Fletcher: Focus on ‘Energy, Hard Work, Young Players Playing a Bigger Role’
When the NHL trade deadline passed at 3 p.m. on Monday, the Flyers had made two trades. There was plenty more activity around the league. So much so that Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher had the longest wait he’s ever had to complete his final trade call.
That delayed Fletcher’s meeting with the media for over two hours after the deadline. When he did finally meet the media, the message was simple. The Flyers made trades to send Justin Braun to the Rangers for a 2023 third-round pick and Derick Brassard to the Oilers for 2023 fourth-round pick. The rest of the team will focus on providing what was seen on Sunday for the remaining 20 games of the season.
“A lot of what we saw yesterday. Energy, hard work, young players playing a bigger role and getting an opportunity to show what they can do for next year,” Fletcher said. “At some point here, there might be a few more of the young players that might get a chance to play and audition. We want to finish strong. We want to see a little bit more of what we may have going into next season by how players play the rest of the year.”
Part of that is giving a couple of young players the chance to stick in the lineup for the rest of the season. The Flyers did send Cam York and Max Willman to the Phantoms in a paper move to make them eligible to play in the AHL for the remainder of the season and in the Calder Cup Playoffs if the Phantoms make it. That said, York and Willman will be back with the team on Tuesday for the team’s game in Detroit. Morgan Frost and the newly-acquired Owen Tippett were not sent down, meaning they will be with the Flyers for the rest of the season.
“I think there is an opportunity for some of the younger players to gain more experience,” Fletcher said. “For example, I thought Morgan Frost maybe had his best game in a long while last night. It looked like he had fun playing with Tippett. They move the puck. They had some energy. For young players like that to maybe get an opportunity to have a bigger role because Brassard’s not here, or young defensemen that play a little bit more because Braun isn’t here, those are the opportunities that are hard to get sometimes in the regular season. These opportunities are presenting themselves to many players.”
As for the trades made on deadline day, it was pretty anticipated what the Flyers would do. Braun was held out of Sunday’s lineup in anticipation of a trade. Brassard was a pending free agent that was going to be moved if a destination could be found.
“We had been receiving a lot of calls for Justin Braun, so we expected that we would be able to move him. Derick Brassard, a very versatile veteran forward who has played an awful lot of playoff games, I expected we would move him as well,” Fletcher said. “At this point we’re carrying 18 and 2 so I think we were happy moving those two players and picking up a third and fourth-round pick. We have 20 games left to play so I think we’re in a good spot.”
The Flyers did keep pending free agent Martin Jones. Fletcher said the team did receive calls on Jones and had conversations, but also considered the organization’s current goaltending situation with some of their prospect netminders.
“There were some other conversations on a few of the other guys, but nothing really materialized,” Fletcher said. “To be honest with you, [Samuel] Ersson is out for the season. [Kirill] Ustimenko is still battling injuries. [Felix] Sandström is healthy now but has been battling injuries. We wanted to be a little bit careful here when we have 20 games to go and Lehigh Valley is battling for a playoff spot. If there was something meaningful, we would’ve looked at it.”
Obviously, the two moves made on Monday in addition to the trade of Claude Giroux on Saturday were not part of the team’s plan upon entering the season. To be selling players at the deadline to accrue future assets was a disappointment to Fletcher.
Yeah, definitely. Justin gave us three great seasons and gave us everything he had every night. A quality teammate, a quality veteran and a great pick up for the New York Rangers. None of us anticipated being where we are now,” Fletcher said. “We thought we would be a competitive team. The vets were all excited going into this season. I don’t think any of us anticipated being here. Believe me, it hit home a lot earlier than today. When you trade a player like Justin Braun that has been such a great veteran, and again a really solid contribution for our team, it certainly puts it in perspective.”
There were a few other notes Fletcher made in his press conference regarding injuries. The team should get Nate Thompson cleared to play and possibly back in time for Thursday. Scott Laughton continues to recover and still needs to pass tests to be cleared, but is going on the five-game road trip that starts on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Ryan Ellis is officially out for the season. The goal is that he will be ready for next season, as the team considers the options for getting him completely healed.
Fletcher is also not done adding to the organization. The Flyers were able to move multiple players to free up contract spots, five in total in deadline trades. One contract slot was used to sign Phantoms forward Hayden Hodgson to a standard contract, per CapFriendly. The remaining slots will likely go to either college free agents, or college prospects. Fletcher essentially confirmed that 2019 second-round pick Bobby Brink will be signing following University of Denver’s run in the NCAA Tournament, including him among the right wingers in the team’s system. Ronnie Attard and Noah Cates are also candidates to be signed to contracts.
As for the rest of the team, the final 20 games present a tryout of sorts. There will be plenty of time in the offseason to evaluate this final stretch and determine which players will be part of the team next season. For now, Fletcher did say that conversations were mainly focused on the offseason needs and next season in preparing for the deadline to pass today.
“A lot of good conversations. I have a pretty good feel for what teams are looking to do going into the summer,” Fletcher said. “Things will certainly change over the next month or two, but one thing about the trade deadline, maybe with one or two exceptions, you basically speak with every team in the league. You get a good feel for what they’re trying to accomplish.”
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.