The Philadelphia Flyers are in a frustrating situation after a puzzling offseason during which they neither definitively began a rebuild nor landed franchise-changing star Johnny Gaudreau. The franchise is badly stuck in limbo, too bad to dream about the Stanley Cup but too talented to realistically contend with Montreal, Chicago, and Seattle in the sweepstakes for presumptive number one pick Connor Bedard. With little in the way of future cap-space and a middling prospect pool, it will take an unlikely Cinderella run to keep any NHL veterans off of the trade block of the asset-starved Flyers. Which stalwarts of the unfortunate Chuck Fletcher era will stay on Broad Street beyond the 2022-2023 NHL season? Find out below.
The NHL career of Carter Hart has been a rollercoaster ride thus far. For parts of two seasons and a series win over the Canadiens, Hart appeared to be the answer in net the Flyers had been searching for since Ron Hextall’s Conn Smythe win. During the abridged 2020-2021 campaign, though, Hart was the worst goaltender in the NHL, limping to an abysmal 3.67 GAA and .877 save percentage. Last season, the goalie, still just 24, left fans with more questions than answers as he posted only slightly below average numbers behind an awful team. Could Hart have played better? It is hard to say at this point. With no clear alternatives, especially given elite KHL goaltender Ivan Fedotov’s impending military service, Hart will have at least another full season to prove he can be “the guy” in goal for the Flyers
Travis Sanheim has been perhaps the most frustrating Flyer in recent memory. The left-handed shot ostensibly has all the tools to succeed, and yet has never truly become even an above-average pro player. Despite Sanheims elite size and mobility, frequent lapses of concentration and an utter lack of physicality have made him little more than an acceptable warm body in the NHL. Moreover, Sanheim’s defensive deficiencies are leveled against middle-of-the-road offensive production, making the 26-year-old a liability on the whole. Sanheim was remarkably a plus player over 80 games last year, but with four veteran defensemen contracted beyond next season and Cam York and Egor Zamula on the edges of the NHL roster, Sanheim is unlikely to last beyond the trade deadline. Sanheim’s 2-year “prove it” deal will expire at the end of the season, and the blueliner will likely be in another city when it does.
Ivan Provorov has flattered to deceive with the Orange and Black. Provorov is a classy left-handed defenseman with a quality wrister who rarely makes the sort of harebrained mistakes many of his teammates are prone to. That said, the Russian-Canadian has never reached the elite level he once seemed capable of. While Provorov has never truly been put in positions to succeed alongside names like Andrew MacDonald and Justin Braun, legitimate top-pair defensemen elevate their teammates. It seems Provorov, now 25, has found his peak as a reasonable top-four option. Is that enough to make him invaluable to the Flyers? It seems unlikely at this point. Rasmus Ristolainen and Tony DeAngelo seem a ready-made top pair thanks to their opposite strengths. Both have freshly inked deals. Provorov stands to make $6.75 AAV through 2025, which will not be a dealbreaker for most suitors given his ability. Given his contract tenure, expendability, and experience, Provorov could end up as Philadelphia’s most valuable trade chip this year.
With 61 points in 66 GP during the 2019-2020 season, Travis Konecny seemed a sure bet to be a consistent 25 goal, 70 point option on the Flyers’ top line. Konecny was just 21 then, but despite having been the Flyers’ top scorer last season, still has taken quite the tumble from his All-Star season, registering just 52 points and 16 goals. Konecny, an on-ice agitator who registered 72 goals from 2017 to 2020, has frustrated the fans who once saw him as a prized prospect. The winger’s drop in production has coincided with a steady rise in thoughtless trips to the box. Still, it is not all bad for Konecny. The right-handed shot plays with the sort of edge new coach John Tortorella will cherish, and at 25 could well improve under the former Stanley Cup winner’s guidance. Konecny’s chances of staying with the Flyers are bolstered by his $5.5 million AAV contract through 2025. The number is not a disaster for the team, but could be enough to discourage potential trade partners for the talented but inconsistent winger.
Sean Couturier is the longest-tenured current Flyer, a former Selke Trophy winner, and the likely successor to Claude Giroux as team captain. As such, “Coots” is one of the few assets the Flyers can actually choose whether or not to trade. Teams will scoff at Kevin Hayes and Ryan Ellis’s salaries. The Flyers cannot afford to move Hart or Joel Farabee. As it stands, the organization will sell what it can and keep what it cannot afford to lose (or no one else will take). Couturier, on the other hand, is an intriguing option for any team with a hole in its top-six forwards or special teams units. The Flyers should attach a “not for sale” sign to his sweater nonetheless. Couturier is a leader, rare among modern Flyers in his ability to play on both ends and score dirty goals. While he could net the organization a hefty ransom thanks to his lengthy contract and pedigree, what character do the Flyers have outside of Couturier and Scott Laughton?