Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux has not yet officially waived his no-movement clause, but there are indications he will do just that.
Which begs the question, what can the Flyers get in return for their franchise icon, a player who is the second-leading point producer in their history?
To answer that question, we turned to Russ Cohen, prospects expert for SiriusXM NHL Network Radio and sportsology.com.
Below are the five teams reportedly in the running for Giroux — more will enter the picture before the March 21 trade deadline — and what Cohen expects in return. He also gives a rundown on the strength of the prospects the Flyers could acquire.
Logical return, per Cohen: A No. 1 pick in 2023 (the Avs don’t have a No. 1 this year), and prospects Martin Kaut and Drew Helleson.
Prospects/NHL players Flyers might get: Right winger Kaut (6-2, 190), is “a tough guy who can score in the crease,” Cohen said. “He hasn’t broken through yet in Colorado, but can definitely play in the NHL next year. He isn’t a superstar, but he does a lot of things the current Flyers don’t do, such as playing real hard around the net. He has 40-point potential, and also will give you good, solid play.”
Helleson, a 6-2, 191-pound defenseman at Boston College, is also a possibility. “I think Sean Behrens is better, but he’s also longer away” from the NHL.
Behrens, a 5-10, 177-pound defenseman at the University of Denver, was drafted by the Avs in the second round last year.
“He’s great with zone entries and terrific on the power play. He’s a little smaller, and has to get stronger,” Cohen said. “He’ll probably stay in college a couple more years.”
The Philadelphia Flyers are familiar with Behrens, who is a freshman and a college teammate of junior Bobby Brink, one of Philly’s top prospects and the NCAA’s leading scorer.
As for Helleson, “there’s a decent chance he will leave BC and go to the AHL and get the process started,” Cohen said. “He’s smart, he’s fast. and he has some offensive upside. He’s a defenseman who does everything right. Helleson would be a good guy to get, as long as you knew he was going to sign with you.”
AHL defenseman Justin Barron (6-2, 195) is another Colorado prospect on the Flyers’ radar. “He has lots of offensive and leadership ability, but is prone to turnovers. “I would take Helleson over Barron,” Cohen said.
Cohen is high on speedy 5-11, 176-pound center Jean-Luc Foudy, 19, a third-round selection in 2020 who is still developing in the AHL, “but I don’t know if Colorado would put him on the table.”
Scout-o-palozza in the Wells Fargo Center Press Box. #Flyers
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St. Louis Blues
Logical return, per Cohen: A No. 1 pick in 2022, and either LW Jake Neighbors or center Dylan Peterson, and Blues defenseman Jake Walman.
Prospects/NHL players Flyers might get: Neighbors, a first-round pick in 2020, “is a precision skater, a really good skater,” Cohen said. “He’s got good size (6-0, 201) and the best thing I can tell you about Neighbors is that, even though he’s a winger, he’s a playmaking winger. He drives play. He’s lighting it up with the Oil Kings (41 points in 26 games for the WHL team in Edmonton). He played nine games with the Blues, and I didn’t think he looked out of place.”
Boston University’s Peterson (6-4, 192), selected by St. Louis in the third round of the 2020 draft, is also an attractive player. “He’s a center who just won the MVP n the Beanpot tournament,” Cohen said. “He made a nice jump this year. He has good speed for his size, and is good on faceoffs, and he has an attitude in a good way, a hard-nosed player that you really like. He battles. Because he’s bigger, it will probably take him a couple years. He’ll probably go another year at BU and then a year or two in the AHL, but this a guy worth waiting for. If you’re looking for a third-line center that you never have to worry about once he’s there, he’s probably your guy.”
Walman, 26, a 6-2, 215-pounder, is in on the Blues’ third defensive pairing. “Yes, he’s a bottom-pairing defenseman, but he’s a good puck-mover who plays hard and doesn’t make mistakes. He’s helped solidify things in St. Louis,” Cohen said.
Another defenseman who may be available: Scott Perunovich, 23, who had a cup of coffee with the Blues this season (six points, plus-2 in 19 games) and is now in the AHL (21 points in 14 games). He starred at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, so the Flyers are very aware of him because of their Minny ties. “He’s a guy waiting for his chance. He’d be a home run if they could get him,” Cohen said.
Logical return, per Cohen: a first-round pick in 2023 (Florida doesn’t have a No. 1 this year), left winger Grigori Denisenko, and defenseman Lucas Carlsson.
Prospects/NHL players Flyers might get: Carlsson, 24, a fourth-round selection by Chicago in 2016, has eight points in 29 games with Florida this season. “I don’t think he’s a top-four (defenseman), but he’s solid, he blocks shots, he moves the puck,” Cohen said. “He’s already playing in the NHL, and you’d plug him in for (Keith) Yandle and you would have upgraded your defense.”
As for Denisenko, who was a first-rounder in 2018: “He has tremendous skating ability. He’s only 21 and he needs to get better defensively and get stronger,” Cohen said. “These are things Florida has sort of been waiting on. The Flyers would be getting him at the right time, because this is a guy with high-scoring capability. He did it at the junior level. He hasn’t really shown it at the pro level” — although he has nine goals and 18 points in 30 games with AHL Charlotte this season — “but he really can make plays with his speed, and he has a great shot and instincts.”
Right winger Owen Tippett, who had 14 points in 42 games with Florida this season, is another interesting player, but Denisenko has more upside, per Cohen. Tippett is an average skater and has a great shot, but he “doesn’t get the space (in the NHL) that he had at the junior level to get that shot off. Denisenko has greater stickhandling ability and deking ability. That’s a guy you want.”
Barron is better offensively than the two. Helleson is all-around better than Zamula. You will never get equal value for Giroux in a cap-strapped league with his salary even with retention.
— sportsology (@sportsology) February 21, 2022
Logical return, per Cohen: A No. 1 pick in 2022, a prospect like defenseman Carson Lambos, and KHL center/left winger Marat Khusnutdinov
Prospects/NHL players Flyers might get: The Wild probably won’t deal left winger Matt Boldy, “but Chuck (Fletcher, the GM) has to ask about him … and maybe give them something else” besides Giroux. Boldy has eight goals in NHL 17 games, and the Flyers would probably have to add a high draft pick.
Lambos (6-1, 197), 19, a first-round selection in 2021, is a more realistic target. “He’s a good-skating defenseman,” Cohen said. “The points he gets at the junior level (27 points in 26 games this season in the WHL), I don’t know if they’d all come at the NHL level. But he can play defense, he’s a really good skater, and definitely has second-pairing ability. He’s the kind of modern-day defenseman you want in the NHL because he can take the puck out of trouble — and not all the guys on the Flyers can do that.”
Cohen is also high on 5-11, 186-pound defenseman Jack Peart, a second-round Minnesota selection last year. “He’s got offensive ability, he’s smooth, and he doesn’t make mistakes,” he said. “He’s with St. Cloud right now. I was at the World Junior camp, and I think he was one of the better defensemen as far as showing upside. So for some reason they won’t give you Lambos, Peart is a really good defenseman to get because he’s only 18.”
Khusnutdinov (5-11, 176), 19, drafted in the second round by Minnesota in 2020, is a smart player, terrific on faceoffs, and “can create offense, too, and is putting up points.” Cohen said. “If you could get him and Lambos and a first, that’s a home run. “If you can get him and Lambos and even a second, I’d do it.”
Logical return, per Cohen: A No. 1 pick in 2023 (the Hurricanes don’t have a No. 1 this year), center Martin Necas, and a prospect like defenseman Scott Morrow or right winger Noel Gunler.
Prospects/NHL players Flyers might get: Cohen believes the Flyers may be able to get a player or two from Carolina’s roster if the Hurricanes believe Giroux would put them over the top.
“My No. 1 target would be Necas,” Cohen said. Necas, 23, a first-round selection in 2017, has 27 points in 46 games for Carolina this season. “He’s got great skating ability, kind of a slashing skating ability,” Cohen said. “He’s tricky on the ice, and he’s gotten stronger and gotten better in his own end. If he broke out of Carolina’s system, I think you could get more offense out of him. He has to play really perfect hockey there, because that’s what (coach Rod) Brind’Amour wants, and it taxes him a little bit as far as what he can do.”
Cohen believes winger Nino Niederreiter, 29, is a player the Canes might also trade in the right deal. He can become an unrestricted free agent in July, and has a $5.25 million cap hit.
As for prospects, Morrow (6-2, 195), an all-around defenseman who was drafted in the second round last year, could be one of the Flyers’ targets. “He’s at UMass, he’s a point-a-game player. I would try to pry him away,” Cohen said.
Gunler (6-1, 174), who is playing well in Sweden and was drafted by the Hurricanes in the second round in 2020, is a good skater with a pro shot, and is another player who should be on the Flyers’ radar, per Cohen. He believes Gunler he will be a 20-goal scorer in the NHL down the road.