It is unclear whether or not the Flyers will make a move during the trade deadline. Maybe they will try to acquire a player to help them make a playoff push or to be a foundation for the future. Maybe the team will sell off some players to prepare for a rebuild.
Regardless of what the Flyers do, the teams in their division are not willing to just stand pat. The Metropolitan Division is by far the toughest division in the NHL. Every team, save for the Columbus Blue Jackets, has at least a .500 record. All, again with the exception of CBJ, is still realistically in the playoff hunt. What that also means is that an arms race could be brewing.
It got started when the New York Islanders traded for Bo Horvat for, a player of his caliber, for a fairly mediocre return. The Isles just signed him to an eight-year extension. And while this puts the Islanders in a precarious cap situation next year, the thought of Horvat with Mat Barzal and Kyle Palmieri teamed up for years to come could be frightening.
With them beefing up, the rest of the division will make similar moves. It is believed that the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, and Carolina Hurricanes are all inquiring about the cost for San Jose’s All-Star Timo Meier. Any one of those teams could use a young sniper like him and, if they were to sign him, would retain his services for years to come. Carolina could actually use Max Pacioretty’s LTIR money to go out and gain a player, either as a rental or to sign an extension. (JVR to Carolina perhaps?)
Pittsburgh and Washington, much like Columbus, have suffered through a lot of injuries to key veteran players. While CBJ may trade off for the future, and perhaps tank, the Caps and Pens may be in the hunt for a few role players who could help them stay in the playoff hunt and hope and pray that their veteran experience could carry them through.
The top teams are also inquiring about other tradeable assets around the league. The Devils, in addition to looking at Meier, are also kicking the tires on another veteran, Vladimir Tarasenko. With the Rangers lurking behind NJ in the standings, New York could also be on the move for a veteran defender; perhaps former Flyer Luke Schenn. New Jersey, NYR, and Carolina will also try to do anything it takes to make sure that the mighty Boston Bruins don’t acquire anybody that would make them even more stronger than they currently are.
So, even if the Flyers don’t make a move, they could be in trouble. Most of these teams don’t want a rental. With players like Horvat and Meier, they are looking to add an asset that will be around for years to come. That could place Philadelphia in an even more precarious position than they are now.
As we saw this offseason, the Metro teams all got a lot stronger. A tight salary cap really prevented the Flyers from getting to the point where they could be major offseason players. The Flyers could fall further behind the rest of this division, talent wise, as this arms race continues.
John Tortorella has brought this team to a .500 mark after stumbling through November. When you consider all of the injuries this team has faced, that’s no easy feat. There is talent here on this roster; however, right now it is not at the level with their major rivals. And if the Flyers don’t act smartly during this upcoming trade deadline and offseason, they could be left in the dust.