With chatter surrounding the Flyers leading up to the trade deadline as loud as it is, interim coach Mike Yeo is well-aware that the locker room can’t plug their ears and completely tune out the rumors.
The Flyers are poised to be a seller and have a handful of players on the trade block as the March 21 deadline looms, including captain Claude Giroux, who has been the face of the franchise for over a decade. Next month, the makeup of the team could look drastically different, and its most important player could be wearing a different jersey for the first time in his career.
“A guy like G [Giroux], you can tell how much it’s weighing on him,” Yeo said. “And there’s other guys, obviously, that they’re aware of what’s going on. They know if their name’s in the mix or if there’s rumors or whatever the case is. They’re human beings. You have to remember, most of these guys that we’re talking about have families, have kids, have homes here.
“All you can do is try to be supportive. Try to encourage them, get them focused on tonight’s game and not think about the big picture. But it’s not an easy thing to do, that’s for sure.”
For most of the Flyers, including winger Oskar Lindblom, this isn’t their first experience dealing with the stress of the trade deadline. When it comes to Giroux and his approach to each game, Lindblom said he’s as level-headed as ever.
“He’s, of course, the core of the team,” Lindblom said. “But he’s always a steady guy. He, even if he’s not playing well or if he’s playing great, he’s always at the same level. Can’t really tell if he’s really happy or really down for a day.”
Yeo said that Giroux’s uncertain future weighs on the team in different ways. Naturally, his peers are concerned about “what they might lose” in Giroux as a friend and a teammate if he gets traded. On the flip side, Giroux’s absence would create opportunities for other players at the top of the lineup and on the first power-play unit.
“I do think that players look at both sides of it, but no question, if he were to be moved, his presence in this locker room and with this group, that would be felt, because he’s a fantastic teammate, let’s just put it that way,” Yeo said. “He’s a fantastic teammate, fantastic person and obviously a great player.”
The boy is Jack in town
The last time Jack Eichel played at the Wells Fargo Center was on Jan. 19, 2021. At the time, he was the captain of the Buffalo Sabres and Flyers defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen was his teammate.
A lot has changed since then. Eichel is now a member of the Vegas Golden Knights (32-21-4), who visit the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday for the first time since Oct. 21, 2019. Ristolainen was traded to the Flyers in the offseason.
The Sabres sent Eichel to the Golden Knights on Nov. 4, 2021 after the two parties disagreed as to how Eichel should treat a neck injury that limited him to 21 games last season. Shortly after the trade, Eichel underwent artificial disk replacement surgery and made his return to game action on Feb. 16.
The Flyers, who beat the Golden Knights on the road on Dec. 10, did not face off against Eichel.
“He looks as dangerous as ever for me,” Yeo said. “And so always a great challenge going up and trying to shut down a player like that of that ability.”
In nine games played this season, Eichel has three goals and three assists. Most recently on March 6 against the Ottawa Senators, Eichel scored the game-winning goal with 5.2 seconds remaining in the third period.
“He’s got the ability to win any match up that he’s got,” Yeo said. “Now you’ve got a guy who maybe was playing in a first line role sliding down and playing against a second or third D-pairing, and likewise with lines. So just makes them a much deeper, much stronger team than they already were.”
Connauton returns to practice
As Yeo said on Monday, defenseman Kevin Connauton participated in morning skate on Tuesday. Connauton took a hit from behind to the head against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday in the third period, went back to the locker room, and did not return.
“We’ll see how he responds to the skate today,” Yeo said. “But obviously good news that he’s able to get out there. He felt good yesterday. So hopefully he’s going to be cleared to play.”
Yeo did not provide a timeline for Connauton’s return to the lineup. He will not play against the Golden Knights on Tuesday.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, the Philadelphia Flyers will host the Philadelphia Liberties Women’s Hockey Program at tonight’s game. ... Emily Esposito, a member of the Liberties’ U16 team and a Learn to Skate coaching assistant, will perform the ceremonial puck drop.