On Monday afternoon, Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher made two trades to wrap up the team’s trade deadline activities. He shipped off defenseman Erik Gustafsson to the Montreal Canadiens for a 2022 7th-round pick and forward Michael Raffl to the Washington Capitals for a 2021 5th-round pick.
Both players are pending unrestricted free agents at the end of this season and the Flyers decided to capitalize on their trade returns rather than run the risk of losing them for nothing in free agency.
The 29-year old Swedish defenseman signed a 1 year, $3,000,000 contact with the Flyers back on October 12th. They were hoping that Gustafsson could bring a veteran presence to the young defensive corps and help generate some solid two-way play from the back end as well.
It’s safe to say at this point that the signing was a bust and Gustafsson did not really pan out to be anything the Flyers hoped he would. Gustafsson found himself in and out of Alain Vigneault’s lineup as the season progressed, only suiting up for 24 of Philadelphia’s 41 games. He has recorded one goal and nine assists this season, but Gustafsson also plays a very similar game to Shayne Gostisbehere.
He’s an offensive defender that isn’t particularly great in his own end, and the Flyers didn’t really have room for another player of that type. It’s a shame that it didn’t work out in Philadelphia but hopefully Gustafsson can find more success with Montreal.
Gustafsson was acquired by the Canadiens for a 2022 7th-round pick. The pick was the original property of the St. Louis Blues, and that pick was subsequently dealt to Montreal in a trade that landed them goaltender Jake Allen this past offseason. The Flyers also retained 50 percent of Gustafsson’s salary, so half of his contract’s value will remain against Philadelphia’s salary cap until the season ends.
From a fan’s perspective, this trade stung even though it made sense. Raffl has been with the Flyers since his first NHL season in 2013-14, amassing a total of 81 goals and 79 assists for 160 points through 508 games played. He has three goals and five assists in 34 games this season.
He’s a player who can slot in at any forward position in almost any spot in the lineup. He is a good defender and a good penalty killer who has great hockey sense. He has some sneaky good offensive skill and is also gritty at times as well. He is a player that has been in Orange and Black for over eight years and it’s a shame we have to see him go.
Raffl has endeared himself to the fanbase as a player who absolutely gives it his all every single shift on the ice and he has made us proud in the 8+ years he’s been here. He has served the Flyers and the city of Philadelphia better than we ever could’ve thought and we wish Michael the best of luck in the future.
Raffl was acquired by the Capitals for a 2021 5th-round pick that originally belonged to the Vegas Golden Knights. Washington traded away forward Chandler Stephenson to Vegas back on December 9th, 2019 and got that pick in return, and now that pick is in the hands of the Flyers. The Flyers are also retaining 25 percent of Raffl’s $1,600,000 salary until his contract runs out at season’s end.
While they did make these two moves at the deadline, coupled with the re-signing of Scott Laughton, they really didn’t do much as far as dramatically improving the actual roster as it stands now. With Raffl gone, the Flyers will have a chance to get an extended look at prospects like Tanner Laczynski and Wade Allison.
With Gustafsson out of the picture on defense, Philadelphia now has seven defenseman on the main roster and there isn’t as big of a logjam there. There is also the risk of jumbling up the team too much in the wake of the Seattle Kraken’s expansion draft this summer, but they did nothing substantial and that may perhaps come later in the offseason, but only time will tell.