By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
The time has come for Chuck Fletcher to make his mark on the Flyers.
Being named the GM in the middle of the season and needing time to diagnose problem areas and analyze the current roster was going to take some time. In the early going, it was more about the coaching staff than the players. Over time, that has shifted.
He has traded away Jordan Weal, Taylor Leier, Dale Weise, Christian Folin and Anthony Stolarz, all players the Flyers risked losing over the offseason. The main purpose so far has been to get something in return for all of these players and to clear spots for the future to get a look. That trend should continue on Monday as the trade deadline approaches at 3 p.m.
This season’s trade deadline should not be about the Flyers remarkable run back into the discussion for a playoff spot. Cutting the margin from 15 points to seven is impressive, but it is still an uphill climb. With 20 games remaining, there simply may not be enough time left.
This leaves Fletcher to analyze the possibilities in front of him to make this team better next season and beyond. It means that tough decisions lie ahead.
Obviously, the big one here is Wayne Simmonds. Consensus is that he has played his last game for the Flyers — unless he re-signs in the offseason on a more cap-friendly deal.
The emotion following the Flyers dramatic overtime win at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday really said it all. The Player of the Game helmet that is awarded among the players after a win was passed off two times, from Claude Giroux to Jake Voracek to Simmonds. It was an emotional scene.
Fletcher knows both sides of the equation. Simmonds is beloved in the locker room and by the fan base. Any franchise would want a player with the passion and leadership that he demonstrates. But in a time when teams get desperate for great role players, Simmonds decline as a top player makes a move all the more logical. It’s time to do something that shakes up the core a bit, and unless a deal could be reached with Simmonds that mathematically makes sense for the Flyers, he would be moved. So here we are.
If Simmonds can fetch the Flyers a pick and a prospect, especially near the top of a team’s rankings or in the first round of the draft, then it becomes worth it.
Other players that could creep onto the radar are Michael Raffl, Brian Elliott and Radko Gudas. Raffl and Elliott both have expiring deals, making them candidates. Raffl is a jack of all trades and fills many roles. He could certainly find a new home and be a grinder for a contending team. Elliott has strung together three solid games, two in relief and Saturday’s start in the Stadium Series. While each featured a forgettable moment with a goal allowed, Elliott is a serviceable starter for stretches and certainly capable of being a stable backup for a contending team.
For Gudas, the market is a little tougher to analyze. For one, he missed the last two games with a suspension and carries the label of being a repeat offender. However, Gudas has been among the Flyers most consistent and capable defensemen all season, amid growing pains for young players and overall poor play from the defensive core in front of the goalies. For a team that needs a third-pairing defenseman to round out their group and be effective, Gudas could be the guy.
So now, the waiting begins. A lot has already happened in the week leading up to the deadline, but the sense was that Fletcher wanted every possible game to be played and point to be earned before making big decisions. With the Stadium Series in the rear-view mirror and the team’s next game coming after the deadline, his work now truly begins.
It will certainly be interesting to see how different the Flyers could look when the 3 p.m. deadline passes.