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May 30, 2024

Is Martin Nečas a gamble the Flyers should pursue at center?

Martin Nečas could be at the end of the line in Carolina. The 25-year old has offensive skill, and if he can move inside, he might be able to help solve the Flyers' center problem.

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Martin-Necas-Hurricanes-Rangers-Stanley-Cup-Playoffs-2024-NHL.jpg James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports

Martin Nečas could be on the move this offseason with the Hurricanes facing a flurry of other contract decisions to make.

Internally, the Flyers have Travis Konecny due up for a contract extension, but facing the decision of whether it's the right call to re-commit to the 27-year old winger for the long-term, and if so, at how high of a cost. 

Now take that lens outside of Philadelphia and apply it to a similar gamble on Martin Nečas, with the additional question of whether or not he's a center. 

This sprung up with the recent speculation over whether top prospect Matvei Michkov could arriving sooner than expected, but even if you take that possibility out of the equation, the Flyers still very much need a top-line caliber center, and Nečas suddenly has some appeal in that regard approaching the summer. 

The Carolina Hurricanes are facing a serious cap crunch this offseason with a number of key players due up for new contractsNečas is among them as a restricted free agent, but Carolina's higher priority is expected to be placed on Seth Jarvis and Jake Guetnzel up front, which has put Nečas' name on the rumor mill.

Nečas broke out last season with a 28-goal, 71-point campaign, and even though he regressed a bit this season to 53 points in total, he still put up 24 goals and then four more in the playoffs with a skill set that might be able to get tapped into more with a change of scenery and a bigger role as a result.

Nečas is 25, which factors into his interest as he would theoretically be in for the long haul and would fit in with the Flyers' ongoing youth movement. He skates with solid anticipation, quick hands, and a reflexive shot that always seems to leave him in opportunistic situations, like this one against the Rangers in the second round for Game 6's opening goal:

Or this one against the Flyers last season, when he tied it with 0.3 seconds left:

Or scenarios where he creates openings on his own, like here when he split right through the Chicago Blackhawks:

And one more where he both skates into the right spot or creates a look for himself for a natural hat trick against Colorado:

Actually, one more from Stadium Series last season because it happened on the power play and we all saw how bad the Flyers' power play was this year:

There's a good player there, but is there an even greater one to unlock over the next several years, and if so, can he take faceoffs? (He's primarily played wing under Rod Brind'Amour in Carolina). 

Those are the questions that have to be asked to go in on Nečas, for the Flyers or any team that might be interested this offseason, because the cost for him is likely not going to come cheap with the Hurricanes requiring an asset or two, and then the new contract would have to be figured out on top of that. 

But at the same time, the talent is there to, at the very least, ponder a gamble on someone who could potentially be one of your top-six centers over the next 5-7 years, and GM Danny Brière does have a wealth of assets in his hand – plus a building reputation for creativity – to make a move with. 

Granted, Brière has also exhibited some pretty solid patience and has maintained that he wants to avoid making any anxious decisions as the Flyers continue to go through their process. 

The Flyers need high-end talent, especially up the middle, but know they can't rush to go after it either. 

Plus, the center market doesn't seem particularly great this summer anyway – well, unless you're in win-now mode. 

Nečas, for the time being though, is at least an intriguing option to consider.

Forwards | Defensemen | Goaltenders

About those final four

The Florida Panthers and New York Rangers in the East, and the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers in the West are the last four teams standing in the fight for the Stanley Cup. 

Now, of those four teams, point out which one successfully tanked. 

Here's the trick: None of them did. 

And before you point to the Oilers, "successful" probably isn't the word for that. 

Remember, they got chance after chance for years until they finally got a clear hit with Leon Draisaitl in 2014, and then lucked out into Connor McDavid in 2015 in a draft lottery so notorious that the NHL changed the rules on how it works after. The plan in the early 2010s was never for them to be that bad for that long. 

The Panthers? They hadn't picked higher than No. 10 in the draft since getting Aleksander Barkov at No. 2 overall in 2013 and then Aaron Ekblad at No. 1 in 2014, and while they're both part of Florida's core now, the Panthers were stuck in the middle for years until they went for the big goaltending splash with Sergei Bobrovsky's signing in 2019 and then made the daring trade with Calgary for Matthew Tkachuk going on two years ago, who has since become the star and tone-setter for that team's identity. 

The Stars? Their draft history consists of top defenseman Miro Heiskanen at No. 3 overall in 2017 and then a bunch of later picks that everyone else wished their team made in retrospect (Wyatt Johnston, Jason Robertson, Jake Oettinger, Roope Hintz, and so on).

And the Rangers? They published a letter to their fans midway through the 2017-18 season to give a heads up that they were going to start taking steps toward a rebuild and begin shipping out some aging faces to get younger because of it. And while they stayed true to their word, they never completely bottomed out and never tore the thing completely down – heck, Chris Kreider is still there from the old guard and is scoring more goals now than he ever had with that previous era of Rangers hockey.

They played through – with some lean but never outright horrible years in there – let prospects like K'Andre Miller, Adam Fox, and Igor Shesterkin steadily come of age, made some savvy moves for at the time under the radar names like Mika Zibanejad and Vincent Trocheck, and when the time came, made the big splashes for Artermi Panarin and Jacob Trouba. 

And yeah, they got some lottery luck in there with the second overall pick in 2019 (used for Kaapo Kakko) and then the top one in 2020 (for Alexis Lafrenière, who only just broke out this year). But the Rangers were never purposely playing to win the draft lottery. Ping-pong balls just happened to bounce their way. 

Look, there is a large contingent of fans, across all of North American pro sports, that believe rebuilding is synonymous with tanking. 

But if you just take a step back for a second and look at the history of the teams trying to fight for the Cup right now, none of them did that – or at least not successfully in the Oilers' case. 

So for those who are still vehement that the Flyers need to strip everything away and that just missing out on the playoffs this past year was a waste, just breathe for a second. 

Tanking isn't the only path in the NHL, and it isn't even the most straightforward one either, contrary to the generally held belief.

Flyers thoughts: Is it the right call to keep Travis Konecny around long-term?

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