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June 19, 2019

What they're saying about the Flyers' recent run of pre-NHL Draft transactions

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Kevin-Hayes-Flyers_060319_USAT Jayne Kamin-Oncea /USA Today Sports

Will the Flyers be able to strike a deal with Kevin Hayes?

The Flyers' made good on their trade for Kevin Hayes a few weeks ago, inking the forward to a seven-year, $50 million contract Tuesday night.

This is the fourth or fifth big franchise-changing transaction Chuck Fletcher's new regime has implemented in the days before Friday's NHL Draft. Are these moves all part of some kind if cohesive strategy for the team to get a little older and more experienced? 

While I, as much as I love hockey, can't exactly claim to be an expert on the inner-workings of NHL transactions and their overall impact on a franchise looking to rebound from a horrible 2018-19, I've done my homework to compile some valid analysis on many of the moves over the last few days and weeks. Here is what they've been saying about the Flyers' offseason, starting with the Hayes signing:

Hayes gets paid

Over at Broad Street Hockey, Brad Keffer seems a bit concerned about the price tag Philly was forced to cough up to convince Hayes to wear orange and black next season and beyond.

Our initial reaction to this is that it’s a lot of money and a lot of years. Hayes is no doubt a good player, and good players get paid, but this is a bit more than we were expecting. Two weeks ago when the Flyers acquired Hayes’ rights in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets, we discussed the impact of his potential signing on the rest of the roster...
"If the Flyers are able to sign Hayes, it addresses an immediate need for the team, and adds some strength to the forward corps. But he’s going to cost a significant price, and while it doesn’t automatically mean the Flyers are done for the off-season, the money they have to work with limits their options some."
Since then they’ve added $3,871,667 to their payroll in trading for Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun, and buying out Andrew MacDonald. The Flyers have a projected cap space of $22,896,310 with restricted free agents Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Travis Sanheim, among others, still needing contracts. They’ll also look to either sign or trade for a backup goaltender in the near future. While $22 million dollars in cap space sounds like a lot, with fears that the salary cap may actually be below $82 million, the Flyers really won’t have much wiggle room after (hopefully) signing their young stars. [Broad Street Hockey]

Brains and Braun

Earlier Tuesday, the Flyers announced they had brought in Justin Braun from the Sharks with quite the price tag — a second and a third round pick. According to NBC Sports Philly's Jordan Hall, the move was a signal that after years of being patient and waiting for young blueliners to become NHL stars, the Flyers are turning toward proven veteran defensemen:

Fletcher is clearly putting an emphasis on players with experience in winning environments, guys who can influence the Flyers' young group of defensemen. Similar to Niskanen, Braun logs minutes and understands goal prevention. Over the past six seasons, Niskanen and Braun are a combined plus-123. Niskanen has 125 games of playoff experience. Before the additions of these two defensemen, Claude Giroux had played the most postseason games on the Flyers' roster with 69. [NBCSP]

Hit job

The Inquirer's always insightful Sam Carchidi was a bit disappointed that the Rangers, one of Philly's biggest on ice rivals, beat them out for Jacob Trouba earlier this week. More or less, Carchidi believes the Blue Shirts are having the offseason that the Flyers should be having. Here are some of his very interesting points in the aftermath of the deal, which sets New York up as one of the younger and up-and-coming squads in the Eastern Conference.

Trouba should have been the Flyers' No. 1 priority. He's young but a proven veteran. He's coming off a career-best 50 points and can run a power play. He's big (6-foot-3, 202 pounds) but mobile. Oh, and he averaged nearly 23 minutes a game last season. 
The only drawback: He's about to become a restricted free agent, and will probably cost at least $7 to $7.5 million per season on a long-term deal. The Flyers, however, have the cap space. The Rangers just sped up their rebuilding process. And they will probably get gifted right winger Kaapo Kakko with the No. 2 overall pick in Friday's first round of the NHL draft. 
The Blueshirts are also believed to have an outside chance at landing pending unrestricted free agent Artemi Panarin, who could end up in Florida and be reunited with his former Chicago coach, Joel Quenneville. Even without Panarin, the Rangers made a strong statement by getting Trouba. 
Maybe Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher wasn't as high on Trouba as the Rangers were. Or maybe he felt he would be too expensive or that he couldn't sign him beyond next season. That's a shame because, from here, the Jets would have done much better if they had acquired the Flyers' first-round pick (No. 11 overall) and, say, defenseman Robert Hagg (20 points) than the package they received from the Rangers. [Inquirer.com]

Trending down

Broad Street Hockey took a deeper look at this past weekend's swap of Radko Gudas for Matt Niskanen and it seems pretty clear that Philly may have gotten a little less talent in the veteran defenseman they acquired. Here's some of Brad Keffer's analysis:

Last season Niskanen had a Game Score Added Value (GSAV) of -0.1, suggesting that he was a slightly below average defenseman. By comparison, Gudas’s GSAV of 1.1 suggests that he provided top-four value this season. It does take into account usage, and while Niskanen faced tougher competition, he also played with better teammates than Gudas on average. 
Now, the positive here is that the model does project “Nisky” to have a bit of a bounce back season, and sees him providing top four quality on-ice value once more. ... 
On the other hand, Niskanen will turn 33 in December and it’s entirely possible that his performance in ‘18-19 wasn’t just a blip, and is simply the player that he is now. [Broad Street Hockey]

Shocked

On the other side of that trade, Gudas told NHL.com he was actually pretty shocked about being traded away to a division rival. Here's what the now former Flyer said:

"As I played (in Philadelphia) for years I made good friends," the 29-year-old said Tuesday. "Obviously, it's going to be exciting game for me to play my old team but I'm in a new group now and I'm looking forward to becoming very good friends and brothers with the team that I'm playing (on) right now."  
Being traded to a heated rival? Even Gudas wasn't expecting that. 
"It's obviously not something that's common," he said. "It's a little strange. "I was a little bit shocked to be honest, but when I heard where I'm going, I was pretty happy that I got traded to a team that's well known for their winning and their will to win every game they play … As I soaked it in more, I got more excited." [NHL.com]


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