By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
The NHL trade deadline is now 11 days away and things will certainly start heating up over that time.
Obviously, Wayne Simmonds’ name has been right in the middle of the conversation. But you can add another name around the Flyers, and it would a name coming onto the roster, not leaving it.
According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the Flyers are in preliminary discussions with the Edmonton Oilers regarding a trade around goalie Cam Talbot.
Now, before everybody goes crazy, the Flyers are not doing anything to Carter Hart. He was told last week to look for permanent residence in the area. He is spending the rest of the season with the Flyers and will go back to the Phantoms only if the Flyers fail to make the playoffs and the Phantoms reach the postseason looking to go on a run.
Talbot, who is close with the 20-year-old Hart and worked out with him over the summer, could be the perfect mentor and backup to Hart down the road. Talbot is in the final year of a three-year, $12.5 million deal with a cap hit of $4.167 million.
It’s no secret that there has been some turmoil in Edmonton. The Oilers, like the Flyers, have changed coaches and fired their GM. Talbot, who started 67 games last season for the Oilers, has started just 29 this season and appeared in 31. The Oilers gave goalie Mikko Koskinen a three-year extension just weeks ago, another sign that Talbot is not in the future plans.
Exploring a deal for Talbot, who could thrive behind Hart in Philadelphia, makes a lot of sense if filling the role works for the 31-year-old. If he’s looking to start, it is not going to happen with the Flyers and any trade here would likely be a rental.
Of course, the Flyers have already employed six other goalies outside of Hart. Why would they want another one?
For one, the price could have something to do with this. Koskinen is the future in Edmonton. The Flyers want a veteran backup for Hart. Talbot needs a change of scenery. A deal could come down to a player-for-player swap, and Brian Elliott’s name has been mentioned as a possibility. Elliott’s cap hit is nearly $2 million less than Talbot’s and it would create the cap space Edmonton needs to bring Andrej Sekera off of IR and back onto the roster.
It’s also important to look at the other goalies and evaluate what they are. Getting anything for Elliott, who has not played since Nov. 15, would be remarkable. Elliott is currently with the Phantoms on a conditioning stint.
Michal Neuvirth still has no timetable for return, but did skate on his own earlier in the week. That’s an encouraging sign, but the road ahead could be a long one. His contract is up at the end of the season and chances are he will hit free agency.
Alex Lyon has battled a nagging injury in the minors and doesn’t appear to be part of the NHL plan now that Hart is up.
Mike McKenna will probably hit waivers at some point as Elliott nears a return.
The team already waived Calvin Pickard earlier in the year and he was claimed by Arizona.
The big question mark in this equation is Anthony Stolarz. Stolarz has played in three games since returning from injury and each has been impressive. He made 38 saves in a shutout against the Rangers. He made 37 saves in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Kings. He made 35 saves in Tuesday’s win over the Wild. Sure, it’s been just three games and he did allow four goals in Tuesday’s win, but he’s answered the call and put a solid foot forward in the audition process.
Stolarz is still a bit of a wildcard in this. For one, the Phantoms have very little goalie depth with netminders rotating in on conditioning lately. Stolarz also can’t just go back to provide help there without being put through waivers. Is the three solid games enough to draw interest from another team? The Flyers would probably rather use Stolarz as a trade chip before losing him for nothing through waivers or free agency.
With 11 days left until decisions are made, a lot could happen in very little time.
Simmonds is still a popular topic for conversation. At the moment, he’s not among the most coveted forwards on the market — teams appear to be waiting out the fates of Artemi Panarin, Mark Stone and Matt Duchene first — but Simmonds can certainly be a valuable piece for a team in contention.
Last Saturday, Chuck Fletcher had no update on negotiations about a new contract with Simmonds or any trade talks, but noted that two weeks before the deadline is an eternity. A lot can happen in that time.
The lack of progress on a new contract is certainly concerning. There doesn’t seem to be a scenario where the Flyers keep Simmonds beyond this year if no deal is reached by Feb. 25. That would mean the Flyers would either have to trade Simmonds to get something in return or keep him as an in-house rental toward their recent playoff push and ride it out for the rest of the season.
For perspective on what Simmonds could bring in, Nashville’s trade for Brian Boyle offered some insight. Boyle cost the Predators a second-round pick. Simmonds could net a similar offer or better, perhaps even on the level of a first-round pick and a prospect.
Simmonds has not had the best season to begin with and has struggled recently with just three points in the last 10 games. Less than two weeks remain in this saga as well.
Morin Heads to Phantoms
On Tuesday, Brian Elliott got moved to the Phantoms for a conditioning assignment. On Thursday, Sam Morin joined him.
Morin has been out all season recovering from an ACL tear that happened during the Calder Cup Playoffs last season. He has been skating regularly since early in the season, but was only able to ramp up activity recently. With the Phantoms, he gets a chance to get back into a game situation and eventually work his way back to the Flyers.
Morin was the Flyers first-round pick, 11th overall, in the 2013 NHL Draft.