The Flyers have made three acquisitions via trade so far this offseason. Each is different, but similar as well. Time to explain.
To say Chuck Fletcher has had an eventful offseason may not adequately describe the last week and a half. The man is clearly on a mission and could very well have achieved it. Looking at the roster now compared to two weeks ago, the Flyers are a different team. They’re bigger, tougher, and could be much more difficult to play against. All of those attributes were the biggest needs for the Flyers this offseason.
Now quickly, to recap everything that has happened in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past several days…
|Flyers Acquire||Nashville Predators Acquire|
|(D) Ryan Ellis||(D) Philippe Myers|
|(F) Nolan Patrick|
|Flyers Acquire||Arizona Coyotes Acquires|
|Future Considerations||(D) Shayne Gostisbehere|
|2nd Round Pick, 2022|
|7th Round Pick, 2022|
|Flyers Acquire||Buffalo Sabres Acquire|
|(D) Rasmus Ristolainen||(D) Robert Hagg|
|1st Round Pick, 2021 (Isak Rosen)|
|2nd Round Pick, 2023|
|Flyers Acquire||Columbus Blue Jackets Acquire|
|(F) Cam Atkinson||(F) Jakub Voracek|
Now with that out of the way, let’s talk about a recurring trend with these transactions. Yes, you could argue the Flyers got taken advantage of on two of these deals. Let’s remember Shayne Gostisbehere cleared waivers halfway through the year, meaning nobody deemed him fit to be claimed essentially for free. Two picks is the price you pay to free up $4.5mil.
Moving on, a first-round pick for Risto? Multiple teams were said to have offered the same type of offer with a first-round pick included. Get over it. Moving on again. Voracek straight up for Atkinson was solid. It works for both teams, and the Flyers get some scoring help. The deal for Ellis is fantastic. Sorry Nolan Patrick fan club, but your boy fetched the Flyers quite the return. We can all be satisfied with Nolan Patrick’s parting gift to the Flyers organization.
The first deal Chuck Fletcher made this offseason set it off on the right foot. After being mentioned leading up to the deadline, Fletcher was finally able to land Ellis, and the cost was much less than anticipated. Sure, it’s unfortunate that Phil Myers had to be the one attached to Nolan Patrick in this deal. However, you’re getting a proven commodity in Ryan Ellis that will play a role that Phil Myers didn’t live up to in Philadelphia.
With Ellis, the Flyers are getting a quality top-pairing defenseman to put with Ivan Provorov. Chuck Fletcher knew that and had some glowing words about the former alternate captain of the Nashville Predators via Adam Kimelman’s article on NHL.com.
“He’s been part of the leadership group in Nashville for a while. He is a competitive, team-oriented type of player. We think he’s a really well-rounded hockey player, a quality person, and somebody that we feel very fortunate that we were able to add to our group today.”
Remember the recurring theme in all of these as we move along.
Ristolainen’s deal had fans split right down the middle. Analytics Twitter was up in arms, denouncing the Flyers for making such a boneheaded deal. Your eye-test folks were ecstatic that the Flyers were adding some much-needed grit to the blueline. The one thing that drew many together was the fact that the first-round pick, at first glance, seemed like a bit of an overpayment. After finding out that multiple teams were offering their first-rounders as well, it makes sense.
Whipping boy Robert Hagg being part of the deal seemed to be a non-factor since analytics Twitter saw one guy with bad heat maps get traded for another. Say what you will about Ristolainen’s time in Buffalo. Given a lesser role with fewer responsibilities, Ristolainen may thrive under Alain Vigneault‘s tutelage. Don’t forget as well, this is a contract year for Ristolainen. A big, pissed-off defenseman playing for his next contract, there may be nothing more enticing than the prospect of what this season may bring for Risto.
One thing Ristolainen does bring to the Flyers is his huge frame, special teams abilities, and a mean streak that could strike fear into the opponents of the Flyers this season. While he does bring all that, he also brings a sense of modesty and honesty as well. In Greg Wyshynski’s article on ESPN.com, he quotes Ristolainen during his first press conference as a member of the Flyers organization.
“We had really tough years in Buffalo. I played a big part. I was one of the leaders there, and we couldn’t make the playoffs.”
Again, there’s a recurring theme here…
This deal came as a bit of a shock. Anyone with eyes and a Twitter account knew that Jakub Voracek was on his way out of Philadelphia. What many didn’t figure was Cam Atkinson being the return. It was rumored that Voracek could be part of a deal with the Seattle Kraken if they chose Tarasenko in the expansion draft. After Seattle decided to draft an AHL-level team, that deal was dead in the water. It appears that Fletcher made the most out of missing out on Tarasenko, turning his attention to Jarmo Kekalainen in Columbus and snagging Cam Atkinson for Voracek.
Atkinson brings speed, special team abilities, and scoring to the fold in Philadelphia. He’s posted more goals than assists in 75% of his NHL seasons, which bodes well for a team in need of scoring. What they also get from Atkinson is chemistry. Atkinson was teammates with Kevin Hayes for a season at Boston College in 2010/11.
Chuck summed everything up with the statement below provided by Bill Meltzer.
The Flyers Recurring Theme
Leadership. All three of these guys were alternate captains for their respective teams before being traded to Philadelphia. Ellis’ first season as an alternate captain was 2017/18. He lost it for a year but regained it in 19/20 until being traded to the Flyers. Ristolainen and Atkinson had just been named alternate captains for the Sabres and Blue Jackets, respectively.
Ellis and Atkinson provide that steady veteran presence, each in their own way. Ellis can be the replacement for Niskanen that we’ve all longed for since last offseason. Atkinson can be the steady presence on the offensive side of the ice to get guys going. Ristolainen can just be the thorn in the side of the opposition. More importantly, he can make sure that guys like Oskar Lindblom aren’t dropping the gloves when nobody else was willing.
Getting rid of Shayne Gostisbehere was a smaller step in the grand scheme of things. While having a decent year after seemingly battling injury after injury, he didn’t mince words when asked about the performance of the team. His candidness may have been his undoing in Philadelphia, and now he’s a Coyote. There’s no way Robert Hagg was a bad guy for the locker room, so let’s not waste time stoking any type of flames regarding that.
Jakub Voracek is the notable name here that many pointed to as the guy in the locker room who caused the most unrest. Many viewed him as the one guy this team needed to rid itself of if they wanted to change the culture of the locker room. In ridding the Flyers of Voracek, they gained a guy like Atkinson who can bring his style of leadership to the locker room.
These moves are all indicative of the direction Chuck Fletcher wants to take this team. He’s looking for accountability. He’s looking for players to step up and admit when things go wrong. No more free passes. No more lack of accountability. It’s time the players go out there and demand more of each other. Each and every move by Chuck Fletcher this offseason has made this abundantly clear.