written by Michael DeNicola
Thursday, February 27th, 2014 --
I don't get around to writing blogs as much as I used to, or as much as I'd like to. But sometimes life gets in the way. Speaking of "getting in the way", we're six days outside the NHL's 2014 Trade Deadline (05-MAR, 3:00pm Eastern), and every hockey fan with a voice and a Twitter account is exposing what he or she would do if they were their team's general manager. Of course, I cannot speak for all hockey fans. Hell, I can't speak for all Flyers fans either. But seeing that I am a Flyers fan, I'm exposed to a lot of my kind. Unfortunately, there's an undying underground obsession for Shea Weber. It simply won't cease to exist. There are truly fans out there who wholeheartedly believe that a combination of a 1st Round pick (which would likely be a 20th through 25th Overall), Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, and possibly an unproven prospect like Sam Morin thrown into the mix, would land one of the League's top five elite defensemen entering the prime of his career.
But I digress. That's not what I came here to discuss.
Someone asked me which moves I'd make, or which moves I expect the Flyers to make. Two completely different questions, sure, but they're related. And even though I don't expect Philadelphia to transact a single trade between today and March 5th, it's still fun to play Armchair GM and give reasons for the wheeling & dealing you've done in your head.
Before I get into this, I want everyone to note: I have developed these trades with a great sense of realism. There's no Bobby Ryan, no Shea Weber, no Jordan Eberle, PK Subban, Drew Doughty or Pietrangelo. Absolutely none of those players are available to the Flyers. How do I know? I don't for certain, really. But I have a rudimentary understanding of how things work in this League.
Fans typically overvalue their players and/or prospects. They also overvalue draft picks. All the while, they depreciate how their team's general manager operates; in our case, we're not just talking about Paul Holmgren, who has been the butt of many hometown jokes. For the first time in his Philadelphia tenure, Ron Hextall is a voice in our front office at this time of year. He has a vision of bringing the Cup back to Philly, and he'll do so with roster players. Draft picks, prospects.... those are long-term assets. As far as I have observed, Hexie and Homer want "NOW" assets. So, that is something else I kept in mind as I developed these Armchair trades.
The Trade, Scenario 1
There's two scenarios; naturally I'll begin with number-one.
- (RW) Matt Read, PHL 2014 1st Round pick for VAN (D) Alexander Edler
- (D) Braydon Coburn, (C/LW) Brayden Schenn, PHL 2015 1st Round pick for EDM (RW) Nail Yakupov
- PHL 2014 3rd Round pick, ADR (D) Oliver Lauridsen for BUF (C) Steve Ott
Our lineup would look like so moving forward:
|Fwd Line 1:
||(C) Claude Giroux
|Fwd Line 2:
|Fwd Line 3:
||(A) Scott Hartnell
|Fwd Line 4:
||(A) Kimmo Timonen
||Hal Gill, Erik Gustafsson
Cap Space: $324,573.00
We're not going out and getting our #1 Defenseman before, or on, the deadline. But what I managed to do was upgrade a blueline spot. Alexander Edler is turning 28-years old this April, one-year less than Braydon. Edler is a legit top pairing defenseman where Coburn is arguably a No.3 blueliner who's been slotted into the Top 2 by default (re: Chris Pronger, Matt Carle). Edler is not what you'd call a "Tortorella kinda player", but to his credit.... there aren't many skaters who are.
What type of player is Edler? If you're not familiar with the defenseman, here's a scouting report provided by The Hockey News: An excellent physical package, he owns an imposing frame, smooth fundamentals and all-round acumen. Can play on the power play, where he displays poise, composure and a heavy point shot. Excels in one-on-one situations.
Vancouver is in a bit of a rough patch. They're 24th in the League in goals, and no doubt need an offensive-minded forward to fill a Top 6 role. Matt Read was the first on my mind, and could definitely fill that need of theirs. For Christ sake, they're starting Tom Sestito on a gamely basis; there's room for competition anywhere on that roster. But seeing as how Edler's ilk and track record is in high demand, a first-round draft pick would have to seal the deal.
The Flyers and Oliers have been talking for months; almost a year, really. As far as Craig MacTavish is concerned, his Three Horsemen -- Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, and Hall -- are untouchables. There are available players, though; namely Ales Hemsky (who I have a hunch will be traded to the Penguins), Sam Gagner, Ryan Smyth and Nail Yakupov. And there's my blockbuster; all that meat for a Russian, sophomore forward who's been a defensive liability.
"YOU'RE OVERPAYING!" you scream. Let me explain.
It really isn't overpayment. Not at all. We'd be acquiring a skill player chosen 1st Overall, not even two-years removed from his draft day, for a #3 defenseman, an expiring restricted free agent center, who, let's be frank, we're probably going to trade away anyway, and a 1st Round pick that will more than likely be 20th - 25th Overall.
Yakupov's RFA status is a pricey resource to begin with. He's into Year 2 of his three-year ELC, and his restricted status keeps him as Philadelphia property for an additional five League Years. What intrigues me most about Nail is that he's meant to be a Top 6 forward, but instead he averages 14:14 on a goddamn checking-line on the League's shittiest team. There is virtually no opportunity for Yakupov in that role.
The Flyers are slow. Nail has lightning speed.
The Flyers aren't very creative with the puck. Nail's puck skills solidify him as a constant scoring threat.
The Flyers have difficulty adjusting to a tight-checking game. Funny, that's when Nail performs at his best.
Did I mention he's a 1st Overall choice?
"So was Alexandre Daigle."
Touche. Good point. But how much time has to pass before we can stop bringing up one of the NHL's biggest busts from twenty fucking years ago? It's not applicable today. And if you believe it is, then I don't know what to tell you, Doc Brown; stop living in the past.
You might notice Yakupov is a pretty sheltered player; meaning he begins most of his shifts in the offensive zone. Well, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Being sheltered isn't a bad thing if you're earning your keep, and Nail has actually made his teammates better in the offensive zone at even-strength. His teammates see their on-ice GF% peak while Nail is skating beside them than when he isn't.
And here's one of the best parts; with Brayden Schenn as a Deadline casualty, there's no more arguing where Vincent Lecavalier goes. He slots right into the second-line center position, where we all knew he'd wind up the day we stupidly signed him to a ridiculous five-year, $22.5M contract -- with a strict no-movement clause.
..... no, I don't think the Flyers will, can or could trade Vinny
More on Lecavalier & Yakupov; perhaps Yak's positive possession stats can equal out Lecavalier's poor ones? And in the meantime, Wayne Simmonds, who's developing into the perfect Tim Kerr 2.0, rounds out that line combination with grit, snarl and net presence. I don't see a negative there, besides maybe the immense lack of backchecking skill. Which leads me to....
Steve Ott specializes in being an asshole. He's an 'in your face', 'under your skin' pain to the opposition. And when he's not pissing you off, he's forechecking hard, keeping chances alive, and distributes the puck effectively. He'll wear you down, both physically and mentally.
Perfect. I'll take him.
Ott is on the final season of his four-year, $11.8M contract. Tricky part is, he has a no-trade clause. But if waiving it is his ticket to get back onto a contending roster? I think that could be arranged.
The Sabres are a mess. They're two seconds from pressing the restart button. And they're slated to unload a number of players by the deadline. One of which is Ott, and I thoroughly believe he'll come at a much cheaper price than any of us think.
With Philadelphia prospects like Sam Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Mark Alt, Matthew Konan and Brandon Manning log-jamming the defensive pipeline, I don't see any chance of Oliver Lauridsen becoming an everyday-starting defenseman for the Big Club. Frankly, I don't see Lauridsen becoming anything better than a career AHLer. But the main point is, he has no future with the Flyers, the Sabres love their big blueliners, and I think Lauridsen has shown enough at the NHL level to turn a few heads from an organization that's about to reboot.
Receiving a 3rd Round pick ain't nothing to gaff at either.
The Trade, Scenario 2
The second scenario involves one slight, minor tweak; acquire Ryan Smyth from Edmonton as part of the Yakupov trade. So, basically, I'd go in offering Coburn, B. Schenn and our 2015 1st Round pick for Yakupov and Smyth, and if they accepted that proposal, then it'd completely eliminate my need to trade for Steve Ott.
Ott and Smyth can both strengthen our backcheck from the fourth combination. Ott has an outstanding record in the faceoff circle, but if Edmonton were willing to hand us Smyth, then we'd slot Adam Hall back to center and bump Smyth out to wing.
In the meantime, the Flyers would go from $324,573 in cap space in Scenario 1.... to $1,024,573 in cap space in Scenario 2.
Smyth is a 38-year old left-wing on the final year of his two-year, $4.5M contract. Yea, it's another gray-bush on the roster, but Smyth is a dependable, smart veteran player. Besides, he'd have a very specific role with very specific limitations.
In both trade scenarios, I managed to upgrade our defense, upgrade our backchecking, upgrade our possession in the offensive zone on 5v5, and upgrade our firepower, all the while staying under budget and leaving room for flexibility. I open up options through the short- and long-term. I make our core younger and add more value to it.
It's a lot to chew on. Maybe some of you like my proposals. Maybe most of you still disagree. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure -- this time of the season is always exciting, interesting, and gut-wrenching all-in-one.