Eight months ago, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher attempted to bolster the team with a handful of veteran free-agent acquisitions and signings. The Flyers started the season well, going 6-2-2 through their first 10 games. For captain Claude Giroux, the team was trending in the right direction in his contract year.
Then the injuries hit. More than halfway through the season, the Flyers are missing nine players, including top-pairing defenseman Ryan Ellis (lower body), top-line center Sean Couturier (back), and second-line center Kevin Hayes (lower body).
Without these key players, the 15-24-9 Flyers fell down the standings, decreasing the likelihood that Giroux signs an extension in the offseason and increasing the probability that Fletcher seeks permission to move him before the March 21 trade deadline.
“To be honest, I haven’t talked to Chuck yet about any of this,” Giroux said Wednesday. “I’m sure we will at one point. But right now, I’m committed to this team and start winning some hockey games and keep working as a team here.”
While Giroux may not be directly communicating with Fletcher about his own future, his agent, Pat Brisson, is responsible for driving those conversations with the Flyers front office. According to Daily Faceoff, Giroux is in the process of working with Brisson to gauge interest among potential trade partners, including the St. Louis Blues.
If Fletcher aspires to trade Giroux in exchange for prospects and draft capital, he’ll have to ask Giroux to waive his no-movement clause. As a result, Giroux has the final say over his potential next destination.
Giroux has said several times that he wants to be a Flyer for life. But as the 34-year-old seeks his first Stanley Cup, the choice to stay in Philadelphia appears less likely given the state of the struggling Flyers.
For now, Giroux is still a Flyer. He’s committed to motivating his teammates as they look for their first win following the All-Star break when they take on the Washington Capitals at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night.
“The organization here, it’s been great for me,” Giroux said. “The last 14 years, they treated me the right way. I had the chance to play with a lot of great players and had great coaches. And I feel it’s an honor to be — to have been a Flyer this long.”
Mayhew to return
After missing Tuesday’s overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins with a swollen eye, winger Gerry Mayhew is expected to return against the Capitals. Mayhew crashed into the boards Saturday in Detroit, suffering a cut near his eye that required stitches.
Mayhew, who has scored three goals in 14 games, plays with a sense of assertiveness that interim head coach Mike Yeo wants to see more of from his bottom-six forwards.
“Getting Gerry back I think will help, because he’s a guy that seems to want to drive the play,” Yeo said. “I like the way he was playing before he came out of the lineup.”
Meanwhile, defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (upper-body) and forwards Hayes and Patrick Brown (knee) participated in practice Wednesday. Although all three will be out of the lineup Thursday, Yeo is pleased with their progress.
The team’s medical staff tentatively circled March 1 as the date to make a decision on whether Hayes will return to action this season. Seeing as Hayes underwent multiple surgeries in the past year, the Flyers are approaching the situation with caution.
“There’s a very strong awareness of the importance of him being ready for next year and being in good health for next year,” Yeo said. “If that means that he should do something right now, then obviously the organization’s going to be aware of that. If he can come back and play and maybe that helps him for next year, then the organization’s going to be aware of that. I think, for me, personally, I just listen to the people around me. And if he’s available, I’d love to have him play.”
Flyers backup goalie Martin Jones (17 games, 3.56 goals-against average, .901 save percentage) will get the start in net Thursday. Jones hasn’t played since Jan. 25. “This is a veteran goalie that we’re dealing with here, too,” Yeo said. “So he has a pretty good foundation, a pretty good understanding of what his game is and what it needs to be. So shouldn’t be an issue for Jonesy.”