The Flyers are certainly facing an unexpected situation. The team that was widely believed to have no shot at the playoffs and more of a chance for a lottery pick in the upcoming NHL Draft is instead holding a playoff spot into the final quarter of the season.

This week, though, has brought on additional challenges.

For one, the team is currently playing without their leading scorer and one of their top young defensemen. While there’s a chance that Travis Konecny will be back in the lineup within the week, Jamie Drysdale’s status is very much up in the air for the remainder of the season.

What that has resulted in, over the last few weeks, is a 3-4-1 record over the previous seven games. The three wins have come against the Chicago Blackhawks, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Ottawa Senators. The overtime loss came to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The four regulation losses have all been to Metropolitan Division foes: the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals.

That has allowed the Metropolitan Division to remain close. As of Monday morning, the Flyers hold a five-point advantage on the fourth-place New York Islanders.

With all of this in mind, the Flyers have maintained the same message vocally. This season is still about the long-term rebuilding plan, regardless of what the standings say. But actions speak louder than words, and this week’s actions could speak volumes.

The Flyers don’t have to do much of anything with the forward group. There have been young players that have shown signs of promise – Joel Farabee’s production early in the season, Konecny’s blossoming leadership role, Tyson Foerster showing he has NHL capability. And among the veterans, Scott Laughton’s name has really been the only one to enter trade conversation.

With two years remaining on his contract, there’s no pressure to trade Laughton now. If the Flyers don’t get the value they feel Laughton is worth, the window to make a move doesn’t end on Friday.

In addition to Laughton, the team can also evaluate other veterans and what their future may be in the offseason. Cam Atkinson has one season remaining on his contract and Nick Deslauriers has two seasons remaining. If neither is moved via trade, which is unlikely, a buyout could certainly be an option to open up roster spots for younger players down the road.

It’s on defense where the Flyers face a bigger dilemma. They have three expiring contracts on the blue line with Sean Walker, Nick Seeler, and Marc Staal. In addition to being down Drysdale, they are also down Rasmus Ristolainen, with return timetables in the week-to-week category.

If the focus is solely on this season and making the playoffs, then selling any of those expiring contracts leaves a hole in the lineup.

That said, the messaging all year has been about the rebuild and the future. If the team were to move one or two of the defensemen on expiring deals, there would be room to look to the future from the minors and bring up players for the remainder of the season. There would be opportunity to add assets in return. It would speak volumes to the commitment of focusing beyond this season.

That’s why this week is critical for Danny Briere and company. As much as Briere should be diligent in getting the value he feels players are worth, the situation also dictates that you can show just how committed to the rebuild you are. It only goes further if the Flyers don’t just retain the players on expiring contracts, but also look to extend them, especially on longer-term deals.

The Flyers “New Era” front office has handled the season well for the most part. They have brought interest back to the Flyers. The team is playing better, and Briere has been quick on his feet with the Cutter Gauthier situation and getting ahead on contracts for potential core players down the road.

But that is only half of this rebuild process. And with the deadline approaching, it puts a countdown on the decision-making process.

Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN. Follow him on social media @Kevin_Durso.

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