matt Dumba
Friedman had a few more interesting nuggets about the Flyers in his 31 Thoughts.
“15. Philadelphia’s got a lot of balls in the air. I figured they’d be in on Hamilton, but, as mentioned above, he doesn’t appears to be their top target. I’m speculating here, but my guesses would include Seth Jones and Matt Dumba (who GM Chuck Fletcher knows very well). It also wouldn’t be a shocker if they have asked the Coyotes about 2019 first-rounder Victor Soderstrom. The Flyers liked him at that draft, and Arizona actually flipped picks with them to move up and take the Swedish defenceman.”
Okay, Seth Jones is a name we’ve heard in recent weeks, and Matt Dumba is definitely intriguing. The 20-year-old Victor Soderstrom wouldn’t provide the same instant impact as someone like Hamilton, Jones, or Dumba, but he’s worth watching as well.
Seth Jones has seemingly worn out his welcome in Columbus. Or rather, he simply no longer wants to be there after this season. He has one year left on his contract and his play has taken a steep decline in recent years.
Matt Dumba is going to be an interesting name to watch as well due to his connection with Chuck Fletcher.
Fletcher drafted Dumba with the 7th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft and watched him develop into a top-four defenseman with the Wild. Dumba’s peak came in the 2017-18 season, when he set career-highs in games played (82), average time on ice (23:49), goals (14), assists (36), and points (50).
Dumba, who turns 27 in July, has a $6 million cap hit through the 2022-23 season. That is a pretty good fit with the Flyers’ current championship window –– if it’s still even open after this season, that is.
Other defensive options for Chuck Fletcher, Flyers
The Flyers are also likely still interested in other defensive options that Friedman didn’t mention. Assistant GM Brent Flahr reportedly scouted the Arizona Coyotes, who have a few defensemen potentially worth watching. However, the most likely trading partner may still be the Nashville Predators. The Predators reportedly scouted the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and had laid some groundwork for a trade in March.
Mattias Ekholm, 31, has a $3.75 million cap hit through next season that would easier for the Flyers to manage given their salary cap situation. They could then sign him to an extension if they so desired.
The player that may be higher on the Flyers’ targets list is the 30-year-old Ryan Ellis. Ellis, a right-handed defenseman, is in the early stages of an eight-year, $50 million contract with a $6.25 million cap hit through the 2026-27 season. If the Flyers go after Ellis, they’d have to be thinking that he’ll partner up well with Ivan Provorov (or Travis Sanheim) for the foreseeable future.
Chuck Fletcher appears to be keeping his options open in the defenseman market. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. He just can’t get caught waiting for a defenseman to fall into his lap while other teams are more aggressive.
Whether it be Dougie Hamilton, Seth Jones, Matt Dumba, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, or someone else off the board, Fletcher needs to add at least one top-four defenseman this offseason.
Photo: Heather Barry Images