Flyers Should Follow Boston’s Blueprint for Unloading Salary

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February 21st of this past season saw a trade go down that had many initially scratching their heads. The Boston Bruins dealt David Backes, defensive prospect Axel Andersson, and their 2020 first round pick to the Anaheim Ducks. In return, Boston acquired forward Ondrej Kase. At first glance, this seems like a steep overpay from the Bruins side of things.

Upon further digging, this deal is actually pretty even. David Backes was once a solid physical forward who could chip in 20 goals a season. However, he just isn’t that type of player anymore. Look no further than his demotion to the AHL without playing a game. Axel Andersson is a skilled defenseman with great skating ability and a knack for leading the rush. While he isn’t necessarily a “top-tier” prospect, he presents enough value for this trade to make sense.

The biggest point of contention with this deal would seem to be the Bruins sending their first round pick. At first glance, it’s a late pick in the first round. There’s almost always surefire talent available at that point in the draft however. The reasoning behind sending the first round pick to Anaheim is to make up for the fact that the Ducks will be paying Backes six million dollars during the 2020/21 season. Factor all that in, and you have a fair deal.

Fast forward to September of 2020, and the Flyers find themselves in a bit of a pickle. With names like Robert Hagg, Nolan Patrick, Phil Myers, and Brian Elliott potentially needing to re-sign, the Flyers need to do some finagling to fit under the salary cap. With their first round pick likely being in the 24-27 range, pulling off a deal comparable to the Bruins deal for Kase could be a solid option to free up some cash.

The Options

Shayne Gostisbehere

Shayne Gostisbehere’s name is no stranger to the rumor mill. Whether it’s a move to Montreal or what have you, Ghost has almost found a home on the trading block. Where he actually has found a home is the press box. Ghost spent a majority of the season, along with the playoffs, in the press box. Coming at a price tag of $4.5mil per year, that just isn’t going to cut it. 

Pairing Gostisbehere with a first or second round pick could net a decent enough return and clear some cap space in the process. We aren’t talking Patrick Laine or even Max Domi-type returns, but a serviceable bottom six guy who could improve those bottom two lines would suffice. Teams know that this isn’t the Ghost of Flyers past. They know that they likely aren’t getting a 65 point defenseman any more. However, given the right opportunity, Ghost could contribute to the right team.

Ghost is making $1.5 million less than David Backes, so the price may not be an exact match to Boston’s deal. While a first round draft pick would net a better return, pairing him with a second could do the trick if Chuck Fletcher is looking to bolster the middle-to-bottom six forwards. The trading partner would have to assume Ghost’s salary for the next three years, but the right partner may be willing to buy him out if the return on investment isn’t what they initially thought.

While the chances of a team trading for Ghost just to buy him out are slim, the chance of the Flyers finding a partner that wants Gostisbehere’s services are very real. Whether it be Winnipeg or Montreal, both could stand to improve on the blueline, and the Canadiens especially would likely want to add another first round pick to their 2020 draft arsenal.

James van Riemsdyk

A JvR deal is a bit more tricky. While the term is exactly the same as Gostisbehere’s, he’s making $2.5 million more than Ghost per year. While he produces a bit more consistently than Ghost, selling a team on JvR will be difficult given the price tag.

What could likely happen if JvR is part of a package deal would be the Flyers adding their first round pick in 2020, and likely a mid-to-high tier prospect. We aren’t talking a Cam York or even Morgan Frost here, but someone like a Tanner Laczynski or Wade Allison might be a sticking point for a potential trade partner.

While his price tag is heftier than Ghost’s, his talent is more substantial. JvR at his best is a goal scoring winger who you can park in front of the goalie on the powerplay. He would be a great fit with other skilled forwards in a top-six role. He won’t be able to carry a line, but could be a great addition to one looking for that “missing piece.”

Is it Realistic?

While one or the other seemed to be destined for the Seattle Kraken, the other may end up being dealt this offseason. Fletcher doesn’t have the time to wait to unload salary. With multiple contracts expiring, restricted and unrestricted, Fletcher needs to clear cap immediately. Ghost an JvR are the two easiest to pinpoint for a trade given how underwhelming they have been lately. JvR would be the best option considering his salary compared to Gostisbehere’s.

It isn’t outside the realm of possibility that one of these deals happens this offseason. Fletcher has shown he isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a trade. Matt Niskanen, Derek Grant, and Nate Thompson are proof. If Fletcher decides to deal van Riemsdyk in a David Backes-esque trade, expect to part with a promising young prospect as well. The Flyers have the luxury of a deep pool to choose from, so it won’t gash them in the long run.