Let’s get something out of the way here. This scenario that we’re about to delve into is only applicable if the Flyers decide to re-up with Nolan Patrick. There’s no inside information here, there’s no “my sources say,” type of you-know-what. This is straight opinion-based, followed up with a little bit of logic. Now that that’s taken care of…
Nolan Patrick continues to tread water in the sea of uncertainty that is his career to this point. The critically acclaimed “Nolan Patrick Revenge Tour” proved to be the hockey-equivalent to Guns N’ Roses’ release of Chinese Democracy, overhyped and underperformed. While we hope that’s the last we hear from Axl, some are still clinging to hope that Nolan Patrick can prove his doubters wrong and live up to the hype. The problem with that is the fact that the hype has all-but disappeared.
Nine points and a minus-30 did him no favors during the 2020/21 season. His apparent lack of effort and nonchalantness rubbed many the wrong way. Now entering the offseason as a restricted free agent, there’s even more uncertainty. Rumors of Patrick requesting a trade have circulated for weeks and weeks. The Flyers still retain his rights and could sign him to a new deal. If they decide to qualify him an offer, that offer has to be 105% of his most recent deal, which equals out to $917,831.25.
So let’s say he signs and is a Flyer on opening night. If he still wants to be traded, the Flyers would be wise to wait until the trade deadline to acquiesce to his demands. There are a few reasons, discounting a potential free agent improvement at the third-line center position. If the Flyers back themselves into that corner, they would we wise to bide their time and wait until the trade deadline to deal Patrick away.
Does Nolan Patrick have trade value?
This one is tricky. Patrick’s trade value right now is lower than it’s ever been. A guy who is coming off the year he had paired with his apparent request for a trade doesn’t necessarily scream “valuable trade chip.” While you run the risk of making him even more unhappy, letting him play a little over half the season before making a deal could bring his trade value up. While it won’t skyrocket, how much worse could it really get?
Shayne Gostisbehere had been mentioned in trade talks for the longest time. He was the subject of rumors galore, and never ended up being traded. He came back from injuries and ended up playing decently for the Flyers this season. His trade value was basically a net-zero when he went unclaimed when placed on waivers. While this didn’t improve drastically, there’s something to be said for his response to going unclaimed this past season off of waivers. Patrick could take the same route if he’s with the Flyers until the trade deadline. While, again, his value won’t increase substantially, it could be enough to not have to add a sweetener for someone to take him off Chuck Fletcher’s hands.
Who’s on Third?
Pardon the attempt at humor, but who do the Flyers have that could play 3C in Patrick’s absence? While there are a plethora of choices in-house, none of them are ready for that type of role with the Flyers. Tanner Laczynski and Jackson Cates each saw time with the Flyers, but don’t appear ready quite yet to assume that responsibility. While Tyson Foerster is an intriguing option, he may not be ready just yet to make the jump to the NHL. Connor Bunnaman also played a bit with the Flyers, but is much better suited to play 4C than in a top-nine role.
Michael Raffl played a majority of his games at 4C last season before being traded to Washington. With him being gone, it only magnifies the lack of NHL-ready depth the Flyers have at center. Trading Patrick before having a suitable replacement amplifies that problem. The Flyers have enough needs to address this offseason without adding another to the laundry list.
C is for Captain, Not Center
Continuing with the last section, Claude Giroux presents an intriguing option. He’s seen plenty of time at center and is more than capable of holding his own in the faceoff circle. While that’s an interesting option, he’s much more effective as a winger than he would be reverting back to being a full-time center. His most impactful seasons have come while playing wing.
While the emergence of younger players like Joel Farabee and Wade Allison could make it a little easier to fill his gap left on the wing, retaining Nolan Patrick keeps things somewhat stable at the center position while keeping the depth at wing as well. It’s the same premise, why add another need to the already-long list of needs the Flyers have this offseason?
Frosty the Ill-Prepared
This topic rears its head every offseason, and this one will likely be no different. Is Morgan Frost finally ready to make his presence felt on a permanent basis in the NHL? Short answer, no. He’s got the talent to make it happen, there’s no doubt about that. That’s all well and good, but let’s re-visit the same well we’ve went to when discussing Nolan Patrick and his return to the NHL.
Morgan Frost has played in two (2) NHL games since early March of 2020. His second NHL game in that span was cut short due to the injury he suffered. Before those two games, it had almost been a full calendar year since his last bit of hockey, and that was with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the AHL. Simply put, Frost may not be in hockey shape currently, meaning his transition to the NHL could be put on hold until more games are played.
Keeping Nolan Patrick around allows the organization to get Frost on the ice in an AHL capacity. While not a formal conditioning stint, it could serve as such for a guy who’s missed a lot of hockey over the past year and a half. In the ideal scenario, Frost basically outplays the AHL and breaks down the door forcing a call-up around the time the deadline rolls around, if not sooner. That makes a Nolan Patrick trade much easier to stomach knowing someone can jump right in and plug the hole left in his wake.
It may not be the popular opinion, but keeping Nolan Patrick around despite his rumored request for a trade may be the best route to take. It would better suit the organization from an on-ice standpoint. While you may be dealing with a disgruntled player, it may appeal to his best interests. Where he wants to go may not be willing to take him on at this point in time. If he goes out and has a better year than last, it opens up the possibility of his desired destination wanting to obtain his services.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre