We’re about a week away from the start of the 2021 NHL offseason. Could the Philadelphia Flyers lure Mattias Ekholm from Nashville?
After the Philadelphia Flyers season fell apart in March, the conversation quickly shifted to fixing the defense. Erik Gustafsson was management malpractice, foolish to think he could replace the void left behind by Matt Niskanen. Inconsistent lineups deprived the Flyers of establishing an identity on defense.
In April, Philadelphia monitored any activity featuring Mattias Ekholm. The shared wish among the fanbase was an executed trade for Ekholm by the trade deadline. That didn’t happen, but the Flyers did regain a draft pick in the fifth round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft after sending Michael Raffl to the Washington Capitals. No one executed a trade for Ekholm. Heading towards the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, Philadelphia has as good of a chance as ever to trade for him.
The Nashville Predators are protecting Ekholm. That’s ideal for the Flyers because it likely removes the Seattle Kraken from the “Ekholm Sweepstakes.”
What would a trade package potentially look like from Philadelphia for Ekholm? You may be surprised. If David Poile’s asking price hasn’t changed from the trade deadline, the Flyers will fleece the Predators. Ekholm can play next to Ivan Provorov, even if it’s not his natural position, which is the ideal acquisition of the offseason.
Potential Ekholm Market
Per Jeff Middleton, a top prospect and two high draft picks could get the trade moving. Another point Middleton made was the two high draft picks likely reduces to one since more time elapsed on Mattias Ekholm’s current contract.
Yegor Zamula is a player who makes sense with two high draft picks for Ekholm. Right now, the Philadelphia Flyers only have one first-round pick in each of the two upcoming drafts. Zamula, and 2021, 2022 first-round picks could get the trade moving, especially since two high selections are a price gouge with only a season left on Ekholm’s current deal. Other players, basically still prospects, are Wade Allison and Morgan Frost. The Flyers would likely have to either of them with the 2021 and 2022 first-round picks, too.
Reducing the price to a player and a pick could work for Philadelphia. Oskar Lindblom is a scorer who was trending towards a top-six label before his diagnosis. Lindblom and the 2021 first-round pick is a lot less than what Fletcher would spend on Hamilton or Jones.
Ekholm After 2021-2022
Next season, Mattias Ekholm is due $3.75mil. That is a bargain of a deal for the type of player he is. What follows is as delightful for the Philadelphia Flyers. Ekholm, likely the best “bang for your buck” defenseman targeted, will leave room under the flat cap, unlike Seth Jones or Dougie Hamilton.
After 2021-2022, Ekholm projects to make $6mil/AAV. Compare that to spending around $8.5mil. A potential savings of $2.5mil in the flat cap era is a huge victory. Keeping out of cap purgatory will be more difficult. We all know just how badly the Flyers need financial freedom.
“But, Ekholm plays defense on the left side of the ice.”
It’s okay, as long as the Seattle Kraken leaves Shayne Gostisbehere alone. He doesn’t have the best contract of all the exposed players and didn’t exactly get along with Dave Hakstol in Philadelphia. Chances are, the defense stays intact from 2020-2021.
Gostisbehere can play the right side of the ice, omitting Justin Braun from the lineup. An updated lineup could feature Ekholm, Ivan Provorov, and Cam York on the left with Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers, and Gostisbehere on the right.
A Bidding War
Thus far, everything about Mattias Ekholm seems about as smooth as can be. Trade negotiations don’t seem to break the Philadelphia Flyers system, and we’ve established that he’s affordable. All of that changes a little bit due to teams like the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins. Inside or outside the division, these rivals will start a bidding war with Chuck Fletcher.
Fletcher ought to be a spender for Ekholm. The Flyers connect to Seth Jones, who will remain expensive. Even a negotiation with Ron Francis at the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft to take Jakub Voracek will cost. During Tuesday’s press conference, Fletcher said he is taking calls and surveying the field. The topic of conversation in those negotiations should be reserved for a bidding war to acquire Ekholm.
Two playoff teams usually have the talent to trade away before one who didn’t make the postseason. It’s why the Penguins and Bruins are in a better position to buy than Philadelphia. If the Flyers are to test their damage control threshold this offseason, negotiations for Ekholm will push boundaries.
Pending on what the Nashville Predators want in return, Philadelphia will have to give up more to be on the same page as Pittsburgh and Boston. That’s a scenario that Fletcher and Brent Flahr may not want to risk.
Though he isn’t a right-handed defenseman, Ekholm is worth the risk as a left-handed blueliner who upgrades the entire unit.
Photo Credit: Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire