For the last 15 years, Flyers fans haven’t pictured captain Claude Giroux in a uniform other than an orange and black one. As others came and went, Giroux remained the one constant
In less than a month, that era could come to a close.
Giroux, 34, has said in the past that he would like to be a Flyer for life. He started his NHL career in Philadelphia as a 20-year-old. Since then, he’s gotten married, started a family, and put down roots in the area. This city and franchise are all he’s known as a professional hockey player.
However, as the Flyers flounder near the bottom of the standings, Giroux may prioritize winning his first Stanley Cup over retiring as a lifetime Flyer. Giroux, who is in the final season of an eight-year, $66.2 million contract, is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
The Flyers’ lost season, their not-so-promising future, and Giroux’s contract situation makes him the ideal rental candidate for a contender at the March 21 trade deadline. But there’s a catch.
Giroux has a no-move clause in his contract. If Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher wants to trade him, Giroux must waive it and approve of any destination. Fletcher acknowledged last month that “it’ll be Claude’s decision.”
On March 17 against the Nashville Predators, Giroux is slated to play his 1,000th game as a Flyer. He ranks second in franchise history in games played, behind only Bobby Clarke (1,144). Giroux may want to reach that milestone here, but the longer he and the Flyers wait, the bigger the risk.
Whatever Giroux wants, Fletcher will likely do right by his longest-tenured player.
“He’s our captain, he’s been our best player this year,” Fletcher said last month. “Nobody cares more about the Flyers than he does. I think we have to recognize what we’re dealing with here, he’s a franchise icon, his jersey’s going to be in the rafters, to me he’s a Hall of Fame player.”
What could the Flyers get in return?
When assessing what the Flyers might receive in exchange for Giroux, the first thing to consider is recent player-rental trades.
New York Rangers winger Rick Nash was in the final season of a seven-year deal ($7.8 million AAV) in 2017-18 when he was traded to the Boston Bruins. Nash was 33 at the time and had scored 434 goals and 799 career points.
However, Nash had just 28 points in 60 games at the deadline (sixth on the Rangers). In 47 games this season, Giroux leads the Flyers with 38 points.
Nash was traded in exchange for center Ryan Spooner, winger Matt Beleskey (Bruins retained salary for next two years), 19-year-old prospect Ryan Lindgren, a 2018 first-round pick, and a 2019 seventh-rounder. A record number of first-rounders (five) were shipped off at the 2018 trade deadline and Nash was by no means the top player available.
Both winger Nick Foligno and center Paul Stastny were traded before the deadline in the last years of their contracts at a similar age as Giroux is now. Foligno was 33 in 2021 when the Columbus Blue Jackets pulled off a three-team trade to send him to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Stastny was 32 when the St. Louis Blues traded him to the Winnipeg Jets in 2018.
Neither was the caliber of player that Giroux is now (or ever). Columbus received a first-round pick in 2021 and a fourth in 2022 for Foligno.
“Claude Giroux would seem to command a significant amount more than that,” Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli said of the Foligno trade. “[Given Giroux’s] compete, that consistency, the versatility, the ability to play center or wing for a team in a playoff spot.”
The Blues traded Stastny in exchange for prospect Erik Foley, a conditional first-round pick in 2018, and a conditional fourth in 2020.
This year, more than a month before the trade deadline, the rebuilding Montreal Canadiens set the market when they traded 29-year-old winger Tyler Toffoli to the Calgary Flames in exchange for veteran Tyler Pitlick, 20-year-old prospect Emil Heineman, a first-round pick in 2022, and a fifth in 2023.
Toffoli is in the second season of a four-year deal ($4.25 million AAV) and had 26 points in 37 games played (.70 points per game) compared to Giroux at .79 ppg.
“Toffoli’s a gifted scorer and has been pretty consistent in the 25-goal range, you can sort of pencil him in in that world,” Seravalli said. “Giroux doesn’t have term and he is a little bit older. But in this case, he has a much higher ceiling in terms of what he can bring to a team.”
What sets Giroux apart from these examples is that he’s the best player potentially available at the trade deadline. His value could fluctuate depending on who is available to buyers, how many suitors Giroux has, whether the Flyers are willing to retain salary, and where Giroux wants to go, if he does at all.
Ultimately, a team that would be interested in trading for Giroux would need to have or create the salary-cap space to do so. If Giroux waives his no-move clause as close to the trade deadline as possible and Fletcher facilitates a trade, his cap hit for his new team would be roughly $1.6 million. That amount is his prorated average annual value for the number of days remaining in the season after the deadline.
“I think Claude Giroux is in the first-round-pick-and-top-prospect world,” Seravalli said. “Depending on how salary is retained and if the Flyers are retaining half to make it work for a team, that just increases the value the Flyers could get in return.”
Who might be interested?
The Colorado Avalanche, one team rumored to be interested in Giroux, currently have the league’s top record at 37-10-4.
“It’s been incredible to watch them and they feel like they’re maybe a piece or two away from really being able to achieve their goal for the first time since 2001,” Seravalli said of the Avs.
Last week, Seravalli reported that the Blues may be in the mix for Giroux. Currently second in the Central Division, St. Louis would provide some familiarity to Giroux: head coach Craig Berube and winger Brayden Schenn both spent time with the Flyers.
“They’re a team that’s in contender mode,” Seravalli said. “I think when you hear about the Colorado Avalanche in the Central talking about or potentially pursuing a player like Giroux, not only would you be making your team better if you were able to trade for him if you’re St. Louis, but also be in a spot where you’re preventing him from going to a division rival that you’d likely have to square off with at some point before getting to the West final.”
Just from a stylistic, situational fit, not based on actual reported interest, Servalli noted that the Rangers would be an interesting trade partner for the Flyers. According to The Athletic, the Rangers have shown interest in bringing back J.T. Miller from the Vancouver Canucks. If Miller is on the table, why isn’t Giroux?
“He gives you that versatility that you need, he can play on the wing if you need him to, he can play center, and to slot him in potentially into a top six that already includes Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider and they’ve got the cap space to make it work, they’ve got the picks, they’ve got the prospects to deal from that would make any team interested,” Seravalli said.
“They really might be the best party for the Flyers to trade with, except for the fact that they reside in your division and you’d have to watch Claude Giroux put that jersey on.”
Constructing a deal?
When it comes to trading for Giroux, a first-round pick would likely have to be on the table. The Avalanche sent their 2022 first-round pick to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for goalie Darcy Kuemper, but general manager Joe Sakic said that he would be open to trading the team’s 2023 first-rounder.
Fletcher and Comcast Spectacor chairman Dave Scott have insisted that the team is not in rebuild mode. Is a 2023 first-rounder less appealing than one for 2022? Or is a deeper 2023 draft class worth waiting on?
From a personnel perspective, Seravalli said that the Avalanche don’t appear to be willing to trade impactful current roster players, specifically 2019 first-round selection Alex Newhook, a 21-year-old center who has 20 points in 41 games.
Seravalli said that the Avalanche may be willing to move 2020 first-round pick Justin Barron, who projects as a No. 3 or 4 defenseman.
“Does that move the needle for the Flyers?” Seravalli asked. “How far out does Justin Barron project? So those are sort of the questions that you ask yourself when you’re trying to deal with a team like Colorado.”
The Blues, who are cap-strapped, may possess even fewer pieces that they’d be willing to move. Many of their young stars have relatively low cap hits, including Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas, Ivan Barbashev, and Pavel Buchnevich.
“There aren’t a lot of young guys that could be impact guys that you could see St. Louis wanting to move,” Seravalli said. “They’ve got their  first-round pick, they don’t have a second-round pick. Their prospect base isn’t really as deep as some of the other groups, so there’s not really anyone there that you’d be looking to grab.”
On Monday, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said that the Florida Panthers shouldn’t be counted out, either.
Like the Avs, the Panthers do not have a 2022 first-round pick and would have to be willing to move theirs in 2023. However, Seravalli said that they have several trade pieces, including forward prospects Grigori Denisenko, 21, and Owen Tippett, 23.
“[Tippett’s] a guy that’s had a shoot-first mentality in his career,” Seravalli said. “A noted goal-scorer, yet hasn’t been able to do it at the NHL level in almost 100 games played in a consistent way.”
The Rangers would be “dealing from an embarrassment of riches” to get him, according to Seravalli. While young forwards Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafrenière may be at the center of Rangers trade deadline rumors, Seravalli has his eyes on their deep blue line.
The Rangers’ defense features Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba, and rookie Braden Schneider on the right side, and 21-year-old prospect Zac Jones on the left. How likely is it that general manager Chris Drury would be willing to move a young defenseman like Schneider?
“Teams are interested, obviously being a first-round pick in 2020 and that he’s been able to make an impact in 17 short months and is playing in the NHL, I think teams have taken note,” Seravalli said.