Putting On The Foil with @jsaquella: Flyers’ trade bait and the untouchables

Editors’ Note: Noted Philadelphia Flyers fan John Saquella is going beyond 140 characters. The man most of you probably know from social media as @jsaquella will bring you his wide-ranging opinion and commentary on the Orange and Black in his column Putting On The Foil.

By John Saquella (@jsaquella)

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In undertaking this series of blogs, I decided to first take a look at the Flyers roster and system to get an idea of who should be considered as “untouchable” and who should be shopped to fill some of the more pressing needs the team has.

THE UNTOUCHABLES

I have three guys I place in this category, which is sort of a misnomer. There’s no such thing as an untouchable. But for me to part with any of these guys, it’d take paying through the nose.

Claude Giroux
Yep, no brainer. Face of the franchise, team captain, stud. Despite an early season slump, Giroux has managed to average a point per game over the past three years, while being the main focal point of the opposition and playing on a team with serious offensive issues that stem from a horrible transition game.

Jakub Voracek
The team’s second most talented forward, Voracek clicks well with Giroux and has a nice cap friendly contract. It would be great if Voracek was more of shoot first, pass second winger, but he’s definitely a guy that I prefer to hang onto.

Sean Couturier
Despite playing excellent defensive hockey for the first two years of his career, the 21 year old Couturier had not really come along as some expected offensively. Then, as soon as he’s placed on a line with Matt Read & Steve Downie, Couturier’s offense showed up. This season is the first time Couturier’s been playing regular shifts with skilled wingers and his play and confidence levels are both sky high.

FORWARDS

Vincent Lecavalier
Came in as a free agent, has 4 years left after this year and a NMC. Probably not willing to move so quickly, and has played well. Outside of injuries, I have been very happy with Lecavalier’s first season in Philly.

Scott Hartnell
Hartsy’s a guy who production and popularity levels fluctuate every couple of years. His current contract and lack of production thus far have made him a bit of a whipping boy. For Hartnell to be effective he needs to be a pain to play against, and far too often he hasn’t been. He has a NMC, but he’s a guy that the Flyers may decide to move.

Wayne Simmonds
Simmonds is high energy, physical player capable of scoring 25-30 goals. He works his tail off and is an exceptional power play performer. Despite a somewhat unorthodox stride, Simmonds has good speed. Unfortunately, Simmonds has been a streaky scorer and with Hartnell possibly being unmoveable, the Flyers might decide to use Simmonds to address the issues they face.

Brayden Schenn
This is a guy who I have move back and forth on, from “untouchable” to using as trade bait. I see the progress in Schenn’s game, but I don’t think he’s going to end up being the next Mike Richards. I think he could be similar to Nate Horton, which is hardly something to sneeze at. Still, his trade value may still eclipse his value in staying a Flyer. Schenn would be easier to replace in the short term with Lecavalier and in the long run with Scott Laughton than Simmonds would be

Matt Read
Read is a highly versatile, speedy forward who is a very good penalty killer and capable of playing pretty much anywhere. The lone things keeping him out of my untouchable list is his age. Read would be one of the hardest guys to replace from within if he was traded.

Steve Downie
Downie arrived via trade and proved to be a catalyst. He joined the line with Read & Couturier and gave the Flyers an outstanding shutdown line that could also provide offense. He’s a pending UFA, and I would love to see the Flyers find a way to keep him, by moving another forward for either picks or defensive help.

Michael Raffl
24 year old rookie from Austria, expected to be a third liner & help on PK at most, has been having success as the LW on the Giroux/Voracek line. he’s shown he’s a smart player with a nose for the puck and isn’t afraid of the physical stuff.

Scott Laughton
Interesting, because he doesn’t help a team immediately, but his worth has been shown by being named captain of Team Canada in the WJC. His presence is what actually dropped Brayden Schenn off my “untouchable” list, more than anything Schenn has or has not done on his own.

Zac Rinaldo, Chris VandeVelde, Adam Hall, Jay Rosehill
These guys are fourth line grinders and enforcers, and likely have little trade value. They fill roles on the team, but are easily replaced.

DEFENSE

Kimmo Timonen
The veteran leader is very likely in his final year as a Flyer, regardless of whether or not he decides to retire. Timonen would be an ideal candidate for a trade if the Flyers find themselves on the outside of the playoff bubble come the trade deadline, as he’d be a valuable rental for a contending team.

Braydon Coburn
Coburn has been the Flyers best defenseman this season. He’s got all the physical tools, but lacks hockey sense. Still, he’s the lone guy on the current roster among the defense that is even a consideration for the “untouchable” list. He’s probably better suited as a very good second pair guy, but he’s a very capable player when he stays within his limits.

Nicklas Grossmann
Grossmann is a stay at home mauler. He is an OK skater, but slow. He can make routine, short passes, but even those can be an issue with enough pressure. There’s also enough instances of him making unforced errors with the puck that give me cause for concern. I also feel his contract is too much for what he brings, and he’s not that difficult or expensive to replace.

Luke Schenn
Schenn is an enigma. He’s similer to Grossmann in that he’s a physical, defensive defenseman. He has a decent shot, and at times plays a very solid, simple game. Unfortunately, far too often, Schenn will make a bad read, or lose his positioning and end up running around in his own end. When he does make a bad read or get out of position, he’s usually too slow to recover and gets exposed. He’s still young at age 24, but he’s had a pattern for most of his NHL career of one good year and one bad. If it came down to keeping one or the other, I’d prefer to keep Schenn over Grossmann.

Mark Streit
Streit has not performed up to expectations. He’s provided offense, but he’s had several issues where he tries to force a bad pass or make a high risk move and ends up getting burned by it. We knew he’d be a bit of a liability defensively, but for that to be mitigated, he has to bring more to the table, especially in transition. Given his age and contract, it’s unlikely he can be moved.

Erik Gustafsson
Gustafsson has good speed and instinct offensively, but his small size means he can be manhandled in his own end. Still, he can be a solid third pair puck mover and 2nd PP point guy and be solid. Again, probably very little trade value.

Andrej Meszaros
Injuries have sapped his abilities, and he’s got zero trade value. When he does play he’s ineffective and undisciplined. I’m sort of surprised he hasn’t been waived yet.

Hal Gill
Strictly a 7th defenseman at this point in his career, he’s here for leadership and presence than play. He’s done a solid job when called upon. Might draw some interest at the TDL, like maybe for a 5th round pick.

Mark Alt
Alt is an intriguing kid. From all reports he has played solidly for the Phantoms in his first pro season. He could possibly used as a call up or maybe as a sweetener if the Flyers make a trade prior to the deadline.

Oliver Lauridsen
Ollie stepped in last year and did solid work as a 6th defenseman. He’s got great size and decent mobility. He’s not very good with the puck, though and while I feel he could be an adequate NHL depth defenseman, he’s not an improvement on Grossmann or Schenn right now.

Bruno Gervais
Strictly a depth defenseman, like Gill might have value to a team looking to solidify their 7th or 8th D spot heading into the playoffs. Might grab a 6th rounder or so.

GOALTENDERS

Steve Mason.
Overall, Mason has played well. Even in December, where his stats have sagged, Mason’s overall play hasn’t slipped as badly as the numbers suggest. He hasn’t played as well as he did in October or November, but he’s had less good luck, too. I do expect the Flyers to re-sign Mason before the season ends, while my approach would be to wait until the off season to get a better idea of both the marketplace and see how well Mason rebounds from his December woes.

Ray Emery
Emery has not played well. He’s had games where he got hung out to dry by poor defense, but he’s also had games where he failed to make momentum stops & allowed some questionable goals. He’s still a battler, and since his trade value would be low, I’d be open to bringing Emery back as the back up next season, provided he can step it up over the last few months of the season.

To summarize:
Keepers: Giroux, Voracek, Couturier
Most Valuable Trade Bait: Simmonds, B. Schenn, L. Schenn
Would Prefer to move: Hartnell, Streit, Grossmann, Meszaros

The Flyers do have options, but may have to move a player or two they’d much rather keep, to address the needs. I would be proactive and get immediate help on the blueline, while resisting deals that would see me trade away high picks and prospects, if at all possible.

This way, the Flyers can be in better shape to compete in the short term, while allowing the long term growth of key prospects like Samuel Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere and the aforementioned Laughton.