If the right trade presents itself, do not be surprised if the Flyers deal their No. 1 pick in this month’s draft.
The Flyers have the No. 11 overall selection, and general manager Chuck Fletcher is not against trading it.
“It’s early to be putting the odds on that happening,” said Fletcher, whose team has nine picks in the seven-round draft on June 21 and 22 in Vancouver. “This is the time of year you have more detailed and in-depth conversations with other general managers. We’d certainly consider trading our pick if can get a good player. I don’t think we’re looking to trade the 11th overall pick for a 31-year-old player with one year left on his deal, but if we can get a good player at the right stage of his career and with some term left on his contact, we’d certainly look at it.”
One such player is Toronto center Nazem Kadri, though the Flyers’ interest in him might diminish if they are able to sign center Kevin Hayes, a pending unrestricted free agent who was acquired Monday night from Winnipeg.
Kadri has three years left on a contract with an annual $4.5 million cap hit. His trade value is lower because he slumped to 16 goals last season and, for the second straight year, hurt the Maple Leafs by getting suspended during the playoffs.
But Kadri, who will turn 29 on Oct. 6, had back-to-back 32-goal seasons in his previous two years, and he would fit nicely as the Flyers’ No. 2 center. Selected No. 7 overall in the 2009 draft, Kadri plays with an edge.
Winnipeg defenseman Jacob Trouba, Toronto center William Nylander, and two players from Fletcher’s former Minnesota team, left winger Jason Zucker and defenseman Jared Spurgeon, are among other players who might entice the Flyers to include their top pick in a trade package.
Fletcher won’t talk in specifics about players he is pursuing.
“I’ve traded first-round picks before,” he said. “They’re a lot easier to trade [from the dealer’s perspective] when you’re picking 22, 23, or 24 than we are at 11. Again, we anticipate some very good prospects still being on the board at 11.”
That said, he is hopeful some GMs give him “something to consider” and make offers for the pick.
If Fletcher keeps the first pick, he expects to get a player who will eventually play on the top two lines or the top two defensive pairings.
Center Jack Hughes and right winger Kaapo Kakko are expected to be the first two players selected in a strong first round.
After that, it’s a great mystery as to where the players will be chosen. Some teams are thought to have defenseman Bowen Byram as the No. 3 pick, while some have him ranked much later. The same goes for right winger Vasili Podkolzin.
“We may have a chance at No. 11, assuming we keep the pick, to draft a player that we have rated at six, seven, or eight,” Fletcher said. “We feel we’re going to end up with a top-10 pick, in terms of the way we rate players. The expectation is that you’re going to get a top-six forward or a top-four defenseman down the road and help your club, so certainly we’re excited about that.”
If the Flyers keep their top pick, Fletcher said that they will select “the best player available, the player with the best upside,” and that he will not draft for a specific position in the first round. As the draft continues, particularly in the middle to late rounds, he may lean toward drafting for need.
Among the intriguing players who might be available at No. 11: Podkolzin, whose stock appears to have dipped a bit; left winger Matthew Boldy; centers Alex Turcotte, Peyton Krebs, and Alex Newhook; right wingers Cole Caufield, Raphael Lavoie, and Arthur Kaliyev; and defenseman Victor Soderstrom.
Fletcher spent last week in Buffalo at the scouting combine. The players, many of whom he interviewed, were tested in 18 physical-fitness categories. Defenseman Jayden Struble, projected as a second-round pick, finished first in five of the tests.
“Obviously, if a guy does really well or really poorly, that can tell you different things,” Fletcher said. “But the main thing we want Chris [Osmond, the Flyers’ strength and conditioning coach] to look at is to try to get a sense of their body type. Are they fully developed? Are they still young and developing? We’re looking to see who can put strength on. Typically, if a player is still developing, that means they can still get stronger, they can still get faster, which can be a good thing. Sometimes, players are fully developed, in which case, you have to put that into context.”