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Kincade & Salciunas: Weekdays 6am – 10am

Kincade & Salciunas: Weekdays 6am – 10am

Rumors leading into the NHL Trade Deadline on March 8 will now dominate the world of hockey and the Philadelphia Flyers. The “buyer” and “seller” labels will fly around. The agents will leak their info, and plenty of prominent NHL players will change uniforms.

The stunning trade involving Cutter Gauthier and Jamie Drysdale already announced Danny Briere as a rookie general manager ready to make his mark. Where do the Flyers stand?

Danny Briere, Rebuilding Flyers

The newly-structured leadership group of the Flyers announced the first long-term rebuild in the organization’s history during the 2023 offseason.

Their strategy did not include tanking to increase their odds in the NHL Draft Lottery. Fielding a competitive team to build a strong culture within the organization is one of the primary goals of the rebuild. John Tortorella and the Flyers have drastically exceeded expectations early in the season.

Will their position in the thick of the race for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs affect the way the Flyers approach the NHL Trade Deadline? Briere answered the question on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“We know where we are. We’re trying to get out of that rut where we make the playoffs one year (then) we miss (the next). You look at the standings. It’s very, very tight. We know we have a long ways to go, and we’re trying to build a team that’s going to be contenders for years to come, not just for one year… It’s a long season. It feels like it’s flashing by us, but the plan hasn’t changed.” -Danny Briere

Buyers or Sellers?

Briere’s words indicate that the front office will avoid an aggressive strategy aimed solely at reaching the playoffs in 2024. He never said the Flyers would dump all desirable talent before the NHL Trade Deadline. They probably won’t fit the label as a traditional seller.

The rookie general manager will consider offers for Sean Walker, Nick Seeler, and Scott Laughton. The names of three circulated in conversations throughout the league during the first half of the season.

He should also entertain the idea of swapping young players who don’t fit into the organization’s plans and veterans who don’t play major roles with the chance to improve the organization’s draft capital.

The likelihood of the Flyers making a big splash as one of the key buyers at the NHL Trade Deadline isn’t high. However, there are realistic strategies they could deploy to improve the 2023-24 team without sacrificing their future. 

Keith Jones mentioned the possibility of utilizing the need for contending teams to clear salary space. The approach could land the Flyers a valuable piece, just like it did in the case of acquiring Sean Walker.

Swapping young players in need of a change of scenery for other players in similar situations might help the Flyers improve in the short term also.

Which players make sense to move? What will the return packages include? What should Flyers fans expect before March 8?


  • Sean Walker

    Danny Briere acquired Sean Walker in what looked like a salary dump from the Los Angeles Kings as part of the three-team Ivan Provorov trade. The Flyers wouldn’t have expected him to burst out and become one of the hottest commodities on the trade market.

    Elliotte Friedman has reported interest around the league in a potential Sean Walker trade since November. The Athletic ranked him fifth on their big board of NHL Trade Deadline targets.

    Walker has flourished in a second-pair role under John Tortorella. His strength as a skater meshes well with the freedom Tortorella has granted for defensemen to aggressively join the offensive rush. His calculated risks have helped the Flyers control the pace of play at 5-on-5 with Walker as their third defenseman.

    He has reached the height of his value. Right-handed defensemen who can play second-pair minutes become hot commodities each spring. The Flyers would likely receive a 1st-round pick, whether it’s in 2024 or a future draft.

    Consider that the Flyers want to establish a culture during the rebuild as much as they want to collect draft picks. They don’t want to trade Walker for the sake of trading him.

    They will evaluate whether the impending free agent has a role in helping a potential playoff push in 2023-24. There is also a chance they’d like to retain him on a longer-term contract this offseason. Expect Briere and the front office to wait until close to the March 8 deadline to decide on Sean Walker.

    “They can afford to sit there and wait. Things are going well. The fans are happy. They’re playing hard. Why rush into any decision that you don’t need to make?” -Elliotte Friedman

    Walker is on pace to set a career-high in points, games played, and average time on ice (ATOI) in 2023-24. He has significantly outperformed expectations, and the trade market covets him. The Flyers have the opportunity to sell high.

    Stay/Go Verdict: Go

    Sean Walker, Philadelphia Flyers 2024 NHL Trade Deadline Candidates

  • Nick Seeler

    Nick Seeler signed with the Flyers before the 2021-22 season with an expectation of splitting time between the NHL and the AHL. He’s established himself as a lineup regular under John Tortorella the past two seasons.

    The 30-year-old defenseman plays the type of physical game, especially in the defensive zone, that becomes more attractive to teams gearing up for a playoff run. 

    Tortorella has commented on Seeler’s ability to make the simple play as a reliable veteran blueliner. That stay-at-home reliability offsets a lack of offensive production. A cheap cap hit of $775K on an expiring contract provides an ideal fit for a third-pair defenseman on a contending team.

    The Flyers acquired a 3rd-round pick for Justin Braun at age 35 before the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. They could expect a similar return if they decide to trade Nick Seeler in 2024. However, the future of the blue line as a whole will impact Seeler’s future. 

    Friedman reported that re-signing Seeler could be a priority for the Flyers.

    “They would like to start figuring out where they’re going long term here, but to me, the guy they really try to get done – and no insult to anyone else – but I think (it’s) Seeler.” -Elliotte Friedman

    Sean Walker would bring back a better return than Seeler, who has become a key part of the identity of a team in legitimate playoff contention in 2023-24. The Flyers could also potentially deal Marc Staal for a late-round pick.

    If Briere deals Walker for a 1st-round pick (in 2024 or a future year) and Staal for a late-rounder, the short-term presence of Seeler is more valuable than acquiring a 3rd-round pick to select whose odds to become a standout NHL player aren’t particularly high.

    Stay/Go Verdict: Stay

    Nick Seeler, 2024 NHL Trade Deadline candidates for the Philadelphia Flyers

  • Scott Laughton

    Scott Laughton hasn’t met expectations offensively in his seventh consecutive season as an NHL regular and 11th season overall. The fact that John Tortorella hasn’t benched him despite the lack of production speaks to the respect the Flyers have for Laughton’s intangible value.

    “He’s the glue, especially with some of the youth we have around here. They rely on him and ask him questions. Just the way he plays the game, I think it’s so important for what we’re trying to build here in Philly. The intangibles, when you’re trying to build a team and develop a room, he has those. That’s a big reason why he’s wearing a letter.” -John Tortorella

    Darren Dreger of TSN believes the Flyers would consider moving Laughton before the NHL Trade Deadline. The thin market for centers will also increase the demand from potential suitors. 

    Scott Laughton has been the subject of trade rumors dating back to 2021. Despite his limited playoff experience, his gritty style fits the characteristics that NHL GMs tend to crave, sometimes too aggressively, when the deadline looms.

    Briere and the Flyers value their only alternate captain. Their high opinion of the former 1st-round pick leads them to demand high value in trade negotiations.

    If the center market pushes a Stanley Cup contender to offer a lucrative package, Briere could pull the trigger and move Laughton.

    The 29-year-old carries a reasonable $3 million annual cap hit through 2025-26. He provides versatility to play up and down the lineup at center or on the wing, and he has also become a key element to Philadelphia’s penalty kill, ranked second in the NHL through 50 games.   

    Competing GMs tend to look at a player’s full body of work in their deadline evaluations rather than just a player’s current season. The competitive drives sometimes leads to a belief that a change of scenery can get an accomplished player on a better track.

    The Winnipeg Jets sent a 1st-round pick in 2024 and a future conditional pick to the Montreal Canadiens for Sean Monahan. Laughton should bring a similar return.

    The temptation of a strong return package could push Briere to make a tough decision. However, the Flyers continually emphasize culture as a key part of the organizational rebuild, for better or for worse. Their respect for Laughton is also a big part of that. Don’t expect them to casually trade the type of player who they believe embodies everything they’re trying to accomplish.

    The Flyers have nine main candidates to move at the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline. Laughton might be the most impactful swing of all of them. If there’s going to be fireworks, he’s the player to watch.

    Stay/Go Verdict: Stay

    Philadelphia Flyers Forward Scott Laughton, who is a candidate to move ahead of the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline

  • Travis Konecny

    The NHL Trade Deadline chatter often includes smokescreens and unlikely speculation. Konecny has come up in rumors at certain points throughout the 2023-24 season.

    However, the Flyers consider him a centerpiece of the organization. He has emerged as the best offensive player on the team. The Flyers are much more likely to sign him to a long-term extension this summer than trade him away in the next two weeks in a stunner.

    Stay/Go Verdict: Stay

    Travis Konecny, Philadelphia Flyers

  • Cam Atkinson

    Cam Atkinson stormed out of the gates with eight points in his first eight games. A 34-year-old who had missed the entire 2022-23 season seemed like he jumped right back into a rhythm. 

    His offensive production has dipped. He went 22 consecutive games without a goal before John Tortorella sat him as a healthy scratch against the Columbus Blue Jackets on January 4. The two spent six seasons together with Columbus from 2015-16 through 2020-21. Atkinson advocated for Tortorella before the Flyers hired him as the head coach in 2022.

    Atkinson’s play-driving numbe have taken a major dip in recent weeks. The noticeable lack of burst during that period suggests that he’s probably not due for an offensive surge.

    Atkinson carries a $5.88 million cap hit through the 2024-25 season. NHL teams aren’t likely to flip much of a return package for a player his age with declining value and a high salary.

    If the Flyers trade Atkinson, they will need to retain salary. They’re already paying Kevin Hayes $3.57 million not to wear orange and black. Should they retain money for another accomplished former Boston College player just for the sake of moving him?

    Hayes wasn’t a good fit within the new standard for performance under Tortorella. Atkinson’s case is much different. They’ll likely keep Atkinson in a reduced role as a veteran presence with minimal expectation that he’ll replicate his past production.

    Stay/Go Verdict: Stay

    Cam Atkinson, Philadelphia Flyers 2024 NHL Trade Deadline Candidates

  • Rasmus Ristolainen

    Chuck Fletcher aggressively chased Rasmus Ristolainen in 2021. He sent a hefty trade package to the Buffalo Sabres and went to extreme measures to fit the big defenseman into a tough salary cap situation.

    While Ristolainen has improved his defensive game the past two seasons, Fletcher’s priority still looks misguided. The Flyers now have a $5.1 million annual cap hit on the books though the 2026-27 season.

    There was a time when Ristolainen allowed scoring chances at a rate as high as any defenseman in the NHL. Tortorella and assistant coach Brad Shaw have put Ristolainen in a position to play a more responsible defensive game. The salary is disproportionate for a defenseman who doesn’t offer enough offensive upside. He is currently well below his career average in ice time and points per game.

    While the 6-foot-4 bruiser might not be a top-pair caliber defenseman, Friedman doesn’t expect the Flyers to move him for the sake of subtracting the salary.

    “I think they like Ristolainen. I think they see value for him. I think they really like his attitude, and people who’ve watched him go from Buffalo to Philadelphia, even though he’s been hurt, they say that Philadelphia has unlocked some things in him and found things with him that unfortunately, Buffalo couldn’t. The people who watch him a lot more than I do say there’s definitely an improved player there, a player who’s shown he’s willing to learn and has done so.” -Elliotte Friedman

    Ristolainen hasn’t played since Feb. 10. A physical, right-handed defenseman like him could draw interest in the trade market, but not if he isn’t healthy .

    The salary would certainly slow any potential negotiations, and an offseason move is much more likely than an in-season trade. The salary cap should also rise about $5 million over the offseason to lessen the blow of an overpriced contract.

    The decision to sign Ristolainen to a five-year deal might never pay off for the Flyers. It doesn’t mean the new front office regime should force him out of town in a desperate move. They already saw what a desperate move can do to an organization when they brought him to the Flyers in 2021.

    Stay/Go Verdict: Stay

    Rasmus Ristolain, Philadelphia Flyers 2024 NHL Trade Deadline Candidates

  • Morgan Frost

    The 2023-24 season started poorly for Morgan Frost. He found himself as the odd man out of the lineup too often. It seemed John Tortorella simply didn’t like the 24-year-old center’s style, regardless of his impressive scoring totals during the second half of the 2022-23 season.

    Tortorella didn’t seem comfortable moving Frost to the wing, potentially because of the former top prospect’s underwhelming physicality in board battles. The Philadelphia bench boss sat Frost as a healthy scratch for the 11th time this season on Jan. 4. 

    What do teams with highly-skilled former top prospects do with players who don’t mesh well with a head coach and could benefit from a change of scenery? They trade them.

    Frost approached Tortorella for a private conversation after the most recent benching. Could the private interaction be a turning point that helps both their futures in Philadelphia?

    “I need the conversation, and I think he (Frost) took a big step. It’s going to help me try to help him. Where it all goes, I don’t know, but at least there’s a path there now.” -John Tortorella (Jan. 6)

    If Frost’s attitude changed, it’s certainly helped him on the ice in the short term. The former 1st-round pick went on a tear with nine points in eight games after reentering the lineup. 

    Members of the Flyers organization tediously harped in recent seasons about the need for Frost to build confidence. The player himself admitted late in the 2022-23 season that he couldn’t keep waiting for good stretches to come before he regained confidence. It looked like it was never going to happen in Philadelphia.

    Tortorella can be a stickler, but he’s candidly admitted enough times that he believes players should get angry when they’re benched. He respects players who carry themselves with a motivated attitude and the bold confidence to speak up for themselves. If Frost is finally fitting into that mold, maybe he’s finally growing on his head coach.

    “I think that’s the only way that you can find a road to communicate and try to help a player. You guys may think benching a player is fun for coaches, (as if) you’re just pounding your chest. That’s not the way we feel. It’s trying to get someone’s attention, and it starts the conversation.” -Tortorella (Jan. 6)

    When the calendar turned to 2024, it looked like it would make sense for the Flyers to swap a struggling young player for a prospect from another NHL franchise who also needed a change of scenery. Morgan Frost has cooled off offensively, and he still has a lot left to prove before the Flyers make a decision on his future at the NHL Trade Deadline.

    However, he’s reversed the narrative quickly.

    Stay/Go Verdict: Stay

    Morgan Frost, Philadelphia Flyers

  • Marc Staal

    The Flyers signed Marc Staal in July 2023 because of his extensive experience playing over 1000 NHL games, including five seasons with the New York Rangers under John Tortorella. He fits the prototype of a player who could move to a contending team to play a depth role, and prospective trade partners will view a prorated $1.1 million cap hit reasonably.

    Staal has performed serviceably by the advanced numbers in limited games in a role at the bottom of the lineup. He also helped the Florida Panthers to the Stanley Cup Final as a playoff lineup regular less than one year ago. However, the 37-year-old’s mistakes sometimes look glaring even in his 17th NHL season. 

    Recent injuries to Drysdale and Ristolainen have changed the dynamic of the Philadelphia blue line. Staal previously found himself as an unnecessary piece of a crowded unit.

    He might now play an increased role as a lineup regular. However, the Flyers could also call up Ronnie Attard, Adam Ginning, Emil Andrae, or Louie Belpedio from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to fill that depth role.  

    If he can get a return for Staal, Briere should still pull the trigger without hesitation.

    The Flyers dealt Erik Gustafsson for a 7th-round pick in 2021 when the veteran defenseman held essentially no value on the roster in Philadelphia. Staal could likely bring back a 6th-rounder by comparison.

    Stay/Go Verdict: Go

    Marc Staal, Philadelphia Flyers NHL Trade Deadline Candidates 2024

  • Sam Ersson

    Scouts from the Anaheim Ducks and the Boston Bruins visited Philadelphia early in the 2023-24 season, reportedly because of interest in Sam Ersson. The notion that the Flyers would move the rookie goaltender seemed plausible.

    The circumstances surrounding Carter Hart’s leave of absence now make the scenario look unrealistic.

    Stay/Go Verdict: Stay

    Sam Ersson, Philadelphia Flyers NHL Trade Deadline Candidates

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