Chuck Fletcher off to great start with Flyers after acquiring Kevin Hayes

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - JANUARY 31: Kevin Hayes #13 of the New York Rangers skates in warm-ups prior to the game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 31, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - JANUARY 31: Kevin Hayes #13 of the New York Rangers skates in warm-ups prior to the game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 31, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

While the Philadelphia Flyers will look to be active this summer in order to improve the team, GM Chuck Fletcher is wasting no time getting down to business.

When the Philadelphia Flyers found themselves in the midst of yet another GM search this past season, one thing that stood out among the comments from the higher ups, mainly CEO Dave Scott, was that they wanted to hire someone with a “bias for action”.

Put simply–the guy they were looking for was going to need to do more than Ron Hextall had done during his tenure with the team.

That’s not to say that Hextall did not do good things as GM. It’s been talked about ad nauseam how Hextall was terrific at identifying and drafting young talent, but he fell laughably short in terms of finding enough good players at the NHL level to keep the team relevant.

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When Chuck Fletcher was hired early in 2019, the message was clear to go out and make the Flyers a contender again, and do whatever was need to do in order to make that happen.

For the past several seasons, Flyers fans have entered each new year with a renewed sense of hope that the team would take a step forward. Much of that hope relied almost solely on the emergence of a core of young players, and perhaps foolishly so.

It’s one thing to hope that young, talented players will grow and pick up the professional game, rewarding an organization and fan base for their patience.

But the adverse effects of that strategy can manifest in an ugly way when there are not enough additions to the team that complement those young players and round out the team’s biggest weaknesses.

That, in a nutshell, has been the Flyers of the past five years. But on June 4, Fletcher took his first major step in charting a new path for the organization and set the tone for what should be a very busy summer for Philadelphia.

In a recent interview with’s Insider Adam Kimelman, Fletcher stated, “I think we’re going to be very aggressive in the trade and free agent markets in the sense of looking into every possible situation that can help us.”

In keeping with his latest mission statement, Fletcher went out and acquired the rights to Winnipeg Jets center Kevin Hayes, who is due to become a free agent on July 1.

Hayes played for the New York Rangers and spent some time under new Flyers boss Alain Vigneault before being traded to Winnipeg this past season, and could turn out to be a great addition.

However, this situation is a little tricky for the Flyers when it comes to Hayes. Typically, when a player is traded, a team does so in order to acquire a player as a last minute reinforcement for a run at the Stanley Cup in February at the trade deadline.

Other popular trade windows center around the NHL Entry Draft in June and after the July 1 free agent period begins. Trading for a players rights before he becomes a free agent grants the receiving organization with additional time to negotiate with the player in the hopes of reaching an agreement before July 1.

Now, Hayes can still opt to become a free agent, but the Flyers likely wouldn’t have made this move if they didn’t think believe there was a decent chance to sign him.

It was an aggressive move to land Hayes, who the Flyers only had to deal a fifth-round pick in 2019 to make the trade happen. If the Flyers end up signing Hayes long term, the deal should end up being a good one for Philadelphia.

Hayes is a solid player, and will fill one of the biggest areas of need on the team, ideally at second line center.

While Nolan Patrick is expected to be the future 2C behind Sean Couturier, he just hasn’t made the necessary leap in development for the organization to feel comfortable beginning another season with him in that role.

The Flyers desperately needed more depth up the middle, and outside of Columbus pivot Matt Duchene, the free agent field is not exactly overflowing with talent at center.

Hayes was a guy that the Flyers were always likely to target with his big body, but that doesn’t mean he lacks speed.

He’s a strong two-way player who’s coming off a 55-point season, and that kind of production should do wonders for the Flyers out of the 2C spot, allowing Patrick to man the third line with a little less spotlight and pressure to produce.

Some Flyers fans may be a bit apprehensive about this move, as it was expected that Fletcher would try to woo Duchene to Philadelphia. But Duchene is likely to command more salary than Hayes, and he is primarily a scorer, whereas Hayes has shown he can be effective in the defensive zone as well.

Possessing two centers who can play a two-way game should make the Flyers more difficult to play against right out of the gate. Not to mention the size that will be present on the second line since Jakub Voracek would be the smallest member of that line standing at 6’2″ while James van Riemsdyk comes in at 6’3″ right behind him.

While Voracek is certainly the fastest, it won’t be a line built on speed, but the combined size alone will present problems for opposing teams.

In the end, the Flyers must still reach an agreement with Hayes, but this was a good move by Fletcher and seems to send a message that in Philadelphia wanting to be aggressive this offseason.

If this move is any indication of things to come, things could get interesting very quickly this summer for the Flyers.

Next up for the Flyers? Add some middle six depth. Fletcher needs to add a winger that can play on the third line alongside Patrick and Oskar Lindblom.

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In addition to a winger, the Flyers may also be in the market for a top-four defenseman. Unfortunately, the problem is defenseman are just not easy to find.

Often times, defenseman can be had via trades, but Fletcher should only do this if he does not have to give up one of his own. Trading someone like Shayne Gostisbehere for another defenseman would make little sense, unless the return in talent was justifiable.

If Fletcher is just looking for a suitable veteran who can provide top-four minutes, he could look to Anton Stralman, Jake Gardiner, or Alexander Edler. None of those players are elite by any means, but they could provide the Flyers with a stable presence on the back end and in front of rookie goaltender Carter Hart.

These are the decisions that Fletcher will have to make this summer when deciding how to improve his hockey club.

But in acquiring Hayes, Fletcher has already begun to deliver on his mission to go out and make the team better this offseason.

Hayes is a fine start. Now, Fletcher must decide which chess piece to move next. Buckle up, Flyers fans, because early sings point to this being an exciting offseason.