Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher has gone into hiding, turning down several interview requests during the last week because he doesn’t want to share any thoughts before Monday’s 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline.
Too busy working the phones. Too busy trying to make the Flyers better. Too busy to rehash the Wayne Simmonds situation.
Simmonds, an unrestricted free agent July 1, is expected to be dealt to the highest bidder. This appears to be the Flyers’ best-case scenario: They land a first-round draft pick and a prospect.
Early Monday, Detroit traded right winger Gustav Nyquist to San Jose for a second-round pick in the 2019 draft and a conditional third-rounder in 2020.
Nyquist was reportedly high on Boston’s wish list, and the Bruins may now turn their sights toward Simmonds.
Michael Raffl, another winger who is a pending free agent, also could be traded Monday.
Veteran goalie Brian Elliott might go, but the injury to rookie Carter Hart complicates things. Hart could miss three more games with an undisclosed injury, and with the Flyers in the playoff race (barely) – they are seven points out with 20 games left – Fletcher may decide to keep Elliott as insurance in case Hart is sidelined longer than expected.
The Flyers do have another veteran goalie, Cam Talbot, so if Fletcher is offered a draft pick for Elliott, he could roll the dice and lean on Talbot.
Fletcher has said he could be a buyer and a seller at the deadline. He won’t go after a rental player – if he did that, he would just keep Simmonds – but wants to acquire someone who is part of their long-term plans.
Minnesota’s Jason Zucker, a 27-year-old left winger who was with the Wild when Fletcher was the GM there and has four years left on his contract ($5.5 million per year), fits that description. Ditto Anaheim center Adam Henrique, 29, who has five years remaining on his deal ($5.8 million per year).
Ottawa forward Mark Stone is a player who would enhance the Flyers. Like Simmonds, he is a prospective UFA, but if Ottawa allows it, the Flyers could negotiate a possible extension before making a deal.
Fletcher has some young defensemen and draft picks he could move.
The GM has also said he may have to wait until the summer before a (non-Simmonds) deal comes to fruition.
“I don’t know that the trade deadline is always the most opportune time to make moves,” he said last month.
It would be shocking, however, if Simmonds wasn’t dealt. Negotiations between Simmonds’ agent, Eustace King, and Fletcher have not progressed. Barring a last-minute deal, Fletcher will trade the popular right winger.
After the Flyers scored three late goals to register a 4-3 overtime win over Pittsburgh on Saturday, Jake Voracek handed Simmonds the player of the game helmet.
“Simmy, whatever happens, we love you,” Voracek said. “Hopefully, you’re going to stay around.”
Simmonds, 30, who has a 12-team no-trade clause in his contract, hugged Voracek.
“… That was an unbelievable game, boys,” Simmonds told his teammates in the locker room. “It’s been an honor and pleasure. Hopefully, I’m still here. Either way, boys, keep making this push. Keep our hopes alive and our dreams alive. Let’s get ‘em next game Tuesday, fellas.”
Based on what he observed when he was the GM with Minnesota, Fletcher said he has tremendous respect for Simmonds and what he has meant to the Flyers over the last eight years. It’s not just the 25 to 30 goals he usually scores, but also the way he defends his teammates and the way he alters games with his physicality.
Last month, Fletcher said he would not allow Simmonds to reach free agency without getting something in return – as the Islanders did last year with John Tavares.
“That won’t happen,” Fletcher told the Inquirer. “The goal would be to either have him signed or moved by the trade deadline.”
The deadline is here. The clock is ticking.