It’s been just less than a month since the Flyers announced the “new era” in the front office. The decisions to remove the interim tag from Danny Briere and name him GM and hire Keith Jones as President of Hockey Operations were only the first order of business on what figured to be a busy offseason.
For several weeks from the end of the season, there was talk of addition by subtraction, hinting at the potential for trades. But you don’t expect to see much that is newsworthy during the Stanley Cup Final, at least not for the other 30 teams no longer playing for the ultimate prize. You certainly don’t expect three-team trades that resonate around the league.
But that’s exactly what Briere’s first trade was: a total blockbuster. On Tuesday, the first off day between Games 2 and 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Flyers were at the center of the hockey world. They traded defenseman Ivan Provorov, along with minor-leaguers Hayden Hodgson and Kevin Connauton in a three-team deal. Provorov heads to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Hodgson and Connauton go to the Los Angeles Kings.
In return, the Flyers took on two contracts that the Kings were looking to unload, the remaining year on defenseman Sean Walker’s contract and the remaining two years on goaltender Cal Petersen’s contract.
But the main portion of the trade for the Flyers was getting back much-needed draft capital and a prospect to boot. Briere got the Flyers back into the first round of the 2023 NHL Draft, acquiring the 22nd overall pick. He also got potentially two second-round picks for the 2024 NHL Draft. One of the picks is conditional, but the Flyers also had no picks in the second round of both the 2023 and 2024 Draft entering Tuesday.
They also acquired 21-year-old, right-handed defenseman Helge Grans, a former second-round pick of the Kings that could certainly get an increased opportunity with the Flyers.
For his first trade, Briere fully understood the assignment. He showed that his actions can back up the words that were spoken over the last month. Everything is on the table. Everyone can be available for a worthwhile price. And building it right is building it through picks and prospects.
Which is why it wasn’t surprising that there’s much more smoke surrounding another Flyer: Carter Hart.
While no trade involving Carter Hart is imminent, despite reports that the Flyers were working on a trade, Briere repeated his stance on the Flyers netminder.
“I’m still in the same spot I was. We’re open for business,” Briere said. “We listen on everybody. Everybody’s being treated the same way for us on our side.”
Briere’s transparency should be appreciated, but his first trade made the statement for him. The Flyers traded their top defenseman in ice time, a defenseman who played in all situations, a defenseman that at the start of his career was believed to offer the potential that ranked among the best in the league.
If you had any doubts that the Flyers were going all-in on the rebuild approach, Briere just made a splash. It may not be the splash that Flyers fans are used to, but that should be a welcome sign for where this franchise is and has been.
“Sometimes you have to pay the price to get good assets back as well,” Briere said. “We’re not denying the fact that Ivan is a good defender and he’s put in heavy minutes for us. It’s going to be tough to replace him. At this time, we felt that the assets we were getting to build the team we want to build in the future. That was critical and you have to give up good players and good assets in return. You don’t get first round picks for players that don’t have interest from other teams. You’ve got to play ball with both sides, and we have to give up a good player for that.”
And Briere made sure to point out how much of a cohesive process this was. Briere would speak with Keith Jones “four or five times a day.” Comcast Spectacor CEO Dan Hilferty was also kept in the loop. Briere even admitted he had never seen Helge Grans play and relied on scouts and analytics to provide input.
The Flyers new-era front office preached about working together and having complete involvement from the triumvirate in the front office to the hockey operations staff to the ownership level. They backed it all up on Tuesday.
If Briere and company were willing to go where the previous regime didn’t with their message, they also went where the previous regime wouldn’t go with their actions.
Last offseason, the Flyers acquired defenseman Tony DeAngelo for three draft picks. There were rumors all offseason about the possibility of signing Johnny Gaudreau and making the big free-agent splash again. This offseason starts with trading away Provorov and his entire salary, taking back two contracts that, while hefty in price, will not hold the Flyers back in term, and focusing on the big picture that is the future.
Provorov is only the start, and it’s hardly about the finish. It’s about who’s next. Certainly, Hart’s name will become much more widespread in trade rumors and the likelihood that he is, in fact, traded increased on Tuesday. Kevin Hayes and DeAngelo will also have their names in the mix.
With three weeks still remaining until the draft, it’s only going to get busier for the Flyers. And Briere showed he’s not wasting any time in starting on this endeavor of rebuilding the Flyers.