It remains to be seen just how the Philadelphia Flyers will approach this offseason, but it goes without saying that it will be an important one for the club. With big fish to fry such as finding a new head coach, the team will no doubt look different when the puck drops on the 2022-23 NHL season. As for on-ice personnel, it certainly seems that the Flyers will be in the market to make one of their signature throwback, blockbuster moves as long as they can navigate the salary cap in the process.
Whether said move (or moves) are big-name signings, trades, or a mix of both will all become clear in the coming months, but one possibility leaps off the page at the moment. If you turn your eyes north, you’ll see another franchise faced with a dilemma. The Toronto Maple Leafs have enjoyed regular season success for several years but have found themselves incapable of escaping the first round of the playoffs. Might a shakeup be in order?
With several highly paid “core” players, Toronto may be motivated to move one. I’m not talking about change merely for the sake of change, but if there is a return that makes sense, then why not? Ergo, perhaps the Flyers might be wise to make an international call and present this offer to the Maple Leafs: Mitch Marner for Carter Hart and Travis Konecny.
The Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs could explore a Carter Hart/Mitch Marner trade.
I’ll let that one sink in for a second, and then explain.
First, from a Flyers perspective, Mitch Marner absolutely represents the kind of high-end talent that the team completely lacks at this point in time. He’s coming off a season where he just posted career highs in goals (35) and points (97), and he has scored at a pace of over a point per game across 427 NHL contests so far. He would immediately become the Flyers’ best and most dangerous offensive player. What’s not to like?
The cap hit for Marner is steep, of course, at about $10.9 million for the next three seasons. But we can make this work. By swapping Hart (~$4M for two more seasons) and Konecny ($5.5M for three more seasons), the Flyers are in a position to address some of the Maple Leafs’ areas of need in the course of prying Marner away from them.
With Toronto starting goaltender Jack Campbell becoming an unrestricted free agent this offseason and the rest of the goalie market looking thin, Hart would give Toronto stability and potential at the position at a reasonable price. He could finally flourish by playing behind a team that’s actually good, rather than what the Flyers have been for almost his entire NHL career to date. And if things go absolutely haywire for Hart during his first year in Toronto, he’d have just one more year left on his contract. Their cap situation would not be untenable.
On one level, I can see how crazy it seemingly is to trade Hart. Remember, though, you’ll need to be objective in evaluations and put aside any romanticized ideal of how much you’ve attached yourself to the notion of Hart as the “franchise savior” in net. Without disparaging his abilities or his reputation as a fine young man, I personally have to wonder just how irreplaceable he is. Maybe the long-held belief of the Flyers being cursed at the goaltending position is serving to color some people’s opinions here. They’re afraid to “let this one get away”. But it could be as random as a guy like Ivan Fedotov coming out of nowhere and being the solution. You just never know with goalies.
As for Konency, he serves the purpose of somewhat balancing the money on the two sides of the deal, while also acting as a reasonable lineup replacement among the Toronto scoring ranks for Marner. Nobody is saying he’s as good of a player, but he could be a worthwhile addition while costing only about half as much.
The Flyers’ current forward situation lends credence to the idea that Konecny could be expendable. Cam Atkinson, while not as “hard-nosed” as Konency, plays the same position and offers more offensive ability at around the same price. The team also needs to find room for other right-handed shooting wingers like Owen Tippett and Bobby Brink to play on scoring lines rather than buried down the depth chart. Heck, Wade Allison could even be a poor man’s TK if he ever stays healthy. Konecny might still have a long and productive career ahead of him; he may just have run out of time for it to happen with the Flyers.
Yes, I am aware that Marner is a right-handed shooting winger as well, but he represents such an upgrade at the position that you would figure things out by moving one or more of the other players I mentioned to their off-wing. You could also experiment with transitioning Marner to center, as has been recently suggested. He did play the position earlier in his hockey career.
Personally, I feel like this deal makes a lot of sense from a pure hockey perspective, with the potential for both teams to benefit. In the salary cap era, the numbers also have to work, and this fits the bill there, as well. Then again, NHL GMs are all about self-preservation, and taking big swings like this only to see it not work out would almost certainly cost them their jobs. I acknowledge how big of a stumbling block this is.
As for whether or not this trade SHOULD happen from a Flyers perspective, one contingent will no doubt criticize it for being short-sighted and giving up on a goaltender who still possesses potential to turn around the franchise. On the flip side, another group would argue that Carter Hart has been merely acceptable over his three-plus NHL seasons. His numbers aren’t great, and there has been very little team success. Maybe it’s time to see if someone like Fedotov could actually be the star goaltender that Hart hasn’t been so far. The team can’t get any worse off than they are now, right?
It’s not a black and white situation, and both schools of thought have pluses and minuses. But I challenge anyone to come up with another, more plausible scenario where the Flyers can add a top line (and therefore expensive) forward where they don’t have to surrender anything approaching this level of value.
Perhaps the Philadelphia Flyers and the Toronto Maple Leafs have arrived at the exact right moment in time where this deal makes sense for both franchises. And even if you hate this sort of trade idea, at least it would be a step toward making things interesting in Philadelphia again. That shouldn’t be a primary motivating factor to make a move, but it’s an offshoot that would come from such a blockbuster. Stay tuned to see if Chuck Fletcher has anything big up his sleeve this offseason.