When Johnny Gaudreau signed his six-year, $40.5MM contract with the Calgary Flames ahead of the 2016-17 season, talks immediately began swirling that when the contract expired in 2022, he’d return to his roots and sign with his hometown Philadelphia Flyers. Nearly six years later, those rumors are as prevalent as ever. However, in his latest 32 Thoughts article, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wonders if the most prudent path for the Flyers, given the uncertainty surrounding Ryan Ellis’ health, is to pursue several medium-sized pieces as opposed to one big one, believing those conversations have at least happened. Friedman adds that the Flyers are a team who generally tries to go big in their moves, noting that they have tested the market on many of their players and have made a real pitch for Chicago Blackhawks’ forward Alex DeBrincat, more than simply kicking the tires.
The comments and speculation from Friedman provide some new perspective on how the Flyers may choose to pursue this offseason given how their previous few seasons have played out. Philadelphia has made the postseason just once in the previous four seasons and has only made it out of the first round once since 2011-12, which featured a first round win over the Montreal Canadiens and a second-round loss to the New York Islanders in the bubble. Coming off the heels of a 61 point season that included trading franchise icon Claude Giroux, it would seem that the team might look to take a step back and rebuild, but whether the rumor is a big splash or several smaller pieces, it does not appear a rebuild is in the cards. With several quality players signed long-term, including Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes, Travis Konecny, Joel Farabee, Cam Atkinson, Ivan Provorov, Rasmus Ristolainen, and promising young goaltender Carter Hart, as well as Ellis, it would make sense why the organization may try to simply push forward.
More from Friedman’s 32 Thoughts:
- One team who may move on from some of its core veterans is the Montreal Canadiens, who Friedman says have been testing the market on Christian Dvorak, Jeff Petry and perhaps Josh Anderson. He adds that some teams believe they are not looking to trade Jake Allen as they do want to try to be more competitive, so it’s unlikely they will strip away all of their assets. In fact, the team was interested in Ottawa Senators forward Colin White prior to the trade deadline, with Friedman believing those talks may materialize again, adding that Canadiens’ GM Kent Hughes was White’s agent prior to Hughes joining Montreal’s front office. Once one of the game’s top prospects, White had a strong breakout campaign in 2018-19, putting up 41 points in 71 games, enough to earn him a six-year, $28.5MM contract. Unfortunately, the contract hasn’t worked out as hoped by either side, with White tallying just 51 points in 130 game since the start of the deal, now with three more years at $4.75MM per season left.
- Moving out west, Friedman looks at the Vancouver Canucks in light of the Brock Boeser extension, believing the two sides having a deadline played a role in the deal. He adds that there should be a path to a Bo Horvat extension as well, but a J.T. Miller trade is still likely. Though an extension with Miller isn’t impossible, Friedman believes it’s too difficult and Vancouver will try to get more than what the Minnesota Wild received in exchange for Kevin Fiala: the 19th overall pick in the 2022 draft and prospect Brock Faber. That package may not be hard to eclipse for a player like Miller, who has taken off since arriving in Vancouver, recording 217 points in 202 games. However, it’s worth noting that Fiala was an impending RFA while Miller has one more year at $5.25MM before becoming a UFA and is a little over three years older than Fiala.
- Lastly, the Arizona Coyotes, who own picks 3, 27, and 32 in the first-round of this year’s draft are prepared to use “all available options” to try to acquire another high pick in the draft, says Friedman. By selecting third overall, Arizona is guaranteed one of Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky, or Logan Cooley, though it’s unlikely they will get to choose which. It’s unclear exactly how far up the organization would like to find an available pick, but with news that the Montreal Canadiens are seeking an additional top-10 pick, there could be some competition for one of the coveted draft picks. The Coyotes do have in addition to the 27th and 32nd overall selections, four second-round picks and a third, fifth, and seventh-round pick in this year’s draft, on top of plenty of prospect capital.