TAMPA, Fla. — Head coach Alain Vigneault and general manager Chuck Fletcher say the Flyers, as currently constructed, are a playoff team.
“And once you get in, anything can happen,” Vigneault said.
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“We definitely like our team and like the way the team has responded and improved over the course of the year,” Fletcher said before watching the Flyers whip Florida, 6-2, on Thursday. “But it’s a tough division, a tough conference, and we have a lot of work to do.”
That said, both men are not against upgrading the Flyers’ depth at forward. There’s not much time left to do that. The trade deadline is Feb. 24.
“We do like our depth in general, but if there’s a way we can improve our depth up front, we’d look at that just to continue to protect against injuries down the road," Fletcher said.
Fletcher said there’s no sense of urgency to do something. "But we call around and see if there’s value and see if there’s something that makes sense.”
Complicating matters, is the fact the Flyers are projected to have only about $2 million in trade-deadline cap room, according to CapFriendly.com.
With the Flyers having a surplus of defensemen, Shayne Gostisbehere ($4.5 million cap hit) was a prime chip to trade. If included in a deal, his cap hit would enable the Flyers to acquire a quality forward.
But Gostisbehere’s surgically repaired left knee is still bothering him, and it seems unlikely the Flyers will be able to deal him. That will make it much more difficult for the Flyers to fit an expensive forward under the cap.
If Gostisbehere was put on the long-term-injured reserve list, the Flyers would gain cap relief and have enough room to add a pricey forward, but that could create overages that would plague next season’s cap.
In other words, the Flyers’ best chance to improve their forward depth may be if center Nolan Patrick returns from a migraine disorder. Patrick hasn’t played all season but has made significant progress recently and may start practicing with the team regularly as early as Monday.
But if Fletcher somehow can work some cap magic, here are the forwards who are reportedly on the block as the trade deadline approaches:
Chris Kreider, LW, Rangers ($4.6 million cap hit): An unrestricted free agent on July 1, Kreider would be difficult to fit under the cap.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C, Ottawa ($3.1 million cap hit): Another pending UFA, he would be a great addition if Patrick can’t return.
Tyler Toffoli, LW, Los Angeles ($4.6 million cap hit): Fletcher talked with Kings front-office executive Ron Hextall on Thursday in Florida, but it’s not known if Toffoli was the topic. Like Kreider, he’s a pending UFA who is a long shot to wear the orange and black.
Kasperi Kapanen, RW, Toronto ($3.2 million cap hit): He is signed until after the 2021-22 season and would be more than just a rental. Much more.
Ilya Kovalchuk, RW, Montreal ($700,000 cap hit): At 36, he can still score and he would help an inconsistent power play. He’s cheap, too.
Derek Grant, C, Anaheim ($700,000): He isn’t flashy but does a lot of little things that make him valuable, including his work on the penalty kill.
Ondrej Kase, RW, Anaheim ($2.6 million cap hit): A fearless player who gives his team lots of energy, Kase has a 20-goal season on his resume. His brother, David, played six games with the Flyers this season and is now with the Phantoms.
Andreas Athanasiou, LW, Detroit ($3 million cap hit): A 30-goal scorer last season, he has seen his production drop considerably, but the offensive potential is there.
Ryan Donato, LW/C, Minnesota ($1.9 million cap hit): He has a quick release, a high-end shot, and is a responsible two-way player. Oh, and he’s affordable.