VOORHEES, N.J. - Chuck Fletcher is at a crucial juncture of the season with the Flyers currently 14 points back of an Eastern Conference playoff spot and the NHL trade deadline now less than a month away.
The Flyers' general manager held a post-All Star break "State of the Flyers" in which he discussed at length a number of pressing topics.
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1. A new deal for Simmonds doesn't appear imminent
Fletcher didn't get too detailed into negotiations regarding Wayne Simmonds' agent, but he has spoken to Simmonds and his representative and I think it's clear Simmonds wants a long-term contract and the Flyers are hesitant to make that type of commitment.
To compound those issues are league-wide reports that Simmonds will be a hot commodity on the trade market, which only strengthens his bargaining chip as a player that other teams around the league covet. My feeling is that Simmonds will be traded and the Flyers get a nice return to help them moving forward for next season.
Fletcher is also mindful of the Flyers' salary cap situation moving forward as Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton and Travis Sanheim all need new contracts after this season as well.
Fletcher: "I've certainly had some meetings with them and I think we all know where we stand and I can't really predict how it's going to play out, but clearly in the next few weeks we will have to resolve that one way or the other."
2. Giroux is an untouchable, but outside of that ...
This was perhaps some of the more intriguing stuff Fletcher provided as he gave some insight when questioned about the leadership group of the team moving forward.
I would put Sean Couturier in that same group as you need an effective two-way center to win a Stanley Cup championship if you look at teams like the Blackhawks (Jonathan Toews), the Bruins (Patrice Bergeron) and the Kings (Anze Kopitar). Provorov to some degree is untouchable unless you receive an overwhelming return.
Fletcher: "We have a lot of good players here but I would never say never to almost anybody besides [Claude] Giroux. Giroux's got the no-trade and he's our captain and probably one of the best players in the history of the franchise. So I don't think that makes much sense. But there's a lot of guys that don't make much sense either, but I can't say never."
The Flyers' GM also believes he can be "a buyer and a seller" before the deadline, whereas his predecessor Ron Hextall took more of the seller's approach with his team out of the playoffs in 2014-15 and in 2016-17, adding primarily draft picks. I foresee Fletcher trying to add more NHL-ready players that fill a need or a certain role on the Flyers.
Fletcher: "We have things we can do to improve this team pretty quickly. But clearly we've dug ourselves a big hole for this year, so what I'm trying to do is talk to every team in the league and looking for opportunities. Whether it's now, the summer, we need to find some pieces to improve our team."
3. Expect to see Morin and Myers soon
Which promising defenseman will we see play his first game with the Flyers this season? Once he's completely healthy and ready to go, Samuel Morin will report to the Phantoms for a conditioning stint that can last no longer than two weeks.
Speaking with Morin on Sunday, it's all about timing, the mental side of his game and finding that trust within himself. He believes a mid-to-late February return is a more likely timeframe.
As far as Philippe Myers, Fletcher saw the 22-year-old defenseman over the bye week and was highly impressed in his evaluation that he's NHL-ready.
Fletcher: "Myers, to me, looks like he's earned the right to get some games. He's played really well. What I like about Phil is there's a lot more consistency in his games."
4. Weise is done with the Flyers
As reported two weeks ago, Dale Weise will no longer be a part of the Flyers moving forward as Fletcher is looking to move him to another team as part of a packaged deal in which the Flyers may end up eating a portion of his salary.
Interestingly, there doesn't appear to be a fallout between the player and the organization other than that Fletcher was ready to move on and give his roster position to someone else (like Mikhail Vorobyev) where the team could evaluate their future moving forward.
Fletcher: "He's been working out on his own. I spoke to him again yesterday, and once the American League All-Star break's over, he'll report to Lehigh, and he's obviously hungry to get playing, and to find a situation that's better for himself."
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