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March 04, 2023

Why did the James van Riemsdyk trade fall apart?

And more of what they're saying about the Flyers' disappointing deadline.

Flyers NHL
Chuck-Fletcher-Flyers-GM-040819_USAT Zack Hill/Flyers

Former Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher.

The Flyers approached Friday's trade deadline with it being crystal clear that they were selling in an effort to get younger.

And then they just didn't really do that...

Patrick Brown got shipped to Ottawa for a 2023 sixth-rounder and Zack MacEwen was sent to Los Angeles for a 2024 fifth and 20 games worth of Brendan Lemieux. 

But that was it. 

Somehow Chuck Fletcher couldn't swing a deal for James van Riemsdyk, who was an obvious playoff rental across the league from the second the season began, or at least they did have one up until they suddenly didn't.

So what exactly happened there?

It started when Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman and TSN's Darren Dreger both tweeted that they were hearing van Riemsdyk to Detroit ahead of the 3 p.m. ET deadline

As two of the NHL's top insiders, you'd figure that mean a done deal, but the local beats all followed up that nothing was set in stone yet, then things started "changing fast," 3 p.m passed, and...

Only the Philadelphia Flyers, right?

When he met with the media after the deadline, Fletcher, without naming the team on the other side, did say they had the framework of a deal for a van Riemsdyk trade, but that it was dependent on a move to clear out another forward going through. It never did. 

At 1:40 p.m., Fletcher recalled, they had the conditional offer, but by 2:30, it was gone. 

On the NHL Network's post-deadline coverage, Friedman offered his account of what happened and what he had heard:

"Have to take a bit of an L on this one is what happened with James van Riemsdyk. I was under the impression, and I take full blame for it, that something was done that was going to send him to Detroit and then I got a very harried call, like jumped the gun a bit. I was pending Detroit doing another move that would've freed up the opportunity for them to acquire van Riemsdyk. 

"I think...Look, if you woke up this morning and you said 'Who is the forward that everybody thought was gonna get traded?' It would be van Riemsdyk, and if you heard Chuck Fletcher in his availability after the deadline was over, he basically said there was no market. 

"I do think they had something with the Red Wings, but again, I think that was – something else had to happen for that to get done, and I think at one point, they thought it was gonna happen, but it didn't.

"So I think that's probably move that stands out because he was probably the biggest name today that everybody thought was gonna be going." [NHL Network]

Full disclosure: I have to take an L here too. On our trade deadline live tracker, I also jumped the gun on van Riemsdyk to Detroit trying to keep things up to the minute, and while everything did course correct, I acted way too quickly and I apologize. 

A process you can't trust

Mike Sielski | The Philadelphia Inquirer ($)

It probably should've been good news that, leading up to Friday, everyone in the organization seemed to have realized the reality of the situation and got on the same page that the Flyers have to rebuild. 

The problem is, Fletcher and even John Tortorella would say a ton of rebuild-y things, but go out of their way to never say rebuild. 

Fletcher chalked that up to a matter of terminology, but for Mike Sielski, it's a matter of total honesty. A refusal to call the Flyers' situation what it actually is will always carry some level of denial. 

Wrote Sielski:

Sorry, but this goes beyond semantics. Fletcher’s refusal to speak plainly suggests that the Flyers are still taking a lipstick-on-a-sow approach to the task ahead of them. Using the word rebuild actually does matter, and there’s a reason that Fletcher’s referring to the Flyers as the “fifth-most-improved team” in the NHL this season infuriated so many fans.

People don’t want to feel like they’re being sold a bill of goods, and by ducking the hard, real language that accurately describes the state of the franchise, the Flyers are telling everyone that they don’t understand how long and difficult the road back will be. Say what you will about Hinkie and “The Process,” but the smartest thing he did was be up front: This is what we’re doing, and this is why we’re doing it. You might not like it. It might not work. But at least we’re clear about our means and goals.

The Flyers, at least publicly, are still hedging, which creates doubt that they know what they’re doing — and rightly so. If they can’t clearly articulate a plan to improve, why would anyone think they can carry out that plan? Or that they even have a plan? [The Inquirer, $]

Deadline losers

Did the Flyers have the greatest trade pieces to pawn off? No. But in James van Riemsdyk, who seemed as good as traded the moment the season began, they had a layup.

They missed it, and the entire hockey world saw. 

Wrote The Athletic's Mark Lazerus in his winners and losers of the trade deadline:

Being bad is one thing. Being bad and not doing anything about it is another. The Flyers basically stood pat this deadline, leaving them still miles from contention, but also with precious little draft capital. Failing to move James van Riemsdyk was particularly galling. [The Athletic, $]

And Sportsnet's Ryan Dixon:

There’s no reason James van Riemsdyk, a depth scorer who can help your second power-play unit, and his expiring contract should still be on this team. Even a small missed opportunity is still a whiff. [Sportsnet]

Where the grass is greener

Ian Mendes | The Athletic ($)

Since joining the Senators over the summer, Claude Giroux has been 35 going on 25. 

Playing on a line with Ottawa's young core of Brady Tkachuk and Tim Stützle, he not only has 63 points through 61 games but has also looked dramatically happier, which might really paint a picture of how much of a drain the Flyers were on him toward the end. 

With the young Sens on a hot streak and making a late push toward a playoff spot, Giroux and another former Flyer in Derick Brassard made a request of GM Pierre Dorion for the deadline: Get them a defenseman. 

Jakob Chychrun, one of the deadline's biggest names, was on his way in from Arizona soon after.

Wrote Ian Mendes:

It was only fitting Claude Giroux scored the game-winning goal for the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

Earlier in the day, Senators general manager Pierre Dorion revealed that he held up his end of a private request from Giroux by acquiring Jakob Chychrun from the Arizona Coyotes this week.

“I made a promise to Claude Giroux that we’d getting him a D before the end of the year,” Dorion told reporters in New York. “We got him a D.”

And Giroux reciprocated by delivering a three-point performance in the third period alone on Thursday, erasing a one-goal deficit and producing a 5-3 win over the Rangers. The victory pulled Ottawa to within four points of the Islanders for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and the Senators have three games in hand on the Islanders. Thursday night losses by the Panthers, Sabres and Red Wings only served to strengthen the idea that Ottawa has a legitimate shot at a playoff spot as Dorion goes into the final hours before Friday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.

Six weeks ago, it would have seemed ludicrous to suggest the Senators would be firmly in the position of being a buyer, but an 11-3-1 run has vaulted them into the thick of the playoff picture in the conference. And Dorion likely isn’t done tinkering with the roster just by adding Chychrun. During his media session on Thursday morning, the general manager revealed that internal pressure from players such as Giroux and Derick Brassard help nudge him towards being active this week.


“We owe it to the players. They’ve sent me an indirect message. Some said it publicly,” Dorion said. “It was a message from them. ‘Please guys, do something. We believe in this team.'" [The Athletic, $]

A team with a solid mix of young stars and effective vets, along with a general manager who knew it was time to add one more piece to try and put them over the top?

That's a near-pipedream for the Flyers right now. 

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