January 8, 2019 | 9:58pm ET
By Anthony Di Marco, The Fourth Period
FLYERS’ CORE COULD BE SHAKEN UP
Wayne Simmonds, forward
MONTREAL, QC -- Forty-two games have gone by in the 2018-19 season for the Philadelphia Flyers. A fired General Manager, a coaching change and (tonight, in Game 43) an NHL record-tying seven goaltenders have all taken center stage on the season over that span.
The end result: a record of 15-21-6; good for dead last in the Metropolitan Division and second last in the Eastern Conference.
Currently riding a seven-game losing streak, the Flyers’ most recent stretch of disastrous play has taught us one thing: the problems go well beyond the club’s management and the voice behind the bench.
The Flyers’ core has been together for quite some time. Claude Giroux has been a full time member of the Flyers since 2009, while Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier joined him in 2011. Collectively, the four forwards have made up the core of the Flyers roster for the better part of a decade. Seeing as how 75% of those names were acquired in trades for the former faces of the franchise (then-captain Mike Richards and Jeff Carter), it is hardly shocking that this has been the case.
But without a playoff series win in close to seven years and the club on pace to miss the playoffs for the fourth time in seven years, changes seem to be imminently on the way.
That being aid, it seems extremely unlikely Giroux or Couturier will be moved in the near future.
Giroux, 30, has been the team captain since 2013, and has been the Flyers’ most productive player over the last 15 months. Dating back to the beginning of last season, Giroux has compiled 148 points in 124 regular season games.
As for Couturier, the 26-year-old just hit his stride last season, setting career highs in goals (31) and points (76). While his numbers are not quite as impressive this year (29 points through 40 games), Couturier remains an integral part of the club’s future.
Simmonds, 30, and Voracek, 29, are different stories.
Simmonds, who ranks fourth on the TFP Top 30 Trade Watch List, has been at the heart of trade rumours dating back to last season. He is in the final year of his contract, which carries an AAV of $3.9 million. Given Simmonds’ impressive resume, five years of 24 goals or more including two 30 goal seasons, there is a strong reason to believe that he will be in the hunt for a big time contract. The Flyers are not in a position to give out such a deal to a player on the wrong side of 30. With young forwards Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny due new contracts over the next 18 months, along with the team being in no position to contend for a championship, the fit isn’t there.
Simmonds’ services will be highly sought after from now until the trade deadline by teams looking to contend for a Stanley Cup.
On TSN1050 in Toronto during the “Leafs Lunch” segment on Tuesday, the Boston Bruins, Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs and Nashville Predators were all mentioned as teams that could have interest in Simmonds leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline, according to play-by-play commentator Gord Miller and NHL Insider Darren Dreger. A bidding war could take place for Simmonds amongst the league’s best clubs, which would bode extremely well for Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher in terms of a return.
As far as Voracek goes, a trade to move the Czech right-wing would be way more complicated.
He is coming off of his best offensive season (85 points) in 2017-18. He has reached the 80-point plateau one other time in his career, back in 2014-15 (81 points). The difficulty in moving Voracek is his contract. Despite him being a proven top-line player, Voracek’s cap hit of $8.25 until 2024 doesn’t make him especially attractable to other clubs.
The two most comparable contracts to Voracek are that of Phil Kessel (eight years, $64 million) and Steven Stamkos (eight years, $68 million). Kessel, 31, is a six-time 30-goal scorer and is poised to hit that mark again this season having already scored 17. Stamkos, 28, is a five-time 30-goal scorer, along with three seasons of 40 or more and is on pace (currently with 47) to reach 90 points for the second consecutive year.
Voracek is on pace for 60 points this season, which is vastly underperforming in terms of his contract. The argument could be made that Voracek would be significantly more productive on a winning team, which would likely be the case. Time will tell if a team is willing to bite on Voracek’s deal, but it will no doubt be a tough move to make for Fletcher and one more likely in the offseason.
As the Flyers enter the latter half of the season, sitting 14 points back of a playoff spot going into Tuesday night’s action, the writing for the balance of this season is on the wall.
The chances of the team making the playoffs are extremely unlikely (at best), and changes to the current core are evidently needed. Fletcher will be looking to shake things up between now and next season, and the first dominoes could begin falling with the team’s core players.