When the Winnipeg Jets were unceremoniously bounced from the Stanley Cup Playoffs last week in five games by the Vegas Golden Knights, Jets coach Rick Bowness excoriated his team about their lack of pushback, using the word “disgusted”. It certainly seemed like the final straw for a team in need of a big shakeup. Enter the Philadelphia Flyers, perhaps?
Given the fact that Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has already thrown his endorsement behind Bowness to return to the Jets’ bench next year, it has become crystal clear that Winnipeg’s core is about to be taken apart. And the Flyers, among other potential suitors, should take an interest. Granted, the Flyers are not in a position to pry away the kind of assets from Winnipeg that would fast track a rebuild in Philadelphia, but there are intriguing pieces nonetheless.
The most obvious candidate for this exercise is the Jets’ former captain, Blake Wheeler, who was stripped of his “C” by Bowness before this past season. The hulking, 36-year old winger has just one year left on his contract and has been with the Jets organization since their time as the Atlanta Thrashers. It is long past time for him to move on, and the Flyers could provide a great stage for him.
The Winnipeg Jets might offer several intriguing trade pieces for the Philadelphia Flyers.
With rumors being thrown around that the Flyers could entice someone into a deal for Ryan Ellis and the Long-Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) relief that he offers, Wheeler could use Philly as a showcase for potential contenders later in the season. Even in a partial season with the Flyers, his experience and leadership could rub off in all the right ways on younger players, with the Flyers then being able to recoup some valuable trade pieces by swapping Wheeler at or before the deadline. It would be a win across the board, provided Wheeler didn’t suffer an injury or see his production fall off a cliff.
If Wheeler doesn’t interest you, how about Mark Scheifele? Coming off a career-high 42-goal season, Scheifele would add some instant credibility to the Flyers’ offense, which has been sorely lacking for years. Downsides, however, include Scheifele’s contract also expiring at the end of 2023-24 and his reputation as a one-way player, which would almost assuredly drive John Tortorella insane. Scheifele to the Flyers is likely a pipe dream, but it’s nice to at least entertain the idea of having dynamic offense around these parts again sometime soon.
With Winnipeg needing to take a hard look and consider moving anything that’s not nailed down, perhaps even Nikolaj Ehlers could be had. The talented winger has two seasons remaining on his contract, which would provide some hope to the Flyers for long-term retention if he proves to be a good fit. Ehlers has scored at nearly a point per game pace over the past four seasons (197 pts in 225 GP, 0.88 PPG), but health has been a concern.
The dreaded “upper body injury” kept him out of action at the end of this season, although it was said that he was not dealing with a concussion. Assuming he can get back to 100%, perhaps now represents a “buy low” point for the Flyers to inject some talent into their forward corps.
There are numerous other names to mention, but we’ll also give a brief nod to the blueline, where both Brenden Dillon and Dylan DeMelo are entering the final year of reasonable contracts. With Justin Braun’s retirement, either could serve as a suitable veteran stopgaps until a younger D-man or two is ready, and can then be dealt at the deadline. Teams love to overpay for veteran defensemen before the playoffs; the Flyers can try to get ahead of the game.
It remains to be seen if the Flyers venture into the trade market at all or if they will be content with standing pat and simply making a few signings for roster depth. Similarly, other than the LTIR of Ellis, we can’t be sure what assets the Flyers would be willing to part with at this juncture. But Danny Briere and company should take a long, hard look at Winnipeg and try to take advantage of another team’s undesirable situation so that the Flyers can start digging themselves out of their own.