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Flyers Prospects are a Need, Not a Trade Luxury

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(Kevin Durso/Sports Talk Philly)

By Dan Heaning, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

The Philadelphia Flyers are coming off a very successful December going 9-4-1 over the course of the month. Their play during that time has put the Flyers in a great position to make the postseason for the second straight season.

However, with that success comes the talk to get better right now via the trade route. As the games wear on the contenders separate themselves from the pretenders with a flurry of trades in an effort to go on a deep playoff run and capture the Stanley Cup.

With teams like the Colorado Avalanche melting down already and contemplating moving talented young players like Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene elsewhere, it would seem like the Flyers are a logical trading partner.

Before anyone gets too excited, know this: To get a Landeskog or Duchene, the Flyers will have to part with one of their top defensive prospects. Think Travis Sanheim or Philippe Myers in a package that would include additional pieces.

Some fans may want general manager Ron Hextall to bypass his patient process in order to go for it this season, but such a decision would be a grave mistake.

Consider this, Mark Streit, Nick Schultz and Michael Del Zotto are all set to become unrestricted free agents after this season. Maybe one could return, but there’s a chance that all three won’t be re-signed. Meanwhile, Samuel Morin and Sanheim should make the team during next year’s training camp. After next season, Brandon Manning will be an unrestricted free agent and Myers should be NHL ready by then, if not sooner, as well.

So in two years the Flyers could have a defensive core that looks like Provorov-Myers, Sanheim-Morin, Gostisbehere-Gudas with Robert Hagg likely being ready to take Gudas’ spot around the time the burly Czech defenseman’s contract is up.

These young blueliners aren’t a luxury for this organization to throw around to maybe get better in one area for one year. They are all vital pieces to rebuild a defensive core that’s been in ruins since Chris Pronger’s career concluded.

They are the best and cheapest transitional strategy from the current defensive core. Pretty much all of those blueliners will be on their entry level deals while others will be on their second NHL contracts by the time they make the Flyers lineup.

This means they’ll all be pretty inexpensive for the roles they’ll be serving. This will be important as Hextall attempts to shed the team of the Andrew MacDonald type contracts, re-sign key veterans like Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl in a few years and ultimately undo the damage brought on by years of giving away draft picks and signing free agents to absurd deals.

Yes, bringing in at least one rookie defenseman each year for the next three seasons will come with its share of headaches. They’ll turn the puck over, misread a play, go into the wrong coverage and all the other things that rookies tend to do.

Yet, the play of Ivan Provorov this season and Shayne Gostisbehere last season should scare absolutely zero Flyers fans away from this strategy. Who are the best two defensemen on the team right now? Exactly, those two.

Instead, the Flyers should consider dealing the veteran blueliners for help. Will they get as much for a Streit package as they would a Sanheim package? No, of course not.

However, trading the veterans they have now will pay off two-fold. One, they’ll get something in return for players they weren’t going to keep anyway. Second, any draft picks acquired in a deal could, would and should be used to restock the defensive prospect cupboards as the emergence of Sanheim, Morin and Myers will essentially empty the pool.

Some might suggest this strategy is a white flag, a sign to give up on the season. The problem with that line of thinking is the team has eight defensemen on the active roster. Once the team is completely healthy it will be imperative for Hextall to trade, at least, one defenseman to remain cap compliant.

Trading a defenseman with an expiring contract is the need right now.

Even still, going forward this should remain the way Hextall does things. Instead of dealing a Robert Hagg, look to trade a defenseman with a year remaining on his deal like Manning will be next season and Gudas will be in 2019.

Buy out Andrew MacDonald before the 2019-20 season. Clear a path for the prospects. Let the wave of the future happen.

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