Fletcher: ‘Very Limited’ Market for Giroux in Trade Talks
Typically, a general manager addresses the media after the trade deadline has passed. When Chuck Fletcher met with the media on Sunday afternoon prior to the Flyers 2-1 win over the Islanders, there was still 27 hours until the trade deadline.
That’s what happens when you trade your captain and a franchise icon.
“It’s been a difficult season to put it mildly. I don’t think neither Claude nor I felt it would ever get to this point,” Fletcher said. “I think we had higher aspirations for this season and we are where we are. It’s been a lot of work the last few weeks and this is where we arrived at.”
Ultimately, the Flyers were left with limited options for where Claude Giroux wanted to go. That is the power that a no-movement clause has in a contract. When Giroux signed his eight-year contract, now in its final year, the intention was for Giroux to be part of a competitive team for its duration. This was not what was envisioned.
“Look, first of all we signed Claude eight years ago to a lengthy, superstar type of contract, which he earned, and as part of that contract he had a no move clause and he earned that right to decide, to have a big say in where he would go, I think is the best way to put it,” Fletcher said. “I did have a very limited market in terms of the teams I could speak with. I spoke with several teams, but not all of those teams I would have been able to complete a deal with. There was a lot of interest in Claude, but it was a very limited market ultimately that I could give him to.”
During the process, Fletcher spoke with Giroux every other day and Giroux’s agent, Pat Brisson, daily. Things evolved from the possibility to Giroux being traded to possibilities of where he wanted to go. Fletcher said multiple times that this process was handled professionally and there was no animosity.
“That was his process and again, he earned that right. I respect it. There was never, ever any animosity or nothing acrimonious,” Fletcher said. Everything was done professionally and as it should be. We just worked with him, and within the limitations we had, we made the deal we did.
“I can tell you that we have a great relationship. I haven’t read any media accounts, to be honest with you, so I don’t know if people are saying anything to the contrary, but there was no acrimony, no animosity at all. We had three great conversations yesterday. This is a great fit for him for now. He’ll have that option like every pending UFA to make that decision this summer. Again, there was no animosity at all. It’s a great relationship and I’m sure he’ll have a lot of options this summer.”
As for the return, the only player coming back in the deal was Owen Tippett, who debuted on Sunday afternoon. Fletcher stated the importance of acquiring an NHL-ready player and added that Tippett is looking for an opportunity for a bigger role.
“That was our first priority,” Fletcher said. “Trying to get a player; we talk about our age distribution all the time internally. We’re trying to build core players under the age of 25 that can play together here for a long time. Getting a player like Tippett instead of an additional pick for example, meant a lot to us because he was a first-round pick and he’s developed now. He’s developed in the American League. He’s developed in Juniors. Time will tell what that means for the NHL but he’s ready to play. That’s exciting for us that he’s a guy that can come in and start to learn and develop. Hopefully in the next year or two, he’ll start to make an impact here.
“Owen’s a talented young player. He’s 23 years old. 10th overall pick in ‘17. He’s a point-per-game player in the American League. I think he was on about a 12-goal pace with the Florida Panthers this year in a more of a limited role. They obviously have a very deep and talented hockey club. It’s a difficult lineup to crack. He’s a young man that’s ready to take this step, ready to play in the NHL. Like every young player, there’s things we’ll have to work on him with and help him develop. His size, speed, skating, shot, he’s got a lot of attributes that we need and he brings youth.”
In addition, the Flyers moved Connor Bunnaman and German Rubtsov. Neither player had much of a future with the Flyers at the NHL level, so this frees up a couple of valuable contract slots. Fletcher said the team would look to add college free agents, perhaps as soon as in the coming days.
The Flyers also got a pair of draft picks in return, including Florida’s 2024 first-round pick. That was an essential part of what the Flyers received back in the deal.
“It was an everyday grind,” Fletcher said. “I commend [Panthers GM] Bill Zito; he was very professional. I think he’s probably happy he doesn’t have to speak to me today. I think it was a long, drawn-out process and they fought hard for what they believed in. We did too. This was a deal that we felt was fair. It took a lot of work on both sides to get there. The first-round pick always has value. I know it’s a couple years out, but that was the reality. They didn’t have their ‘22 or ‘23 first, so we got the best one we could. Teams always want first round picks. It’ll either be a great chip for us in the draft floor, or we can use it as part of a package to get a good player this summer or next summer, whatever the case may be. It gives us more options.”
There were reports that Giroux wanted a handshake agreement of sorts from the Flyers that they would re-sign him in the offseason. Fletcher denied those claims.
“Never. That’s why we were where we were,” Fletcher said. “Last summer we both agreed let’s get through this season. Let’s see where the team’s at. Are we a player away? Are we two players away? What’s the cap situation? I give him a lot of credit. He didn’t want to lock in a number and tie my hands until he kind of knew where we were. Again, I don’t think either one of us anticipated this type of season. That’s what made it necessary to be where we are today. He’s a smart guy. He’s obviously been able to make a lot of money in his career, but he wants to win.”
As for the rest of the deadline, Fletcher is fielding calls on Justin Braun, who was held out of the lineup on Sunday as a precaution. There are other pending free agents like Derick Brassard and Martin Jones who could be on the move as well.
“There’s been a lot of calls on Justin Braun, but a few calls here and there on some other players. The interesting thing about the last few weeks has been that I’ve been able to speak to a lot of teams about different types of ideas and most of them don’t make a lot of sense right now,” Fletcher said. “I think it’s been really good to get an idea of what may be available in the summer. I don’t know how eventful the next 24 hours will be for us, but it’s been a very informative process.
“Again, it’s really the time of the year when you look at your unrestricted free agents when you’re out of it and you try to get as many young assets as you can. I’ve talked to a lot of teams about hockey trades and things like that. Certainly we will do what we can at the deadline. This summer, we’ll do what we can at the draft and we’ll do what we can with free agency and trades. We’re looking at everything, just as we said.”
But for now, it’s about reflecting on Fletcher’s first big move of the deadline, the trade of Giroux. It represents a career that feels wasted, especially over the duration of the eight-year contract signed in 2013, the one that featured the no-movement clause that ultimately limited the market and tied the Flyers hands.
“Yeah, for all of us. It's 1,000 games with the Flyers and I think 900 points or maybe slightly more than that. A long-serving captain of our franchise. He did a lot. He’s certainly upheld his end of the bargain,” Fletcher said. “I know everybody tried. We’ve tried. I’m sure Ron Hextall, Paul Holmgren, everybody tried and we weren’t able to get there at this point in time. That’s the frustration and that’s why we are where we are right now.”