Make no bones about it, Sean Walker has been the most pleasant of surprises for the Philadelphia Flyers in this 2023-24 campaign so far.
Expectations were low for the 29-year-old heading into the season. Walker seemed to be a toss-in in the three-team Ivan Provorov trade after averaging a career-low 14:49 of ice time in 2022-23. The year before that, the former Los Angeles Kings blueliner tore his ACL, and his season was over after six games.
Given a new lifeline in the NHL, Walker has already racked up 10 points in 18 games, and is averaging a career-high 21:05. His previous high in average ice time was 18:50, back in the 2019-20 season. Walker also had a personal-best 24 points that year, and that was also the last time the Philadelphia Flyers punched a ticket to the postseason.
The ‘problem’, though, is that this might be the best hockey Walker has played – ever. The undrafted defenseman is also an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, and the Flyers might need to pay a pretty penny to retain his services. Remember, they still have Ryan Ellis on their books, Rasmus Ristolainen is signed through 2027, and they just drafted Oliver Bonk in the first round of the 2023 NHL Draft.
Flyers Shifting to Center of NHL Trade Talks
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Flyers trade Walker, or anyone else that might improve the team in the long-term, for that matter.
“If we have a chance to make the playoffs I think that’s great, and I’m not going to hinder that,” GM Danny Briere told The Athletic. “But at the same time, we’re going to make the decisions that are best for the future of the organization. Not just get stuck in the moment”.
On Monday’s episode of 32 Thoughts, NHL insider Elliotte Friedman added another log onto that fire.
“I think [the Flyers] have kind of recognized ‘Wow, we didn’t realize what we had here’, and now the question’s gonna be: do you keep him, or do you move him,” Friedman postulated. “He’s a UFA, and because teams are starting to watch him a bit and say ‘Ok, if we’re looking to add something, we better take a look at what we’re getting here’.”
“But for the first time on Saturday just making my calls for the show, there was a little bit of ‘Have you heard what Philly’s doing with this guy?’,” Friedman concluded.
Friedman was also careful to note that there’s still plenty of time for the Flyers to figure out what their plan will be, and that there’s not necessarily imminent movement on this front.
Right-shot defensemen are coveted assets in the NHL, and if he’s not moved before then, Walker could be a hot topic at the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline. On the same token, he could also extend his stay in Philadelphia and be an important piece of this young team’s future. Time will tell.