General manager Chuck Fletcher, addressing the media Monday, said that captain Claude Giroux was virtually the Flyers’ only untouchable, that whether he signs or deals dependable right winger Wayne Simmonds will become clear in a few weeks, and that he hopes to add a player before the Feb. 25 trade deadline who can help them in the long term.
“We could both buy and sell,” he said in a wide-ranging interview after the Flyers’ morning skate at their practice facility in Voorhees.
Entering Monday night’s matchup against visiting Winnipeg, the Flyers have won three straight but are still 14 points out of a playoff spot with 34 games remaining. Fletcher, named the GM on Dec. 3, acknowledged the playoffs are a long shot but said he was still hopeful.
“We’re at a stage where we need a big run here,” he said. “We finished well before the break and we have an opportunity here — six of the next eight are at home — and clearly we need to get a lot of points.”
Fletcher said the Flyers “have good players, [but] we haven’t been a good team. We haven’t defended very well. Our specialty teams have been atrocious, at least in terms of what the numbers say.
“I think we’re killing penalties much better. Our power play — it may sound goofy to say this — it’s been historically unlucky. It’s crazy the number of chances we’ve been able to generate and what we’ve been able to convert on. It’s below any team I’ve ever seen in terms of bad luck.”
Fletcher said he was talking to every team in the league about potential trades. “Whether it’s now or the summer, we need to find some pieces to improve our team,” he said.
“We have a lot of good players here, but I would never say never to almost anybody besides Giroux,” Fletcher said, mindful the Flyers star has a no-trade clause. “… He’s probably one of the best players in the history of the franchise, so I don’t think [asking him to waive his no-trade clause] makes much sense. There’s a lot of guys that don’t make much sense, either, but I can’t say never.”
As for Simmonds, who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, Fletcher has had ongoing discussions with the right winger’s agent. Asked if he had made Simmonds an offer, Fletcher said he didn’t want to get into details.
“The dialogue has been clear,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of respect from our organization to Wayne.”
He said Simmonds’ strong play recently has not affected negotiations from his standpoint.
“Wayne’s a good player. I don’t think he needs to prove anything to us,” Fletcher said, adding there were “different factors” he was considering. “We have lots of holes and a certain amount of money in which to do it with the salary cap. We’re just trying to balance everything and make the right decision.”
Fletcher said interim coach Scott Gordon and his staff were working to improve the defense and the special teams. “You can’t just flip a switch every training camp,”he said. “You have to start building the right habits and playing the right way. Scott’s working hard, and I think we’re making progress.”
Fletcher praised Gordon — “He’s very demanding, but he does it in a very professional way” — but danced around a question on whether there was anything he could do to remove his “interim” tag.
He made it sound as if several moves will be made before next season.
“We can’t keep putting the same players out there and expect different results,” said Fletcher, who implied Phantoms defenseman Phil Myers would be recalled at some point in the season.
Fletcher said that goalie Brian Elliott, who has not played since Nov. 15 because of an apparent groin injury, was making progress and that he would take shots during practices on the team’s coming road trip to New York and Boston. Elliott might play within the next two weeks, Fletcher said.
Carter Hart has become the Flyers’ No. 1 goalie, but he could spend some late-season time with the Phantoms.