Chuck Fletcher just pulled off a feat that many people thought was unthinkable; he traded for a top pair defensemen. With all the Seth Jones rumours dying down, the trade freeze fast approaching, and the expansion draft on the horizon, the Flyers looked dead in the water. As the clock struck 12, the Flyers traded Nolan Patrick and Phil Myers to the Nashville Predators for Ryan Ellis.A player the Flyers coveted for years, Ellis fits the bill as Ivan Provorov’s much needed top pair partner. Finally fans have something to rejoice about but most importantly this is probably one of the first times in recent memory, where most if not all fans, are collectively happy.
When the Seth Jones news first broke out that he wanted to test the market in 2022, the Flyers aggressively pursued a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets. It looked like a perfect match as the Flyers needed a top pair defenseman and Seth Jones wanted out of Columbus and had a tie to the city because his dad is an assistant coach for the Philadelphia 76ers. Trade speculations grew rampant, where first all it would take was their first round pick + a roster defenseman + a prospect. Then Travis Konecny’s name was thrown in the mix, which was then followed up by Joel Farabee. All the while the Flyers were looking for a commitment on Jones’ end so they could finally pull the trigger. That never happened and the Flyers balked, ending weeks of tired rumours.
The asking price from the Blue Jackets was ridiculously high. It was rumoured that they wanted Kirby Dach, one of Adam Boqvist or Alex DeBrincat, a top prospect, and a pick from the Chicago Blackhawks. From a comparative standpoint, that could easily be Farabee, Cam York, and Bobby Brink. Then even if you met those criteria, you still needed a commitment from the player himself, which he was unwilling to give. All in all, a ridiculously high asking price for a rental piece.
The Flyers had to get back to the drawing board and try to find another way to get their prized defenseman. In a very non-traditional manner, the Flyers swooped in and completed the blockbuster trade before the 3 pm EST deadline. Non-traditional in the sense that they actually made a monumental trade for the first time in nearly a decade but also because there weren’t many rumours surrounding Ellis. That’s not to say that there weren’t any rumours regarding an Ellis trade but they weren’t as concrete or as fluid as the rumours surrounding Seth Jones or even Dougie Hamilton. Adding to the Ellis rumours, it is also important to note that no one really knew how Nashville was approaching the expansion draft.
The Predators traded Viktor Arvidsson a few weeks ago in an attempt to save a penny but also because they wanted to protect 5 defensemen for the expansion draft. Veteran goaltender Pekka Rinne announced his retirement last week and the Predators were actively trying to find trade partners for Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene. Trading Ryan Ellis for two young players in Phil Myers and Nolan Patrick (who was then flipped to the Vegas Golden Knights for Cody Glass) was a clear signal of an upcoming rebuild.
In the last few weeks, Chuck Fletcher has been adamant about making moves to improve off of their disastrous season. We needed a home run and he did just that by swinging for the fences and finally getting that prized top pair defenseman to play with Ivan Provorov. It was more than evident last season that losing Matt Niskanen was a bigger issue than they first let on.
This trade is huge for the Flyers because it gives them a steadying force who can play upwards of 22-24 minutes a night, he can play both power play and penalty killing situations, he’s good for 30-40 points a year, he is signed for 6 more years at a modest 6.25 million cap hit, and he can even be used as a shootout specialist. It checks off every box in their search for that top defenseman and they don’t have to worry about any cap or contract issues since he’s signed through 2026-27.
Trading Nolan Patrick was never going to be easy because of what he represented. He was a lottery gift in 2017 as the Flyers jumped 11 spots to select him second overall, however he never seemed to get his game going whenever in the lineup. He suffered from a severe migraine issue, which took him out of the 2019-2020 season and whenever he came back in 2020-21, he looked either disinterested or a shell of himself.
He hired a new agent to essentially get him out of Philadelphia but it also seemed like management was willing to part ways as well. He was going to be protected in the expansion draft because of his potential and skill set but also because he was an RFA that they could’ve used as a trade chip. Now with him gone, the Flyers opted to use that extra spot for Nicolas Aube-Kubel. It was a travesty that he couldn’t find his game in Philadelphia, especially considering all the hype that surrounded him, but in return the Flyers got a stud defenseman who will surely help in the long run.
Losing Phil Myers seemed more of an inevitability than anything else. The undrafted signee turned heads in his rookie season but didn’t come close to the same player or production in 2020-21. He was often a healthy scratch and head coach Alain Vigneault was rather critical of his play. If change was going to occur on the backend via trade, a player like Myers was going to be on the other end of it. He is a young, skilled, big puck moving defenseman who is signed through the end of the 2022-23 season, which is essentially the gold mark for any opposing GMs. He will definitely bounce back and will have the chance to play in a more defensive-minded system in Nashville.
It’s never easy trading two young players who have bright futures and the potential to be great. However, potential is one thing and realizing it is another and the Flyers don’t have the time to wait and see anymore. Ryan Ellis is everything they needed as he’s a puck moving defenseman who can play 23 minutes a night, plays in all situations, can be used as a specialist, is a veteran who understands what it takes to win, has gone through the ringer at times, and is signed for 6 more years at a good price.
This is a great start to the off-season but the Flyers are far from over in terms of making moves. Chuck Fletcher understands the predicament they’re in and has been vocal about making changes. This was a step in the right direction but now we wait for the aftermath of the expansion draft. It would be a goldmine if the Seattle Kraken took one of their bigger contracts but even then, Fletcher will be trying to move them one way or another.
Trying to find a middle pair defenseman is of utmost importance now and there are many names to look out for. Recent buyouts like Keith Yandle and Ryan Suter would be cheap but steadying forces on short term deals. Whereas unrestricted free agents like Alec Martinez and David Savard could be cost friendly options on longer term deals. Dougie Hamilton and Rasmus Ristolainen are both options the Flyers have called about and could possibly make a move for either player.
Nevertheless, it seems like the Flyers are actually going to be active participants and Chuck Fletcher has a lot of assets still on hand. Jake Voracek, James van Riemsdyk, Morgan Frost, and their 13th overall pick have enough value to bring in some star talent to finally turn the tides for this ever-struggling franchise. So buckle up, Flyers fans, it’s going to be a wild off-season.
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