This season is not uncharted territory for the Flyers. Being near the bottom of the standings and far enough out of the playoff race by January is feeling all too familiar and leads to one path as the trade deadline approaches: selling.
The names that could be on the move at the deadline are pretty easy to identify. James van Riemsdyk is on the final year of his five-year contract. Justin Braun re-signed with the Flyers this past offseason on a one-year deal. Those contracts are usually easy to move, especially for veteran players who could aid a team looking for depth for the playoffs.
But beyond that, there are certainly questions about several other players on the roster. Despite being the team’s leading scorer for a majority of the season to this point and being named an All-Star, Kevin Hayes was benched for the entire third period on Dec. 15, then scratched two nights later on Dec. 17. Hayes publicly acknowledged he didn’t agree with the benching. Head coach John Tortorella denied that Hayes was in the doghouse and declined to go into detail about the decision or discuss Hayes on a nightly basis upon his return to the lineup.
It does create speculation that Hayes could be on the move in the coming months, maybe not at the deadline, but possibly in the offseason. There were rumors of a possible buyout, but the better long-term decision would be to even retain salary in a trade. Either way, Hayes’ future is cloudy in Philadelphia.
Another player who also has a cloudy future is Ivan Provorov. Reports surfaced this week that the team could start to explore the possibility of a trade, first discussed on the 32 Thoughts Podcast with Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek.
Friedman also appeared on NHL Network on Tuesday and re-stated the possibility.
Expect the Flyers to be big sellers at the trade deadline 👀@FriedgeHNIC | @SteveGelbs | #NHLTonight | #FueledByPhilly pic.twitter.com/SOIQY6qwYb— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) January 10, 2023
Expect the Flyers to be big sellers at the trade deadline 👀@FriedgeHNIC | @SteveGelbs | #NHLTonight | #FueledByPhilly pic.twitter.com/SOIQY6qwYb
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) January 10, 2023
As Friedman mentioned, just about everything could and should be on the table for the Flyers this offseason, Provorov included. For a team that has a few defenseman already established on the left side – Travis Sanheim already signed an eight-year extension at the start of the season and Cam York is earning higher ice time since his call-up, plus Egor Zamula and Emil Andrae are in the pipeline as prospects – perhaps the team is prepared to move forward without Provorov, especially if he can net a return that features a solid young player or more draft picks.
That’s where the Flyers are right now in this process. If things are not working out with a veteran like Provorov – and Friedman’s initial report on 32 Thoughts suggested frustration building for both the player and organization in the last couple of seasons – then it may just be time to move on and allow Provorov the chance to find his game with a change of scenery.
A trade involving Provorov is not imminent by any means. But it’s certainly an increasingly possible outcome for what started with such promise.
Provorov had six goals and 30 points in his rookie season. He had 17 goals and 41 points, both career-highs, in 2017-18. After a down year, he rebounded with 13 goals and 36 points in 69 games in the COVID-shortened 2019-20 season. Even in 2020-21, another shortened season to 56 games, Provorov had seven goals and 26 points with a plus-4 rating.
Last season, in 79 games, Provorov had nine goals and 31 points and was a minus-20. This season, his production has nearly vanished, with just two goals and 14 points in 41 games with a minus-8 rating.
Much of those struggles have been attributed to Provorov’s lack of a true partner. His best season was arguably that 2019-20 campaign, when he was paired with Matt Niskanen. After Niskanen retired, the Flyers were never able to replace that in 2020-21. They attempted in 2021-22 by acquiring Ryan Ellis, who appeared in just four games and has not played since.
For as much as you can pin the struggles on failing to address the need for a top-pair defenseman following Niskanen’s retirement and on Ellis’ inability to play, there was also expectations that Provorov was going to be a defenseman that could carry a team’s top-pairing, not need the ideal partner to stabilize it. Provorov was a rising name in the 2015 NHL Draft and taken seventh overall by the Flyers. For those first few seasons, he looked every bit the part of a budding defensive star. Now, it appears the frustration has taken over and is at the point of no return.
The trade deadline this season was already going to be interesting enough for the Flyers. It’s going to be their most crucial time, not for the trades they will make for players on expiring contracts, but for the foundational work they can do in setting up potential offseason trades, ones that could certainly involve the likes of Provorov and Hayes.