Prior to the COVID-19 pause in 2020, the Philadelphia Flyers looked like one of the best teams in the NHL. They had won 9 out of 10 games, including 9 in a row before losing to Boston just before the pause. When the NHL returned to play, the Flyers earned the Eastern Conference’s number one seed and looked poised for a deep playoff run.
The Flyers then went on to win their first playoff series since the 2011-12 season and in the second round, the Flyers mounted a 3-1 series comeback against the New York Islanders before they lost 4-0 in game 7. Despite the loss, the series left a similar impression on many: the Flyers are an elite team and can contend to win a Stanley Cup.
At the start of the 2021 season, this seemed to be the case as the Flyers started 11-4-3. Unfortunately for the Flyers, it’s not how you start it’s how you finish and the Flyers did not finish strong. After the Flyers’ first 18 games, they went 14-19-5 and missed the playoffs. The preseason Stanley Cup contenders were far from the Stanley Cup in 2021 and began making people question if it’s time for a rebuild in Philadelphia.
During the 2021 offseason, GM Chuck Fletcher assured the fans in Philly that they had no intentions of blowing up the roster and made several moves to acquire pieces to improve the roster.
The most substantial move was the acquisition of defenseman Ryan Ellis. Fletcher dealt former 2nd overall pick, Nolan Patrick, along with Phillippe Myers for Ellis. In addition to this trade, the Flyers made a flurry of other moves including acquiring Rasmus Ristolainen from Buffalo and Cam Atkinson from Columbus. With these three moves, the belief in Philly was that they had taken a step towards getting back to the playoffs with a revamped roster. With the Flyers nearing the midpoint of the 2021-22 season, Ellis has played just 4 games, and when or if he’ll return from injury remains unclear.
In addition to this, the Flyers are far from playoff contention and the return of Ellis won’t fix things. The Flyers have not rebounded from their woeful 2021 season like they had hoped and now, the question is: is it time for a rebuild in Philly?
For GM Chuck Fletcher, the answer to this question should be yes.
The current roster is not ready to compete and there are several pieces the Flyers can move for prospects and picks. At the top of the list of movable pieces is the captain and the longest-tenured Flyer on the roster–Claude Giroux.
The proposition of giving away one of the franchise’s greatest players is tough but the reality of the situation is that it is best for both Giroux and the franchise. With the trade deadline set for March 21, the Flyers have roughly two months to either turn their season around or prepare to move several players. Giroux would benefit from the chance to contend for a Stanley Cup somewhere else and with the Flyers’ downward trajectory, it makes sense for the team to acquire prospects and picks for a player that is still competing at a high level.
On top of Giroux, the Flyers have other tradable assets. Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen is set to become a free agent in July and despite the Flyers trading a first-round pick for him last offseason, it makes sense for the Flyers to move him. Ristolainen has just 10 points through his first 38 games and sports a -12 plus-minus which is far from what the Flyers envisioned they’d be getting when they acquired him. Although the stats don’t pop out, Ristolainen is certainly not the sole root of the Flyers’ struggles. There will be a strong market for Ristoalainen that could include teams like the Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, and the New York Rangers. What the Flyers get for Ristolainen will depend on if a team is willing to give up a lot with the uncertainty of re-signing him in the offseason.
Another name for the Flyers that could be on the move is forward Derrick Brassard. Brassard is on a 1-year deal that carries just an $825,000 cap hit. Additionally, Brassard is a veteran forward that can play both center and wing and he has played in 117 playoff games. This season, he’s been productive for the Flyers posting 11 points in the 19 games he’s been healthy for. A team like the Boston Bruins could certainly look to add Brassard to increase its depth at forward.
While there could certainly be more players on the move from Philly, Giroux, Ristolainen, and Brassard stand out as players with the most potential to be moved.
In the midst of a 12-game losing streak, which is tied for the longest winless streak in franchise history, things look bleak in Philadelphia. The Flyers cannot seem to buy a win and look like they will miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season. The last time the Flyers missed the playoffs for consecutive seasons was when they missed they missed the playoffs for 5 straight seasons from 1990 to 1994.
With all this being said, it is clear that it is time for a rebuild in Philadelphia.
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