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Flyers could trade for Blue Jackets’ Johnny Gaudreau

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Philadelphia Flyers
Johnny Gaudreau in action against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2022-23. (Photo: AP)

Based on the first third of the season, it would seem that the Philadelphia Flyers are one cutting-edge offensive player away from being a complete team.

According to a league executive via the Ottawa Sun‘s Bruce Garrioch, “[The Columbus Blue Jackets] are willing to discuss just about anybody.” By the sounds of it, “just about anybody” excludes names like Kent Johnson, Adam Fantilli, David Jiricek, Zach Werenski, and some of their other young players. By extension, this means that superstar Johnny Gaudreau is up for grabs.

From a Flyers perspective, though, there’s a few things to consider. The Blue Jackets are not going to give Gaudreau away for free just because he’s 30 years old and has a big contract. In addition, Gaudreau has a no-movement clause until 2026, meaning he would have to approve any and all trades or otherwise that involve him. Lastly, the former Calgary Flames star has a cap hit of $9.75 million, whilst the Flyers have only ~$2.27 million in cap space. This is without Ryan Ellis on LTIR; that would push the Flyers close to $9 million in total space this season.

NHL trade comparisons

In all likelihood, any potential deal is going to be modeled after the Timo Meier or Matthew Tkachuk trades. That means a first-round pick, and either two really good roster players, or two top prospects. The one issue with that, is that the Flyers would be buying low. It goes without saying that Cutter Gauthier and Matvei Michkov are not on the table.

Gaudreau is also much older than Meier and Tkachuk, and is comfortably producing at the worst rate of his career this season. On the other hand, when Gaudreau isn’t playing on one of the NHL’s worst teams, he’s highly productive. He’s just one full season removed from a 115-point campaign.

The Flyers don’t need to do a whole lot to make the money work, but again, it’s about how the Blue Jackets value Gaudreau. There’s an 11-year difference between Gaudreau and Fantilli, and the Blue Jackets are nowhere near being a competitive team. The older Gaudreau gets and the worse he plays, the further his value will drop.

Coming home, for real this time

In the past, Johnny Gaudreau had often expressed his desire to return ‘home’ and nearly signed with the Philadelphia Flyers before ex-GM Chuck Fletcher’s negligence forced Gaudreau’s hand.

“I have a ton of family here, all my friends,” the 30-year-old previously said. “I actually have a wedding this weekend in South Jersey, and all my friends come back here. All my good friends and kids who I have played with all my life are from South Jersey, so it would be sweet to play here someday.”

“You never know in sports. It’s a lot of support back here in South Jersey and the Philly area, they follow me pretty well.”

There’s little doubt that Gaudreau would approve a move to his Flyers if one came to fruition, and especially so considering it would benefit his career. It comes down to an agreement between the teams on a return, and mutual interest in a trade. The line of communication between Danny Briere and Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen is already open; the two sides talked about Kevin Hayes, and former Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov ended up heading to the Blue Jackets in the summer.

Now, it’s a matter of breaking the ice.

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