Gift No. 2: Surprising Play by the D-Men
The Flyers jettisoned their supposed #1 defenseman, Ivan Provorov, over the offseason so conventional wisdom said that they would get worse in that area. The rearguards who remained to pick up his vacated minutes wouldn't be able to keep up, the experts said.
But the Flyers' defensemen haven't bought into this at all.
Sean Walker, acquired in the three-way trade for Provorov, has been great, playing over 20 minutes per night and rounding back into his pre-injury form that had the Kings high on him a few years ago before his fortunes turned. Now, word on the street is that the Flyers are more likely to try and extend Walker's contract than they are to trade him by the deadline, and you can't really blame them at this point. If he keeps playing like this, the Flyers are going to need a big return to part with him.
Ditto Nick Seeler, who is one of the best bargains in the league at just $800,000. This makes him an attractive trade chip, no doubt, but the Flyers hold all the cards. Even Rasmus Ristolainenhas drawn interest from several teams around the league as he's proven that last year's resurgence wasn't a fluke. The hulking Finn is playing an effectively bruising style on a nightly basis and earning most of his hefty salary. The Flyers may still be inclined to try to shed his contract at some point, but he is proving quite useful.
And then there's Travis Sanheim, who was all but shipped out of town over the summer. Thank you, Torey Krug, for invoking your no-trade clause. Sanheim has been flat-out fantastic, absorbing over 25 minutes per game to easily lead the team and rank fourth overall in the NHL. He's also well on his way to surpassing his career high of 35 points in a season and just might get to double figures in goals for the first time in his career. Quite simply, he's done it all, and it's been excellent to watch.