Chuck Fletcher puts for sale sign on Flyers future

Courtesy: Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers
Courtesy: Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers /

Chuck Fletcher has finally admitted what the rest of us have known for most of the season. The Flyers are not going to be making the playoffs and are open for business. That business will come in the form of selling off as many assets as they can before the Friday trade deadline.

Most, if not all, of those assets will be the Flyers pending free agents. Their biggest trade piece comes in the form of James van Riemsdyk, who is well aware of the rumors that surround him.

Other pieces will likely be players such as Justin Braun and Nick Seeler. Braun was traded to the Rangers at last year’s deadline and was brought back on a one-year deal this year. The Flyers should expect to get a similar return to the third round pick they received last year.

Seeler is a different case as it’s not necessarily certain they will move on from him. He has reportedly garnered a lot of interest around the league. He’s played exactly the kind of role that the Flyers expected from him and would certainly fill that kind of role if he is to be traded.

Fletcher is leaving the door open, though, for any and all players. Most of his calls have come on players with expiring contracts. But he stressed that the Flyers are willing to listen to all offers.

Does that include those for someone like Kevin Hayes? The veteran forward is in the fourth year of the seven-year deal he signed back in the summer of 2019. He’s had a solid bounce back season after injury and tragedy struck last season. He’s second on the team in goals (17) and points (48). Hayes was the also Flyers’ representative at the NHL All-Star Game.

Fletcher didn’t flat out say that they were looking to trade Hayes either now or in the off-season. But he didn’t necessarily deny it either.

"“Yeah, potentially. It’s a fair question. Again, it will depend on market and opportunity and fit. I’ve expressed to teams, ‘Look, we’re open to ideas, and we’re willing to listen on lots of different types of scenarios.’ Without addressing Kevin specifically, because I don’t know if it’s fair to single out names, clearly we’d like to get even younger if we can. And if we can do that, then we’re gonna try to do that.”"

Moving any of the players above would open up space for some of the team’s prospects in the AHL. Maybe Egor Zamula and Ronnie Attard will find their way back to the NHL. Maybe a Tyson Foerster will get to make his debut. If you ask Chuck Fletcher, though, you probably shouldn’t expect that to happen.

The Phantoms are in a prime position to make the postseason for the first time since 2018. Both he and Tortorella have talked about how important development down at that level is.

Tortorella was a coach in the AHL and went on two long runs in the Calder Cup, winning it in one of those years. He mentioned how great it was for the development of those players.

"“The biggest thing for this organization right now, or one of the biggest things, is that Lehigh team they’re almost in the playoffs. We want to get them in the playoffs.“ Tortorella said on Saturday."

That’s also while Sam Ersson is likely to remain in the AHL during the stretch run. It’ll be important to let him be the man in net and help guide Lehigh Valley along the way.

So all of this sounds like the makings of a rebuild, right? The Flyers are selling off what they can and making just about everyone available for the right price. They know this is going to take some time. We can call this a rebuild finally, right?

"“I just … it’s terminology. I mean, are we going to gut this team? No. We’re not going to gut this team. I’m not looking to trade Tippett and Farabee and Frost and Gauthier and just trade everybody and start over. But clearly we have to get younger and we have to find some more young assets.”"

Focusing on younger players and assets sure sounds like a rebuild Fletcher. He’s never been one to use the word specifically, though. But when you’re talking about selling and how you need to get younger, it’s about as close to a rebuild as you can get.

Now it’s not going to be full tank mode like the Arizona Coyotes or Chicago Blackhawks. It would be a miracle to see them go that route after everything Fletcher has ever said. But focusing on the future is part of how the Flyers are going to go about it.

They’re unlikely to be in the running for Connor Bedard, but they’ll look towards the draft to find a potential star. And they’ll look around the league for players who may not fit with their current teams. They’ll hope that Tortorella will continue building his culture and molding the players how he sees fit.

Not only is Philadelphia open for business, they’re looking to take reclamation projects on as well.

"”Over the last 12 months, we’ve added Tippett and Cutter Gauthier, and that’s a good start. I think both kids have a chance to be quality offensive players in this league,” Fletcher said. “We’ll have another chance at the draft to get a real top player. We’re excited about that. And we’ll just keep chipping away at adding young players. If we can find undervalued assets somewhere that are struggling that we can bring to our team and can maybe flourish here, we’ve got to look at that.”"

One of the biggest questions that follows this: How long is this going to take? In order to do this properly, it’s going to take a lot of time and with no shortcuts in between. It’s going to be a grind the rest of this season and likely next year as well.

But with the organization seemingly all on the same page as to the direction of this team, maybe we’ll finally get somewhere. It’s going to be a “wait and see approach” as the Flyers will have to hope that they can continue to develop their younger assets or that they find them somewhere else. Whether that be in the AHL, the draft, or from somewhere unknown at this time.

This is a team that is in desperate need of “high-end talent” as Fletcher mentioned. And with their biggest asset, Travis Konecny, sidelined for at least two-to-three more weeks, if not the rest of the season, we’re going to continue to see exactly what this team is lacking.

It’s going to be a bumpy ride to the finish of whatever it is the Flyers end up doing. And we likely won’t know what that actually is for quite some time.