Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day; Neither Will the Flyers
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither will the Philadelphia Flyers in the rebuild they are entering.
That was evident by the happenings over the weekend that led to Tuesday’s final result, a trade of forward Kevin Hayes to the St. Louis Blues for a 2024 sixth-round pick, while retaining half of Hayes’ remaining salary.
If you’re just looking at this trade alone, it’s a bad deal for the Flyers. It’s the type of deal that happens when a team has no leverage.
The Flyers and Hayes were going to part ways. The writing was on the wall for the final three months of the season. Consider this:
Hayes and new head coach John Tortorella never got off on the right foot. Hayes was benched six games into the season. Despite that, and the belief that there was already a lack of harmony between the two just weeks into the season, Hayes had 45 points in his first 50 games of the season. On a team bereft of high-end talent, that was good enough for Hayes to be named to his first All-Star Game.
But in the midst of Hayes becoming an All-Star for the first time, the relationship between player and coach, and ultimately organization, went into a downward spiral. Hayes was again benched within a game on Dec. 15. Two days later, he was a healthy scratch.
Over the final 31 games of the season, Hayes had just nine points. It wasn’t like his production just fell off due to bad luck. He looked listless on the ice, and therefore saw the growing feud with Tortorella take another turn. His role was thrown into a blender. He’d be at left wing one game, back at center the other, on the second line one night, on the fourth line the other.
At his end of season media availability, Hayes seemingly already knew his impending fate, and didn’t hide it.
“I picked up the message that was sent months ago. I'm okay with it. It's their decision,” Hayes said. “I don't want to say I'm suited for a contender, because I think I'm suited for anyone to be honest. We'll see how that unfolds. Their decisions have probably already been made. We don't know them yet. I'm sure I'll find out around the draft.”
Sure enough, one day before the draft, the deal is done. But it was far from the initial blockbuster reported over the weekend.
When you are in a position like the Flyers were with Hayes, the only way to get what you really want in trades is to add sweeteners to the deal. In the case of Ivan Provorov, the three draft picks and 21-year-old prospect defenseman they got in return were in part due to including a third team for cap retention and taking on two contracts in return.
The Flyers were always going to retain salary on Hayes’ remaining three years at $7.14 million. The goal seemed to be to keep that around 30 percent retention, approximately $2.14 million of the cap hit.
When the Flyers appeared to have a deal in place on Saturday that would involve retention with Hayes, it also included Travis Sanheim to get a first-round pick in return from the Blues. The retention on Hayes would have also been less with the inclusion of Torey Krug from St. Louis, a $6.5 million cap hit off their books.
Krug had a no-move clause in his contract, and stood firm on exercising it. He had every right to do so, and thus, the initial deal fell through. That sent the Flyers back to square one and back to reality.
That reality was further made known by another trade made on Saturday. The Nashville Predators trade Ryan Johansen, with two years and an $8 million cap hit left on his deal, to the Colorado Avalanche for the rights to free agent Alex Galchenyuk. They also retained half the salary. They later announced they would not be signing Galchenyuk.
Essentially, it was a trade by Nashville that resulted in eating half of a player’s salary for the next two seasons for nothing. The Flyers version of this with Hayes is slightly less than nothing – since a sixth-round pick can still come into play – but is still underwhelming nonetheless.
After making such an impactful move with Provorov, and acquiring the draft capital the team really wants right now, the Flyers next two deals will involve very little return. Hayes brought back a sixth-round pick next season, even while eating half the salary on the remaining contract. Tony DeAngelo will return a low-level prospect from Carolina, also with half of his salary retained.
That’s the immediate complication. The Flyers can afford to eat money in the next two seasons. They can do short-term buyouts, retain in trades, do whatever to net draft capital and prospects. But teams only get three salary retention spots each season. The Flyers just dedicated one of those spots to Hayes for the next three seasons. A second will go to DeAngelo for the upcoming season in a matter of weeks.
This leaves the Flyers in a predicament in the here and now, and again at next season’s deadline. In the immediate, they can’t retain salary on another player in another trade without utilizing that final retention spot. That may work on a player with an expiring contract at the deadline – recently acquired defenseman Sean Walker is a prime candidate for this – but it doesn’t help to go into a new season with no flexibility in this area.
The bottom line: any trade the Flyers make between now and next week when the free-agency frenzy wears off will have to be without retention.
It continues to show just how much of a mess Danny Briere and company have to clean up. Moving Provorov was the forward-thinking, plan-driven decision that needs to be made to get legitimate draft capital. That move, coupled with the reported trade in the works over the weekend, sent expectations soaring that Briere could potentially fast-track this rebuild.
Moving Hayes and DeAngelo is following the addition-by-subtraction plan that the head coach feels necessary. But that’s not going to move the needle and it’s not going to clean things up overnight.
Rather, it’s going to show just how much work needs to be done before the Flyers are out of the mess that Briere’s predecessors created. And it’s going to take a lot more than a day.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.
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