The Philadelphia Flyers did not make any major offseason signings due to their tight cap situation. General manager (GM) Chuck Fletcher commented they were not in consideration for any free agent acquisitions such as South Jersey native Johnny Gaudreau. New head coach John Tortorella has a tough task to get this franchise back to contention that has become irrelevant in a passionate sports city.
If the Flyers encounter their share of struggles in 2022-23, they will be viewed as sellers by next year’s trade deadline. If they are looking to make trades during next season, they have some players who are due to become unrestricted free agents (UFA) next offseason or whom they may look to deal to clear more cap space for next offseason. Let’s take a look at three candidates who may be dealt by next year’s trade deadline.
Defenseman Travis Sanheim is entering the final year of his contract before becoming a UFA. He remained with the Flyers through last year’s deadline as he was their best player at the position during 2021-22. Due to Ryan Ellis’ long-term injury and Ivan Provorov’s inconstancies, the 26-year-old filled the void as their most reliable defenseman and may be in a position to do so again next season.
Ellis is in the process of working his way back from the lower-body ailment that limited him to four games in the Flyers’ lineup last season and it remains uncertain if he will be ready to play by their first game in October. Provorov is more effective if he is paired with a veteran defenseman whom he develops chemistry with like he did with Ellis and Matt Niskanen. If Tony DeAngelo builds upon the success he had with the Carolina Hurricanes last season and young players Cam York and Ronnie Attard develop further to become reliable on the blue line, GM Fletcher may decide to see what interest Sanheim has on the trade market. If he is dealt next season, they would receive a mid-round draft pick or a bottom-six forward.
Travis Konecny has been inconsistent during his tenure with the Flyers as he has not performed like someone who can be placed on the top line regularly due to struggling the last two seasons. He has three years remaining on his contract with an average annual value (AAV) of $5.5 million, which is a lot of money for someone whose production has regressed since 2019-20. At times he looks like one of their top offensive players and he is nonexistent during other portions of the season.
Konecny has not been the same player after the 2019-20 season was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Flyers suffered many injuries last season to key players such as Sean Couturier, Joel Farabee, and Kevin Hayes, which affected his production. They will not have Claude Giroux on the opening night roster for the first time since 2008-09 as GM Fletcher traded him to the Florida Panthers last season before he signed a multi-year contract with the Ottawa Senators in free agency.
GM Fletcher may look to trade Konecny to create cap space for the next offseason and he may benefit from a fresh start with another organization after playing with the Flyers for the first six years of his career. Trading him would give them a mid-round draft pick and a veteran or a young forward in a multi-player deal. If they are to be in the mix for a wild-card spot, they need more experienced players if young players such as Noah Cates and Bobby Brink struggle next season.
Provorov, like Konecny, has a high AAV that GM Fletcher may decide to clear by dealing him to create more cap space. His AAV is $6.75 million until the end of 2024-25 and he has not lived up to the expectations of a top-10 draft pick consistently. He is another player that may benefit from a change of scenery as he may be in a better situation if he is traded to a team with defensive depth that is currently better than the Flyers.
Provorov played very well during 2019-20 before the beginning of the pandemic and he struggled after Niskanen retired. The pairing of him and Ellis appeared to reignite his play that resembled a top-two defenseman on the team until the former Nashville Predator suffered a lower-body injury. He may be paired with DeAngelo if Ellis is still working his way back to full strength at the start of the season and it is unknown how the pair will gel.
If GM Fletcher decides to trade Provorov, the Flyers could get a prospect, a second-round draft pick, or a few veteran forwards to increase their depth in a deal with both teams trading multiple players and picks. With the uncertainty surrounding Ellis’ return and the young blueliners on the roster, they will need all the defensemen they currently have so it is likely he remains with the team during 2022-23. However, depending on his performance and how the team plays, he could be a trade candidate next offseason.
The Flyers do not have cap space, which resulted in their lack of offseason additions this summer. Expectations are lower than they have been in recent memory, which is not good for a franchise that is becoming an afterthought in a city where sports are a big part of the culture. GM Fletcher is hoping better health from key players next year and the hiring of Tortorella as the head coach is enough for the organization to turn its struggles around. If they have another bad season, they may look to move on from players whose contracts are expiring and make players available in trades that have multiple years remaining on their current deals who may benefit from a move to another team. They may make front office changes next year if they do not have a good season in 2022-23 and become even more insignificant among Philadelphia sports fans.