Let’s be honest, when the Flyers acquired Sean Walker as a part of the Ivan Provorov deal, most Flyers fans said, “Who?” Sure, some diehard hockey nuts know every player on every team. For most of us, however, he played for a West Coast team that hasn’t been in the playoffs much recently. The LA Kings only play the Flyers twice a year, so outside of the superstars, most aren’t as familiar with them.
The other thing about Walker is his past. He was an undrafted college player who found a niche as a bottom-pair defender. A series of knee injuries derailed his career, and he was sent packing to Philadelphia in what was essentially a salary dump.
Walker has been one of the best surprises on the Flyers this season. He has been paired up, for the most part, with Nick Seeler and the two have become a very gritty, formidable due together. No, they aren’t flashy. You don’t notice them on most nights. That is, in itself, a good thing because they aren’t making mistakes. The pair is playing very consistently: battling in the corners, blocking shots, moving the puck well, etc. Walker is fourth on the team with 42 blocks (Seeler leads with 70), is fifth on the team with 32 hits doled out, and is third on the team with an average of 21:16 min of ice time, behind Travis Sanheim and Cam York.
This is presenting a fun problem for the team. He is 29 years old and will be a free agent this offseason, as will his defensive linemate. He’s also relatively cheap at just $2,650,000. Because he has had a career resurrection in Philly, people suspect he could be moved this year during the trade deadline for future assets.
One of these people is Darren Dreger of TSN. In his “Insider Trading” column, he discussed defenders that the Toronto Maple Leafs could want as they are facing a need right now at the blue line. With some of the trades they made last year, they don’t have a lot of trade capital to spare (he even suggests they could go for Tony DeAngelo as Carolina is starting to shop him around). In the article, he suggests that Walker, while cheap enough salary-wise, might command “a first-round pick” and Toronto can’t afford that price.
A first-rounder for Walker? Sounds a bit high, right? However, let’s break this down first. There isn’t a single team in the NHL, even the Bruins, that couldn’t acquire a solid defender. They are like bullpen arms in baseball. You can never have too many quality defenders. If they won’t affect your salary cap hit too much, that’s even better.
Walker is 29. Last year, 31 year old Dmitri Orlov cost the Bruins a first-round pick for a short-term rental. Likewise, Ben Chiarot cost the Florida Panthers a first-rounder with a fourth-rounder. The Panthers reached the Stanley Cup finals, while the Bruins didn’t.
To be fair, both Chiarot and Orlov have a longer history of playing well than Walker does. However, Walker has been impressing everyone this season. He's starting to get noticed by a lot of teams and most importantly, their general managers.
I think most of us would hate to see him go right now. However, if he could be cashed in for a first-rounder, I can’t see why Daniel Briere would hesitate. Besides, he’ll be a free agent in June. There is nothing to say he can’t come back. After all, Justin Braun did just that.
For now, Briere will just sit, wait and see what develops. Walker could be traded or re-signed. The Flyers could be in a playoff position and want to buy pieces or out of it and want to sell. Either way, we’ll have to sit and wait to see what will happen.