The Philadelphia Flyers are set to have eight defensemen under contract for the 2019-20 season once all of the Restricted Free Agents are taken care of, meaning somebody has to go.
General Manager Chuck Fletcher has made plenty of moves since the Philadelphia Flyers 2018-19 campaign ended in April, especially on the defensive side of the puck. He acquired Matt Niskanen from the Washington Capitals in exchange for Radko Gudas and obtained Justin Braun from the San Jose Sharks for a 2019 second, and 2020 third round pick not too long after. Fletcher also re-signed RFA Travis Sanheim and will more than likely have a deal done with fellow RFA Ivan Provorov once training camp comes around. Once Fletcher officially gets Provorov under contract, the Flyers will have eight blue-liners under contract even after buying out the contracts of Andrew MacDonald and David Schlemko, meaning one of those defensemen have to go.
You’d think this would be an easy issue to solve as Fletcher could choose to send one of them to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, but I’m here to tell you that’s not the case. The eight d-men the Flyers are set to have on the roster are Provorov, Sanheim, Niskanen, Braun, Shayne Gostisbehere, Philippe Myers, Samuel Morin, and Robert Hagg. All of those players, give or take, deserve to be in the NHL at this point and sending any one of them over to Lehigh Valley would be a waste of time. So, with the AHL not being a suitable option, Fletcher will have to trade one of the defensemen.
Provorov, Sanheim, Braun, and Niskanen can be crossed off that list since Fletcher will have just signed and traded for each of them this summer, so that leaves Ghost, Myers, Hagg, and Morin. I’ve made it known that I want Philadelphia to keep Gostisbehere given his offensive capabilities and the fact that the Flyers don’t have a proven defenseman that produces as well as Ghost has on the power play, either. For that reason, I think he’s safe to stay unless an offer they can’t refuse comes to the table. Fletcher stated that he could see Myers as a third pair replacement for Gudas, too, so I’ll assume his spot on the roster is also safe.
That gives the Flyers a choice between Hagg and Morin. Hagg has the leg up on Morin in terms of NHL experience, but it certainly hasn’t been a pleasant experience for fans to watch. I mentioned in this article as to why Fletcher needs to move on from Hagg, and in summary, it’s because he’s a defensive defenseman who doesn’t seem to be all that good at defense. At least there’s somewhat of an unknown with Morin while we already know what Hagg can bring on the ice. Hagg would garner more in a trade due to the previously mentioned experience, though I wouldn’t expect a high return. Putting all of that into thought, I think Fletcher should look to move the 24-year-old Swede and ride with Morin as the seventh defenseman.
Fletcher probably won’t make a move until the contract with Provorov is inked in order to keep a bit of leverage on his side but once that’s out of the way, don’t be surprised if one of the other defensemen are shipped out shortly after.