Talk is cheap, so any discussions about the true intentions of the Philadelphia Flyers this offseason could only take us so far until we actually saw them make a move of substance. With Friday’s acquisition of Tony DeAngelo and a two-year contract extension, we have our answer.
Regardless of whether or not they SHOULD do it, the Flyers are definitely taking a shot to move up in the standings this year rather than tear things down and enter a full rebuild. As such, a few conclusions can be drawn from the decision to trade three draft picks for Tony DeAngelo and then give him $5 million for each of the next two years.
First, the whole Ryan Ellis situation. As I stated previously, Ellis’ status was probably going to play a role in the Flyers’ draft day decision with the #5 pick. And it indirectly worked out that way. The Flyers could have taken defenseman David Jiricek in an effort to bolster their blueline, but instead opted to draft Cutter Gauthier and chose to look for more immediate (and expensive) help on the backend in the form of a proven commodity like DeAngelo.
With the arrival of Tony DeAngelo, the Philadelphia Flyers aren’t sitting on their hands this offseason.
As a result, I’d look for the Flyers to stash Ellis on long-term injured reserve to save the cap space for the time being, with a return date TBA. You don’t spend another $5 million on your blueline if Ellis is going to be ready at the start of the season. One can only hope that he surfaces at some point, but I’m not optimistic.
Another upshot here is that Chuck Fletcher clearly has been granted full authority by ownership to do whatever is necessary to get the Flyers back to the playoffs. As in, this year. The DeAngelo move is likely to have a domino effect for more transactions, such as either buying out or trading James van Riemsdyk and/or Oskar Lindblom. Fletcher looks to be managing for his job; there are no guarantees that he will be the one overseeing things next offseason. Boy, could this be dangerous, as he wouldn’t be the first GM to make a mess that his successor will have to spend years cleaning up. Sound familiar?
This could also be fun, however, as I now believe that the chances of the Flyers taking a run at Johnny Gaudreau have measurably improved. They’ll likely move out whatever money they can to “bring him home”, and we’re mere days away from finding out the answer.
Finally, what exactly are the Flyers getting with DeAngelo? Yes, there is a checkered past to deal with, and the human element of things is more important than ever these days. Focusing on his on-ice contributions, though, he’s worth the two-year risk. He’ll likely be asked to quarterback the Flyers’ moribund power play, in an effort to breathe life into what was a ghastly unit last season.
He’ll give you about 19 minutes a night with his solid play-driving ability, but the Flyers will need to partner him with someone defensively responsible at even strength. Whether or not this ends up being Ivan Provorov or someone more along the lines of Nick Seeler is anyone’s guess. Regardless of his partner, DeAngelo is there to move the puck and then help put it in opposing nets, something the Flyers sorely lacked last season.
The Flyers will need to jump over a few teams in the Eastern Conference this season, and they no doubt see a clubs like Washington and Boston who might be ready to fall back below the playoff cutline. Of course they’ll also have to deal with teams such as Columbus and New Jersey who have the same “why not us?” mentality. It’s going to be interesting.
None of this guarantees the Philadelphia Flyers will be any better, but at least they’re starting to give us some reasons to watch. Maybe, just maybe, they can foster a real sense of anticipation for this coming season. The organization and its fans need it.