It was out for the world to know. The Philadelphia Flyers were open for business and would take calls on pretty much every player they had. Chuck Fletcher needed to nail this trade deadline with all the criticism, most of it warranted, around him.
Sell off the Flyers pending free agents and check the market out for any other player that was drawing interest. It wasn’t going to be about blowing things up. That doesn’t seem to be the plan, if there even really is one to begin with.
And at the end of the day, the Flyers traded Zack MacEwen to the Kings for Brendan Lemieux and a 2024 fifth round pick. They also sent Patrick Brown to the Ottawa Senators for a 2023 sixth round pick. And that was it.
So you might be wondering, is James van Riemsdyk still a Flyer? And the answer to that is yes. Fletcher, despite taking, though mostly making, calls about the veteran forward, he remained with Philadelphia and is likely to walk at the end of the season. Justin Braun remained as well, but that isn’t what this is about.
This is about how van Riemsdyk is still on this team. And it was a big topic when Chuck Fletcher stepped to the podium after the NHL Trade Deadline on Friday evening. On his end, Fletcher said they laid it all out on the table for other teams in regard to what they were willing to do to make a deal happen.
"“We certainly made everybody aware he was available. We made everybody aware we would retain 50%. We made everybody aware that we could even take back a contract if that helped a little bit more on the cap or the cash. We talked about a different range and different ways of getting there – prospects, a pick, multiple picks, whatever it would be, conditional pick. We talked about all kinds of different scenarios. But ultimately, again, I can only control my half, and there has to be a willing buyer.”"
So you’re saying that a player what has posted five 20-goal campaigns and two 30-goal campaigns in his 13+ seasons didn’t have a market? He’s not a star by any means, but could’ve been a solid depth piece and power play producer on the right team.
Turns out they did have one offer on the table that ended up falling through. It was reported that van Riemsdyk was traded to Detroit. That was posted by Elliotte Friedman just before 2:40. And at 2:46, Chris Johnston reported that van Riemsdyk was not getting traded to Detroit.
So what happened? Turns out this potential deal was talked about an hour before the reports came out.
"“I didn’t have any offers at all until about 1:40. I got a call from a team, and they had a concept that if they were able to move a forward off of their team, then they had interest in in acquiring JVR. We talked about the parameters of what the deal would look like. It made sense from that standpoint, but all along, it was conditional on the other trade going through. Eventually the other deal fell through.”"
Fletcher never mentioned the team by name, but one can assume he is talking about the Red Wings here. Aside from this potential deal, there was never anything close to an actual deal that a team came to Fletcher about.
Fletcher stressed that the organization had been working the phones for about three weeks in trying to find a move for van Riemsdyk. A player who had been the ultimate professional for them, they wanted to give him a chance to play in the postseason. He had made one run since returning to the Flyers and that was the bubble playoffs in 2020.
Where does the blame lie then? How were Fletcher and the Flyers unable to find a market for a player that could certainly help any team looking to make their own postseason run?
"“I’ve been using that line for three days. That’s exactly what I’ve been saying to teams. This guy is a good player, he can help you. Can give him to you at 3.5 million. Let’s cut a fair deal. So, I can’t answer that. Obviously, I can’t speak for the other teams.“ Fletcher said on Friday."
This is where things can a little difficult in determining who is at fault. Fletcher is right, they cannot force a team to make a move if they are unwilling. They can only do so much on their own. Another team has to be willing to make the move.
But it’s not just this one move on its own. It is just another of a long list of failures and bad moves that has followed Fletcher during his tenure. It’s the price he paid to acquire Rasmus Ristolainen and then subsequently sign him to a five-year deal. He’s played well for the Flyers as of late, but not well enough to warrant what he was signed for.
It’s overlooking the defensive issues that Tony DeAngelo has shown over most of his career. He’s helped out a bit on offense, but he’s had plenty of mistakes on the backend. It’s even letting Alain Vigneault stick around an extra year when it was clear things had fizzled out. It led to trading a franchise legend in Claude Giroux because the team was going nowhere. It’s why Fletcher wanted to give van Riemdsyk the chance to compete on a team that had postseason hopes.
But if you ask John Tortorella, the criticism isn’t warranted. At least when it comes to van Riemdsyk.
"”For me, I want it to be legitimate criticism. For you to come out and criticize Chuck for not moving JvR — I guess that’s what’s out there — I don’t get it because he tried like hell, and why wouldn’t we? First of all, out of respect for JVR.”"
Tortorella is going what any coach would do. He is defending the organization with his blatant honesty. And there is no shame in that. The problem is that the criticism isn’t just about that non-move. This is about all of the things listed above and even more that could be brought up. It’s about an organization that has no direction despite claiming what they want to see in their best future.
Tortorella knows that this is going to take some time. He even admitted that before Fletcher finally came to his senses. But again, this is more than just what transpired on Friday. And it’s something that is going to continue to plague this organization if something doesn’t change and change fast.
"”But everything I do is about doing what’s right for the Philadelphia Flyers and not taking shortcuts, and that’s in part why we didn’t make any more deals today. The deals that were presented to me were not good deals for the Philadelphia Flyers. Last summer, being more aggressive was not going to be good for the Philadelphia Flyers. Maybe in the short run it makes me look better, but we don’t want band-aids anymore. We want to build this the right way and we’re committed to doing it. Those are my words, my actions will have to back it up, but we’re committed to doing it.”"
It’s going to take a lot more than words for fans to believe it. Actions, or lack there of, speak a lot more than words at this point.