It’s 3:00 P.M. EST on February 24. Do you know what your favorite NHL team is up to? Well, it’s February 12 right now, and Flyers fans still don’t know the direction Chuck Fletcher wants to go at the deadline this year. Are they going to be buyers, stocking up for a playoff run? Are they going to be sellers, and chalk this season up as a missed opportunity? Could they stand pat, and just ride out the rest of the season?
It’s like heading into the Royal Rumble without reading the spoilers as to who is going to be a surprise entrant in the 30-man event.
One thing does, however, remain constant. Nolan Patrick is still week-to-week. Yes, he practiced three straight days last week, one of them being a skills-centric practice. It’s reason for optimism, but cautious optimism at best. Nothing indicates that a return is imminent, but signs are positive that he may return, if not this season, then next.
For argument’s sake, let’s say he DOES, in fact, make his return to the Flyers lineup this year. Flyers General Manager Chuck Fletcher has been vocal about his belief in Patrick making his return this season. Is there a reason to doubt Fletcher? If Patrick’s supposed return occurs before the trade deadline, it will dictate how Fletcher approaches 3PM on February 24.
Someone Becomes Expendable…
Sure, Nolan Patrick could be counted as the best acquisition of the trade deadline if he makes his return. However, if the Flyers are serious about contending, there would likely be at least another move made. The simplest way to look at this is if Patrick returns, a bottom-six forward becomes expendable.
Whoever that may be could potentially net a solid return if packaged with a pick(s) and/or prospect(s). We all saw the return Minnesota got for Jason Zucker. The barometer has been established for deadline deals, and we now know solid players will go for a premium. Thanks Pittsburgh…
Who Becomes Expendable?
There’s four names, each being discussed for different reasons. First, you have Michael Raffl. Raffl is 31 years old, and has one year remaining on a deal paying him $1.6 million. He would likely be the target of a top-tier team looking to solidify their bottom six, so prospects and picks are what you may expect in return. That doesn’t fit the mold the Flyers are looking to fill.
Then you have Scott Laughton. Laughton is making $2.3 million until the end of next season, the most out of the four players being discussed. His cap hit makes him an attractive option, because it will cost to get a decent player in exchange. However, he falls into the same category as Raffl, likely sought after by a top-tier team to solidify their bottom-six.
Tyler Pitlick could pique interest the same way Raffl & Laughton could in that he’s a bottom-six forward who could round out that same role for another team. His $1 million cap hit and expiring contract at the end of the season puts him in a position to be a quality rental player if Fletcher and the Flyers view him as such.
The last, and likely least-popular name on this list, is Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Aube-Kubel is the youngest, 24, of the four options, and makes the least amount of money. He’s set to become an RFA at the end of the year, which holds some weight in trade discussions. NAK has established himself as a young, solid bottom-six player on this Flyers roster, and could be part of a deal that could fetch a solid return.
How About Standing Pat?
Standing pat seems like the most likely option in the event of a Nolan Patrick return. As mentioned before, getting Patrick back before the deadline would be the best possible acquisition for the Flyers, especially considering how up against the cap they currently are.
Nolan Patrick’s (hopefully) impending return should not be rushed, however. There will be conditioning to get him up to speed. We’re likely still some time away from it happening, but best case scenario, he’s back before the deadline, preventing Fletcher from having to make any unnecessary moves.
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