At this point, Shayne Gostisbehere is probably completely unfazed whenever he hears his name coincide with the word “trade.”
He has seen himself pop up in rumors over the past two NHL trade deadlines and last offseason.
Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher made a crack about it after the trading period had passed in February.
“That’s been the interesting one,” Fletcher said. “I’ve been here a year. I can’t say I’m always on social media but I’m amazed at how often I’m trading him.”
By now, everyone knows why Gostisbehere has been such a popularly debated trade chip. He has sought-after qualities with an offensive-minded skill set, a prime age of 27 years old and an attractive contract (under team control for the next three seasons at a $4.5 million cap hit). So it is not surprising why Sportsnet’s Rory Boylen highlighted Gostisbehere in an article identifying one offseason trade candidate for each NHL club.
Following the deadline, Fletcher said the Flyers were not looking to move Gostisbehere but teams did inquire about the blueliner.
“Nothing really makes sense right now to me to move one of our seven D unless we’re getting a really great impact player back in some area,” Fletcher said. “Those types of trades usually don’t happen right now.”
Could it happen during the offseason or next season? Possibly. The Flyers, of course, still like Gostisbehere despite his difficult season as he’s not far removed from a career 65-point campaign in 2017-18. But they’re relatively deep on defense – and appear to be getting deeper – so they won’t close the door on anything.
The outlook for 2020-21 could give the Flyers more incentive to listen on offers. Let’s break down three questions that should factor into Gostisbehere’s status with the club.
1. How fast can Zamula advance?
Egor Zamula, who has become one of the Flyers’ top defensive prospects, is turning pro in 2020-21 and will garner many eyes.
The 20-year-old is smooth and skilled at 6-foot-4 with offensive upside. He’ll have to get stronger (170 pounds) and he’s coming off back surgery in late January, but Zamula looked impressively comfortable alongside Philippe Myers during an NHL preseason game last September. He then backed himself up with a strong 2019-20 WHL season and 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship performance.
If he shows a quick transition at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, he’ll put pressure on the Flyers’ decision-makers. Suddenly, the Flyers would have another defenseman knocking on the door, which would make the trade deadline next season much more interesting, depending on the club’s needs in other areas.
2. Will Braun be re-signed?
When the Flyers traded for Justin Braun last June, they acquired a veteran stay-at-home blueliner with a $3.8 million cap hit on the final year of a five-year, $19 million contract. The hope was Braun’s experience and goal-prevention track record would help stabilize the Flyers on the back end. If the move didn’t pan out, they could let Braun walk in the offseason as an unrestricted free agent.
The acquisition has worked out pretty nicely. Braun had a rough start and missed time in January because of a groin injury, but from just before Christmas up until the stoppage, he was one of the Flyers’ best defensemen (14 points and plus-11 rating in 26 games). His active stick and ability to quickly kill plays in the defensive zone have helped improve the Flyers’ goal differential.
The chances of the Flyers re-signing Braun feel like 50-50. He’s 33 years old and the Flyers will be cognizant of how many years they commit to a defenseman climbing in age when they have kids on the blue line climbing in the system. Braun has been a positive, though, and if the Flyers bring him back for one year (maybe two) on a cost-effective deal, playing opportunity will tighten at the position.
As a result, the Flyers would have more flexibility to dangle a chip out there on the trade market, especially if their prospects prove ready to offer more depth.
3. When will York turn pro?
Keep an eye on Cam York and his sophomore year for the Wolverines. The Flyers’ 2019 first-round pick is a mobile and modern defenseman with offensive strengths.
York is not expected to be a four-year guy in college. With better health and an even larger role, the 19-year-old is poised for a path-altering second season in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The 2020-21 campaign has the potential to be his last with the Wolverines.
“He looks at home in the college game and displays the same offensive characteristics,” John Wroblewski, York’s USNTDP under-18 head coach, said in March. “A kid that truly appreciates keeping the puck out of his net first and then letting the offense come to him – those are characteristics that should prove worthy of him making a quick climb to the NHL.”
York’s timeline for when he signs his entry-level contract to join the pro ranks will have a big say in the Flyers’ plans. The quicker he rises, the more reason the Flyers have to listen on Gostisbehere and others. The situation is similar with prospect Wyatt Kalynuk, who is creeping into the Flyers’ pro picture.
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