It seems a bit silly to think that the signing of a 24 year old who was “only” playing in the second-best league in Sweden might affect what the Flyers choose to do with some of their other young players; namely Matt Read, Brayden Schenn, and Sean Couturier. However, I can’t help but wonder if this means the Flyers would consider trading one of their young forwards. I know I’m not alone, as Charlie O’Connor of The Hockey Guys recently expressed a similar thought.
First and foremost, I’d like to state that this is purely my opinion and there is no definitive information that might indicate this might happen. It is not my intention to start any rumors, but rather to share some of my recent thoughts.
I believe that the Flyers’ present and future cap problems, their history of impatience, their draft tendencies, and now the signing of Michael Raffl might mean it makes some sense to trade Read, Schenn, or Couturier.
By now, most everyone is aware of the cap issues that await the Flyers, specifically in 2014-2015. Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, and Sean Couturier are all Restricted Free Agents (RFA), while Matt Read will be unrestricted (this is not even a comprehensive list of their free agents). They currently have 14 players signed through that season, so they’d have to sign ~8 other players with a little under $18 million on a $64.3 million cap (that will certainly rise some). There is obviously some concern there. I personally have thought for some time now that Matt Read may have to get traded simply because they can’t afford to keep him.
When the Flyers started winning some games towards the end of this season, their chances at obtaining an impact defenseman, such as Seth Jones, dwindled. They ultimately ended up with the 11th pick in the draft.
If you consider how difficult it is to draft and develop defenseman and then look at the Flyers past successes in drafting forwards (Zubrus, Gagne, Williams, Carter, Richards, Downie, Giroux, JVR, Couturier, Laughton), I can’t help but wonder if they opt to go for another forward.
It’s no secret that the Flyers’ biggest need is on the blueline. But with a supremely weak free agent market, and it being highly unlikely that a drafted defenseman can step in immediately how can you fix it?
The Flyers are not a patient franchise. They need help now and when forwards are SO much more likely to make an impact as an 18 year old, combined with the franchise’s success at drafting them, maybe they opt for one.
Impatience + past success drafting forwards + unlikelihood of defense helping now, could = drafting another forward
That would mean the Flyers’ only remedy for their defense would be trading for an impact defenseman. Almost every trade conversation that arises with the Flyers involves three names: Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, or Matt Read.
Theoretically, if you could trade Couturier in a package (notice I said package…I do not believe Couturier himself would make it work) for Alex Pietrangelo; and then draft a “new Couturier”, you might be better off. (The same logic would apply to either Schenn or Read as well.)
Sean Monahan has been compared to Sean Couturier by our Tom Z and others. Frankly, it’s probably a longshot that he lasts until 11, but just as an example, what if he (or someone comparable) did?
You are Ed Snider, a seemingly impatient owner, of an impatient franchise. What is going to help you win right NOW?
Sean Couturier and Rasmus Ristolainen (who, while a prospect I like, is unlikely to make much of an impact on defense as an 18 year old).
Alex Pietrangelo and Sean Monahan (or Hunter Shinkaruk or Valeri Nichushkin or others)?
Then consider that the Flyers sign a touted 24 year old in Michael Raffl. Quite a few people felt he may need some AHL seasoning, however Chris Pryor, Flyers’ Director of Hockey Operations stated the Flyers think he is NHL ready.
“He’s a good player, who we think can be NHL ready,” Pryor told Anthony SanFilippo. “There’s going to be a learning curve, but he’s got enough in his game to be able to make that adjustment rather quickly.”
If you are confident that Raffl can step into the lineup right away, and if you are confident you can draft a forward that can help you now, why wouldn’t you trade a current, soon-to-be expensive forward for defensive help? You seemingly already have, or can easily draft, a significantly cheaper replacement.
I just can’t help but wonder if the Flyers’ impatience, their cap issues, their success at drafting forwards, the difficulty of drafting defenseman, and the seemingly NHL readiness of Michael Raffl might mean the Flyers seriously consider moving a young forward for established help on the blueline.