The Philadelphia Flyers, win-less in their last five games, have struggled with injuries at every position this season. With 39 games under their belt already, Philadelphia approaches the midway point of the season as the last-place team in the Metropolitan Division and currently 12 points out of a playoff spot. While new general manager Chuck Fletcher has a reputation for making big trades, the team seems unlikely to be anything but a seller unless their fortunes change dramatically in the second half. Any chance of that happening thus depends on the team getting back to full health and staying that way, allowing for some consistency on the roster to yield results. The Flyers today released an update on six players currently sidelined, paired with predictions of when they might return to action.
The most pressing injury update obviously belongs to starting goaltender Brian Elliott. Elliott, out since mid-November with a lower-body injury thought to be a groin injury, has played in just 14 games this season for the Flyers. With injuries hampering Michal Neuvirth, Alex Lyon, and Anthony Stolarz (also currently out) at times this season as well, Elliott is one of six different keepers to man the Philadelphia net this season, none of whom have had much success. Elliott remains the Flyers’ top option and best chance of winning games. The team relayed that they expect the veteran net minder to finally return to action in the next 10-14 days. They also added that Stolarz, who missed almost the entire 2017-18 season due to injury, is also on the mend and should be back from his own lower-body injury within days.
On the blue line, veteran Andrew MacDonald is also struggling with a lower-body injury, but should not miss much time. The Flyers announced that he will sit for the team’s next two games, but should resume skating on the other side of the weekend. More importantly, young counterpart Samuel Morin, who has yet to play this season due to off-season ACL surgery, is finally progressing toward a return. However, a serious knee injury takes time and, while Morin is back at practice with the team, they don’t expect him to be game-ready until later in February. Up front, young center Nolan Patrick is not expected to miss much time with a recently-suffered upper-body injury. Patrick has missed the team’s past three games, but is close to being cleared and is expected to play at some point next week. Finally, Corban Knight, out since late October following surgery to repair a broke collarbone, is ahead of schedule on his initial four month timeline. Knight will be re-evaluated later this month and is expected to return in February.
The question now is whether or not the improved health of the Flyers makes a difference. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman recently named Philadelphia as a team he expected to be active on the trade market, but acknowledged that it is still unclear whether they consider themselves buyers or sellers. Despite the poor on-ice performance, Fletcher still sees the potential in his new club and would like to improve the roster rather than dismantle it. However, if health alone isn’t enough to close the gap substantially by the NHL Trade Deadline, he may have no choice but to move out his expendable pieces. Elliott, an impending unrestricted free agent, could be a valued piece for teams with needs in net, especially if he can prove that he is back at full strength with some strong play. Neuvirth and Stolarz, who also have expiring contracts, are other potential goalie rentals, albeit less likely to move. The real value for the Flyers would come from moving several forwards, namely Wayne Simmonds, but also fellow UFA’s Michael Raffl and Jordan Weal. Whether or not it comes to that for Fletcher and the Flyers depends on the team’s play down the stretch and they hope that this upcoming return to health helps to make the difference.