With Evaluation Underway, How Long Before Fletcher Takes Action?

By Jeff Quake, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

Times are tough for the Philadelphia Flyers as they sit one point above the New Jersey Devils in the standings for last place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Flyers are 1-1-1 thus far in the Chuck Fletcher era, since the new GM was hired back on Dec. 3. Currently, the team is two games into a five-game road trip.

Now that Fletcher has assumed the GM role, the biggest question is what will Fletcher do with all of the players, prospects, picks, but also salary cap he has?

You could argue that there are a few players such as Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Ivan Provorov, James van Riemsdyk, and Shayne Gostisbehere are all safe. Even some younger players like Robert Hagg, Travis Konecny, and perhaps Travis Sanheim are as well.

One of the issues is that none of these players are Fletcher’s guys. Remember when everyone thought Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were untouchable? Well, if the right deal comes along Fletcher might trade someone, such as Wayne Simmonds or Jake Voracek, who both came from those blockbuster trades.

The moment that Fletcher was officially announced as the new GM for Philadelphia, the organization’s evaluation period began. But how long will it last? That's the concern of the players and coaches and everyone else under evaluation under a new watchful eye.

This evaluation period could be the duration of the road trip, the next few weeks, or even the rest of this season. Even if this evaluation lasts for the remainder of the 2018-19 season, it feels like a safe bet that something from this team will look different by the time the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline is over on Feb. 25 at 3 p.m.

Just two games into the road trip, the Orange and Black got dismantled, 7-1, by a much stronger Winnipeg Jets team. On paper, the Flyers have the makeup of a playoff team that should be able to reach the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but on the ice this team is exactly what their record shows.

If the team’s record doesn’t flip around relatively soon, then the offseason will be very interesting for a lot of reasons. Besides the draft, the biggest area where teams find improvements and make changes is free agency, as the Flyers are rumored to be among those interested in a two-time Vezina trophy winner.

There have been conversations swirling around the Flyers and a reunion with another former player, this time it’s Sergei Bobrovsky. According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnson, Philadelphia is prepared to make a run at Bobrovsky this July.

"The answer to the longest-running riddle in hockey may come from an unexpected place: As the Philadelphia Flyers ruminate on how to shore up their goaltending — at least until prospect Carter Hart is ready to take the wheel — there are whispers they will take a run at Sergei Bobrovsky on July 1," Johnson writes.

Of course, everyone in Philadelphia knows Carter Hart is coming and it won’t be long until he is the go-to guy in net for Philadelphia. Someone like Bobrovsky would look great for the organization and Fletcher, but the team needs to be cautious with large signings.

Fletcher has a history of signing some big free agents — like Ryan Suter and Zach Parise in 2012 — and wouldn’t be afraid of spending money again to land a top name. A Bobrovsky signing would create a good situation — the team would have a true No. 1 goalie who is typically healthy and reliable, and all in all would be a great mentor for Hart. Of course, you would likely box in a top prospect like Hart, because Bobrovsky will likely not sign a short-term contract. He would want a contract very similar to Carey Price’s, currently the league's highest-paid goalie after signing an eight-year, $84 million contract.

And with Bobrovsky’s numbers, he may very well get a contract like that. He would expect to be the No. 1 goalie for the duration of his next contract. That would essentially prevent Hart from his showing true potential in Philadelphia.

No matter which direction the team goes, the organization’s future is in Fletcher’s hands and this team will be changed sooner rather than later. The evaluation period is here and will be for some time, but only one man knows how long this process will truly take.