General manager Chuck Fletcher had a busy summer in the trade and free-agent markets, but the season has turned into a nightmare as the punchless Flyers have dropped 10 straight — two shy of equaling the longest losing streak in franchise history.
The Flyers, who have one of the NHL’s oldest teams (their opening-night average age of 29.2 years old was the fourth oldest), are now 8-12-4 and are in danger of missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1992-93 and 1993-94.
As for Fletcher, his roster makeover doesn’t look good thus far, but it’s difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of his changes because of key injuries through the first 24 games.
The Flyers, it is clear, need to get younger and faster. That makes Fletcher’s offseason look even worse because he traded away three high draft picks: a No. 1 and a pair of No. 2s.
Here is a look at Fletcher’s transactions this season and how they have panned out so far:
Grading Fletcher’s moves
Acquired Ryan Ellis by sending Phil Myers and Nolan Patrick to Nashville before Patrick was subsequently dealt to Vegas. Call the evaluation of this trade “incomplete” because Ellis, 30, who has a history of injuries, has been sidelined all but four games. Myers (0 points, plus-2) has played in only nine games and has been a frequent healthy scratch, and Patrick (one goal over four games) has been injured most of the season. Grade as of Thursday: Incomplete.
Acquired defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen in a deal that sent Robert Hägg and two draft picks (first-rounder in 2021, second-rounder in 2023 ) to Buffalo. Ristolainen (5 points, minus-9), a pending unrestricted free agent after the season, has provided some physicality on the back end, but his defensive play has been mediocre and he was an expensive acquisition — way too expensive if the Flyers aren’t able to resign him. Hägg is having a similar year in Buffalo, and the traded draft picks could haunt the Flyers. Grade: D+
Acquired right winger Cam Atkinson by trading right winger Jake Voracek to Columbus. This trade has worked out well for both teams. Atkinson (9 goals, 5 assists, plus-5), though streaky, has given the Flyers a player with a much-needed shoot-first mentality, while Voracek (1 goal, 18 assists, minus-4) has been the Blue Jackets’ best setup man. Grade: B+
Traded Shayne Gostisbehere to Arizona, and the Flyers had to give the Coyotes second- and seventh-round draft picks in 20222 to take him and his $4.5 million annual salary-cap hit. This seemed like a bad trade when it was made and it now seems worse. Much worse. Gostisbehere shares the Coyotes’ lead with 17 points — five on the power play — and his minus-3 rating is actually among the best on the NHL’s worst team. Grade: F
Signed defenseman Keith Yandle as a free agent. Yandle, who has no goals and seven points, was expected to boost the power play, but that hasn’t happened, and his minus-15 rating is one of the worst in the NHL. He probably would have been removed from the lineup by now if he wasn’t chasing the NHL record for consecutive games played. Grade: D
Signed goaltender Martin Jones as a free agent. After a hot start, Jones has looked like the goalie who struggled during the previous three seasons in San Jose. He is 3-4-1 with a 3.41 GAA and a .908 save percentage. Grade: C-
Signed defenseman Nick Seeler as a free agent. Seeler has not produced any points, but he has been serviceable and has provided shot blocking and physical play on the back end. He’s a player who sticks up for his teammates and provides depth. Grade: C+
Signed Nate Thompson as a free agent. He had one goal in 19 games and a minus-8 rating, but helped the penalty kill before requiring shoulder surgery. Grade: Incomplete
Signed Derick Brassard as a free agent. Brassard (11 points, plus-7 rating in 18 games), who returned from an injury Wednesday, filled in nicely while second-line center Kevin Hayes was sidelined, and has been a valuable pickup. He has also helped improve the penalty kill. Grade: B
Claimed center Patrick Brown off waivers from Vegas, and he has one point in nine games. Grade: D
Claimed feisty forward Zack MacEwen off waivers from Vancouver. He has one point, a goal, in 22 games and has provided energy but is minus-10. Grade: D+
Waived right winger Nic Aubé-Kubel, who was claimed by Colorado. He has been much more productive with the Avs than Brown or MacEwen with the Flyers, collecting five points and a plus-3 rating in 11 games and playing with an edge. Grade: D+
Claimed defenseman Kevin Connauton off waivers from Florida. Like Seeler, he is a depth defenseman who won’t move the needle too far. Claimed Tuesday, he has yet to play for the Flyers. Grade: Incomplete
Fletcher spent to the cap and changed the leadership group, but the team is worse than last season — and has lost some valuable draft picks to boot. Some of the Flyers’ problems are because of injuries, some of it is because of a production drop-off from several players who were expected to be part of the team’s core — Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Travis Konecny, James van Riemsdyk, and Oskar Lindblom, who obviously has had extenuating medical issues. The power play is also among the NHL’s worst.
Combined with Sean Couturier’s unexpected struggles, you have a team that looks lost, a team that is getting outworked, a team that needs a total rebuild.