In a roundabout way, the Flyers traded Wayne Simmonds for Tyler Pitlick.
Considering their salaries, their ages, and their production, it’s been a winning deal for the Flyers.
Pitlick, 28, a right winger who has a $1 million salary-cap hit, has produced six goals, 16 points and a plus-5 rating. He leads Flyers forwards with 108 hits in 54 games and has blocked 34 shots.
Heading into Wednesday’s action, Simmonds, 31, who has a $5 million cap hit, had seven goals, 23 points and a minus-16 rating for New Jersey. Simmonds had 126 hits and 25 blocked shots in 59 games.
The Flyers dealt Simmonds to Nashville last season for Ryan Hartman and a fourth-round draft pick in 2020. Last summer, they traded Hartman to Dallas for Pitlick.
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With the Flyers, Simmonds was a quintessential leader who wore his heart on his sleeve, defended his teammates, and was an outstanding goal scorer. That said, the veteran right winger is clearly on the downside of his career.
Pitlick, meanwhile, isn’t the flashiest of players, but he plays with an edge, has good speed, and does a lot of little things to help you win games.
When the Flyers acquired him, they saw him as a fourth-line winger. But because of injuries — and because of his production — he has been elevated to the third line, fitting in well with center Scott Laughton and left winger James van Riemsdyk.
“He’s taken advantage of the opportunity,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “With Oskar [Lindblom] and Nolan Patrick not here, it forced us to try different players in different situations and we slotted him in as a fourth-line player at the beginning of the year, with some penalty-killing time, and he’s obviously played well and he’s getting more minutes.”
Understandably, Pitlick got off to a slow start. It’s understandable because he missed all of training camp as he recovered from surgery on his left wrist, but still played in the season opener against Chicago in Prague.
“It was tough missing training camp," Pitlick said. “You can do as much as you can away from the team, but it’s not the same as being around the guys and learning the systems in the preseason games.”
Showing some rustiness, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Pitlick didn’t score a goal in his first 14 games. Since then, he has six goals in 40 games, has supplied solid penalty killing, and has given the team energy with his hard work along the boards.
Pitlick, selected by Edmonton in the second round (32nd overall) of the 2010 draft, believes he is playing as well as when he had his best season — 14 goals with Dallas in 2017-18.
“I’m very happy with where I’m at. I love the guys I’m playing with. I think we complement each other well,” said Pitlick, who can become an unrestricted free agent after this season. “We just get on the forecheck and make it hard for teams to get out of their zone, so I think it’s working.”
At 22, feisty right winger Travis Konecny has become one of the Flyers’ most dynamic players.
Konecny goes into Thursday’s game with 20 goals — his personal best is 24 — and already has a career-high 51 points. There are 22 games left and he is on pace for 70 points.
Here, according to NHL stats, is how Konecny ranks among players in Flyers history who scored the most career points before they turned 23:
1. Eric Lindros: 327 points (225 GP, 153 goals, 174 assists).
2. Peter Zezel: 243 points (284 GP, 87-156).
3. Brian Propp: 212 points (216 GP, 95-117).
4. Bill Barber: 204 points (223 GP, 98-106).
5. Simon Gagne: 197 points (270 GP, 87-110).
6. Bobby Clarke: 190 points (231 GP, 77-113).
7. Travis Konecny: 175 points (290 GP, 79-96).
8. Ron Sutter: 174 points (257 GP, 60-114).
9. Murray Craven: 164 points (235 GP, 66-98).
10. Rod Brind’Amour: 163 points (161 GP, 70-93). '
Thursday: at Columbus, 7 p.m. (NBCSP). The Blue Jackets, who are averaging just 2.56 goals per game (28th in the NHL), have lost six straight and the obnoxious cannon has been relatively silent recently.
Saturday: vs. Winnipeg, 1 p.m. (NBCSP). The Flyers will try to pay back the Jets for an early-season 7-3 loss.
Monday: Trade deadline, 3 p.m. Will GM Chuck Fletcher bring back Jeff Carter? Should he?
Tuesday: vs. San Jose, 7 p.m. (NBCSP). The Sharks, who are injury-riddled, are another Western Conference team that trounced the Flyers earlier this season, posting a 6-1 home win against Carter Hart on Dec. 28.
Friday, Feb. 28: vs. N.Y. Rangers, 7 p.m. (NBCSP). The first of back-to-back games against the Blueshirts, who dropped a 5-1 decision to the Flyers on Dec. 23. Former Ranger Kevin Hayes and Travis Sanheim each scored a pair of goals..
Sunday, March 1: at N.Y. Rangers, noon (NBC). The Blueshirts are lurking within playoff range. Barely.
Question: Do you think the Flyers need to acquire a tougher player at the trade deadline at minimum? TK (Konecny), JVR (van Riemsdyk) and G (Claude Giroux) have been roughed up by opposing teams and no one has answered or retaliated for us. I’m starting to think other teams are seeing that. — HG (@Cheezz_iT) via Twitter
Answer: Thanks for the question, HG. Adding a physical player who is talented certainly wouldn’t hurt, but I don’t think it’s necessary. The Flyers have a good mix of talent (Konecny, Sean Couturier, Giroux, Jake Voracek, etc.) and grit (Robert Hagg, Pitlick, Laughton) and they have been able to handle physical teams this season. See their wins against Boston, St. Louis, and Washington, among others.