The overwhelming opinion on the firing of former Phialdelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall was that he was too patient with the roster and too unwilling to make big moves. His replacement, Chuck Fletcher, has a history of being a deal-maker from his time with the Minnesota Wild and is clearly focused on quick and sweeping change as he takes over in Philly. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports in the latest “Insider Trading” segment that Fletcher has already spoken with at least half of the teams in the NHL about a trade. LeBrun adds that Fletcher has not one, not two, but three different areas of the depth chart that he would like to add to and is hoping to make at least one move prior to the holiday roster freeze beginning next week.
The obvious weakness of the Flyers this season, and for some time, is in net. Injuries and poor play from the team’s goaltenders has made it difficult to consistently win games and an established, long-term starter is needed until promising young prospect Carter Hart is ready to take over down the road. Of course, this was understood as the priority for whoever Philadelphia hired as GM and comes as no surprise as one of Fletcher’s three goals. However, LeBrun states that Fletcher would ideally like to add a veteran defenseman to an otherwise very young unit, as well as a top-nine forward. Even if he has had discussions with 15+ teams, adding three starting-caliber players, especially this early in the season, is a tall order. Yet, Fletcher seems up to the task and hopes to have checked off one of those boxes prior to next Wednesday, December 19th, when the holiday freeze begins.
These hypothetical additions are obviously being made in hopes of reaching the postseason this year. It thus makes sense that Fletcher would like to initiate trade talks and get these deals done as soon as possible, as the Flyers currently sit second-to-last in the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference overall more than a third of the way through the regular season. However, should Philadelphia still be outside the playoff picture come the Trade Deadline, Fletcher is also unlikely to hesitate when it comes to offloading his impending free agents. Wayne Simmonds would be his most valuable trade chip, while Michael Raffl and Jordan Weal could also draw interest. Should he acquire a starting goaltender in the meantime, Brian Elliott could also become an intriguing trade option. Fletcher could even add a veteran defenseman and/or top-nine forward on expiring contracts only to flip them later on. There are infinite possibilities as to what Fletcher could do to change the team and how those moves will work out, but the one thing that is for sure is that changes are coming in Philadelphia.